Horror Book Review: The Scattered and The Dead (Book 1.0) by Tim McBain and L.T. Vargas

The Scattered and The Dead is a series of books by Michigan based authors Tim McBain and L.T. Vargas. There are four stories available to buy at the moment. They are numbered 0.5, 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0. You can start at 0.5 or 1.0, it won’t mess with the story much. I started at 0.5 and enjoyed it. You can read that review here. It is a very good book and is the reason I purchased 1.0.

The Scattered and the Dead stories are pre, during and post apocalyptic in nature. The title of the series is pretty self explanatory. There are those that are scattered and those that are dead. The dead, yep, zombies, obviously don’t have a lot to say so it is the story of the scattered we read. Now, if you are thinking “not another work of zombie fiction” do not fret. These books are cleverly written in and around a world that happens to have some zombies in it. These are not stories of zombie war and survival or big battles of the undead versus the living.

These are stories of lost, damaged people trying to find a way to survive in changed or changing world. There are zombies, yes, but there are also trees, houses, cars and grass. They are part of the scenery of this new landscape for the most part.

The Scattered and the Dead

The way the first book I read, 0.5, was written was in the style of a journal or letters as I followed John Decker’s journey through his own eyes and explanations. It was this style that really hooked me on the book. I loved the style of writing. Seeing just glimpses of what was going on as we only see the limited viewpoint of a reclusive man meant I had to think. It was up to me to interpret his words and try to imagine what was going on with his small knowledge base.

I was a little disappointed to find out that John Decker doesn’t feature. I mean, I finished The Scattered and the Dead Book 0.5 which was almost exclusively about him and it ended in a way that I expected to hear more from him. To find out that his story isn’t continued, at least not in Book 1.0 was a bit of a surprise. Now, I won’t lie. It only took a few chapters of reading before I was quite happy and had forgotten about Decker but I do hope he reappears at some point in future books.

So, The Scattered and the Dead Book 1.0 introduces us to a whole batch of new characters rather then focus on just one. Each small chapter progresses the story of one set of characters spread out over the dead or decaying world the story is set in. Each chapter is named appropriately to help you keep check where, when and who you are about to journey with. You still get the countdown, or up, though with less suspense now as I kind of know what the count was for having read book 0.5. Still, it is useful to understand the circumstances each character is about to face.

The chapter titles and sub headers are important. You do need to read them to keep track of where you are.

For example, one title and sub header would read Rex, Florida, 68 days before and the next chapter would start with Baghead, Oklahoma, 9 years and 126 days after. Because of this, the story doesn’t just flow and you will need to think a bit before starting a chapter. This isn’t a problem, I am a fan of thinking generally so happy to partake in a spot of it. It just took a little getting used to. Until reading The Scattered and the Dead, I didn’t realise that I must always ignore chapter names and just read the whole story as a flow.

I found myself naturally doing that in this story and then having to stop. I would need to back track a little to see why Mitch was no longer acting like Mitch only to find I had moved on a chapter and was no longer Mitch. Mitch had become Ray and I had become lost.

That isn’t a criticism of the book, that is on me but still, be aware of those chapter headings.

The Scattered and the Dead

So in regards to characters, there are a lot and they are varied. The story starts with Rex, 63 days before though he is a short lived character. He seems to exist to blacken the mood and let you know that things are bad. After Rex we move into the more long standing characters. Each have their own dependencies, plans and problems to deal with. Each exist at a different stage of the apocalypse.

We get the extremely interesting Baghead who exists over 9 years afterwards.

His world is almost science fiction like an reminds me of the old school Mad Max films a bit. He is on the run in a deserted, dusty world. He meets pockets of people and scavengers. In his world, some have crowned themselves as Kings and he has fallen foul of them. One of them wants him dead and so he is hunted. He isn’t a warrior or anything like that, he is an author. He wields the pen and travels the deserted earth, finds peoples diaries and forges the interesting ones into books. I felt he is disliked by the self proclaimed rulers of the land due to the memories of other times he puts into peoples minds through his story collections. He is called Baghead because he wears a bag on his head to cover his face that has been eroded from radiation exposure.

We meet Mitch who pulls us with him on probably the saddest and bleakest of the stories within The Scattered and the Dead so far.

He exists 43 days before and we first meet him with his wife well on her way to turning from the virus she has contracted. Mitch is pulled apart emotionally as he tries to come to terms with the parting of his wife mainly due to the two small kids they have together. Mitch needs to prepare his kids for the worst, in case anything happens to him, and it does. He gets infected but needs to get his children safe and prepared while he gets sicker. He has to keep going for them but also needs to make sure he dies before he turns. Either way he will be abandoning his kids. If he gets it wrong, he may end up being the threat they need to survive from.

Then there is Travis from 44 days after. Travis is well prepared, well stocked and a waste of space. Traumatised by the loss of his parents to scavengers, rather than fight to do good he instead has gathered up a mass of drugs and alcohol. He gets off his face every night to forget his pain. One day he comes across the people who killed his parents leaving him to make a choice, revenge or pop another pill.

We meet Erin 29 days after, a young girl who has become almost a foster mother to a younger survivor called Izzy. We follow them as they struggle to survive and find food and shelter while avoiding other groups of people. There is Teddy, 69 days after, who is a dangerously disturbed individual enjoying the carnage and death way to much. He thrives in it and feeds off of the pain around him, and that he wants to cause. There are others too in Lorraine and Ray from 3 days before. They run into each other and their story continues together though they get individual chapters which is great. You see them trying to escape and get Ray wondering what Lorraine is thinking followed by reading from Lorraine’s perspective. Very clever.

As the reader, you get to follow each of these people, whether you love or loathe them. You travel with the “before” people as the world descends into chaos and people die gruesome deaths all around you. You also travel with the “after” people as they strive to survive the new world, avoid zombies but more dangerously, people and deal with their loss.

All of this you will go through in short bursts as you jump from one characters story to another. You live every stupid decision, every moment of courage and every loss as each chapter paints a very vivid picture of the content. If there is one thing the authors can do, it is paint a picture with their words. They are very descriptive in their writing. I like this, others may not, but for me it works.

My mind has a picture of every character and every place, all painted by just their words. I found myself caring deeply about the fate of some of the characters and being frustrated at others. Like I said at the end of the first review, any author who can make sure you care that much about the fate of a character is worthy of much praise.

The writing is good and clear and grammatically it is sound, unlike so many books available on Kindle. The constant jumping from character to character can be confusing until it becomes a habit to check where you are and when you are. There also isn’t really an ending, well, not for everyone. You will need to read Book 1.5 to continue the story, well, I assume so. Decker disappeared on me so I do hope these guys don’t too. Anyway, having to read Book 1.5 isn’t an issue. I have enjoyed this book plenty enough that I will be buying it not matter what.

The Scattered and the Dead Book 1.0 is a well written, dark novel that focuses on humans in a desperate and decaying world. It is jam packed with interesting characters in desperate situations. It will keep you interested and is written in a way that is full of suspense chapter by chapter. I love the descriptive writing style and think that Tim McBain and L.T. Vargas have done a wonderful job of bringing a story to life in your mind.

Pick it up for yourself here. Be sure to check out  Twitter for Tim and Twitter for L.T. to keep up to date with news on offers and other stories. You can also check them out on Facebook.

 

The Scattered and The Dead (Book 1.0) by Tim McBain and L.T. Vargas
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