Nate Southard's 'Scavengers': A Review
For some reason, I've been on a real zombie novel kick. After a couple real disappointments, and some time scrounging around a couple forums, Southard's name popped up. I'd read some pretty good reviews, and when I saw an endorsement from Brian Keene, that was all the convincing I needed. I'm not usually one to go with the popular opinion, but in this case, I'm glad I listened. While I can't say it's the best survival horror story I've ever read, it's certainly an impressive work from a newer writer.
Blake Ellis and his girlfriend, Holly, are trying their best to carve out a normal life together in the small town of Millwood. What's so wrong with that you ask? Well, Millwood is a barricaded community that separates a small group of survivors from hordes of the dead come back to life. To make matters worse, the town is dangerously low on supplies. The town decides to have a lottery, all men from age thirteen and up are eligible to have their names drawn, those selected must venture to the nearest city for supplies. Among those chosen are two of the town leaders, a thirteen year old boy, the town jerk and poor Blake. The citizens are heartbroken, but the journey is a necessary evil and the only objections come from the guys who were picked. Before leaving, Blake makes one last promise to Holly that he'll return alive, no matter what the cost. Of course it's a suicide mission, everyone knows it, but Blake convinces himself that his promise will be enough to hold onto to make it back alive.
The trip out is easy, despite the nervousness, all is clear. Inside the city is a completely different story. Legions of the undead lurk everywhere. Under cars, inside houses and the streets are choked with decaying corpses. As the task at hand grows from grim to dismal, will Blake and his team survive the night and return to their loved ones? Or is Blake feeding off of empty promises?
I can certainly appreciate an exciting story with plenty of twists and turns. Southard does a good job of writing a plot that does just that. I really like the fact that the action begins right from page one, sucking the reader in. What really impressed me was the way Southard wrote the characters but still managed to surprise the reader. For example, the town jerk quickly becomes the character everyone love to hate. But as his back story develops, we quickly discover that things are not always what they seem. For me, he quickly became the book's most endearing character. The story reads rather fast, I finished it in just a couple days. The only really complaint that I had about the book was the author's tendency to jump from one character to another, suddenly without notice. While I understand that it's necessary for character development, the transitions from character to character could use a bit of polish. I won't let that detour me, I'm sure I'll be reading a little more of Southard in the very near future. I'm awarding 'Scavengers' four stars. Even though I clearly enjoyed the read, I can't deny that it needs just a little more polish to really make it shine.
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