Book Reviews: Two Futuristic Zombie Novels by Rhiannon Frater

The Last Bastion of the LivingThe Last Bastion of the Living
A Futuristic Zombie Novel
Rhiannon Frater
CreateSpace, June 2012
ISBN 978-1475206319
Trade Paperback

From the author—

As long as the undead hordes of the Inferi Scourge howl outside the dying city, the last remaining humans struggle to survive inside The Bastion. Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her entire life within the towering walls. Her only refuge from the overcrowded streets, rolling blackouts, and food shortages is in the arms of Officer Dwayne Reichardt. Then Maria is summoned to meet with a mysterious representative from the Science Warfare Division and is offered the opportunity to finally destroy the Inferi Scourge and reclaim the land and resources in the valley beyond the wall. If she succeeds, the city may be saved.

But if she fails, humanity faces extinction…

Does Rhiannon Frater write terrific zombie books? A few reviewers elsewhere have panned her for what may or may not be mistakes with such things as gun details and one even gigged her for a sentence that is reason enough to pass on this book (after a lot of other complaints). Here’s the way I look at it—I don’t care if all the technical details are correct because (1) I don’t know one way or the other and (2) I’m not looking for perfection in my zombie books because, hey, it’s FICTION and all I want is to be entertained. When it comes to zombies and survivors, it can be serious or humorous or a blending of the two but I want characters I can connect with and a plot that makes at least a little bit of sense but campy will work for me, too. With those criteria, I have to say that Rhiannon Frater is one of my very favorite authors in the zombie field.

One of Ms. Frater‘s talents is in scene-setting. The opening scene in this book is visceral and left no doubt in my mind what kind of zombie story this was going to be. Maria is shown to be a woman determined to do what needs to be done and yet shaken by that very duty, a woman who is, in fact, normal, no superhero. Facing her is a horror we hope we’ll never have to confront but the roiling, endless wave of the Scourge is so vivid that I completely understood Maria’s moment of paralysis.

Then, terror.

Not all is doom and gloom, though, as evidenced by our brief introduction to Chief Defender Dwayne Reichardt. The touch of humor in his first remark to Maria is a welcome break in the nightmare and a peak at what kind of person he is.

I liked the liaison that developed between Maria and Dwayne. They’re a sort of May-December couple but it works because they have their war experience in common and I appreciated the way Ms. Frater didn’t make her readers suffer through the agonies of a budding relationship but plopped us right in the middle of it. They have to deal with the realities of life, though, chief of which is the near-certainty that humanity has no long-term future.

And then Maria is offered a chance to make a real difference. Is science really the answer? In forty-eight hours, Maria will begin to find out and the answers will be shocking.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2014.

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The Last Mission of the LivingThe Last Mission of the Living
A Futuristic Zombie Novel #2
Rhiannon Frater
CreateSpace, August 2014
ISBN 978-1500959357
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Humanity teeters on the brink of extinction…

Vanguard Lindsay Rooney has faced the undead hordes of Inferi Scourge and lived to tell the tale, but she has also suffered horrible losses. Like millions of other civilians, she had hoped that The Bastion would recover after a team of modified soldiers eradicated the undead hordes of Inferi Scourge that infested their valley. Yet the city still crumbles around them, along with any chance of survival.

Lindsey’s growing friendship with Torran MacDonald, an officer with the Science Warfare division, is her only solace as the decline of the city continues. When food riots fill the streets, martial law is enacted, and the upper echelons of government battle for control of the city, Lindsey is conscripted by her superiors to embark on a dangerous mission into the dead world beyond The Bastion. To add even more complications, Torran and the SWD join the squad.

Soon, Lindsey realizes that her mission is more than what it seems, and there are secrets that could both destroy The Bastion and take her life.

Much has changed since the Special Ops team cleared out most of the Scourge but there are still Scrags to be killed and, worse still, Abscrags, those that have been turned into thinking undead. It could be, though, that the most dangerous battle is taking place inside the Bastion where  a struggle for power is taking shape.

We first met Lindsey as a secondary character in The Last Bastion of the Living when the Vanguards made a deadly and mostly fruitless attempt to rebuild the wall. Best friends with Maria, Lindsey was given a desk job after being severely disabled but that desk job, and her hacking abilities, were ultimately more critical to the Special Ops team than could have been anticipated. Now, she’s asked to go on a mission that could mean survival for the last humans and her friend, Torran MacDonald, will be going with her but he has a hidden agenda that she’ll resist with all her being.

Lindsey and Torran have a relationship that grows from friendship to something more and its evolution feels right, not created by the abnormalities of a post-apocalyptic situation. Whether they, or their feelings for each other, will survive the continuing fight against the Scourge and the traitors in their midst is questionable but their devotion to duty will survive. Won’t it?

A bit of fun comes near the end when we learn where the Bastion is in our current geography. The revelation was completely unexpected and a breath of fresh air to me and this small tidbit of information is one of the reasons I love Rhiannon Frater‘s work—her worldbuilding is so good I can see what she wants me to see but there is always something new around the corner. Is this the end of the story for Lindsey and Torran? Perhaps. Both The Last Bastion of the Living and The Last Mission of the Living are seemingly self-contained and there are no real cliffhangers but I’d love to know more about this world and its people so I hope that, someday, there will be at least one more book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2014.