Book Review: The Dead Days Journal by Sandra R. Campbell

The Dead Days JournalThe Dead Days Journal
Volume 1
Sandra R. Campbell
CreateSpace, March 2015
ISBN 9781506100401
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The daughter of a radical doomsday prepper, Leo Marrok spent her entire life preparing for the end. A skilled fighter and perfect marksman, Leo is her father’s second-in-command when Armageddon comes to pass. Together, they lead a group of survivors to a secure bunker deep in the Appalachian Mountains.

Vincent Marrok is willing to take extreme measures to repopulate their broken world. Leo’s refusal marks her as a traitor. With father and daughter at odds for the first time, their frail community is thrust into turmoil. Until the unthinkable happens, a blood-thirsty horde arrives. The impending attack will destroy all that they have worked for.

To protect her home and everything she believes in, Leo puts her faith in the arms of the enemy-a creature only rumored to exist-the one she calls Halloween. An alliance born out of necessity evolves into feelings Leo is ill-equipped to handle.

The Dead Days Journal is a post-apocalyptic story of love and family told through Leo Marrok’s first-hand account and the pages of Vincent’s personal journal, giving two very different perspectives on what it takes to survive.

Mature themes, adult language, sexual situations, violence and gore. 18+

The problem with many post-apocalyptic stories, whether book or film, is that there is frequently a strong feeling of unreality in the sense that it’s hard to believe that such a scenario could come to pass. Something about the story itself feels like pure fiction rather than the kind of science fiction that opens a window on what our future could be. There’s almost a feeling of adventure.

Then there is the kind of post-apocalyptic story that Ms. Campbell has crafted in which you feel immersed in the darkness of spirit that surely must develop when the world you know has come to an end. The brutality of survival is what we really should expect and it’s what makes The Dead Days Journal so believable from the start.

Leo is a young woman who has lived nearly four years in a fortified cave in the Appalachians built to give a handful of people a chance to survive. The 22 members of this small band have learned what it takes to live under perilous circumstances and with dangerous shortages and the tale focuses largely on the leader, Vincent Marrok, and his daughter, Leo.

Personalities become intensified during such stressful times and Vincent has become very controlling, generally feeling that his opinion is the only right one. His wish to repopulate is certainly not surprising but, unfortunately, Leo is the only female likely to be able to bear children. Imagine what it must feel like to know that your father is so “invested” in your sex life—it gives new meaning to having a desire for grandchildren, doesn’t it?

I liked Leo a great deal, partly because she’s such a strong woman in every way that matters and partly because she’s subject to normal emotions that any of us might feel in her situation. Vincent, on the other hand, raised my hackles and, although I understand his motives, I couldn’t like them. The character I thought was least well-developed was Lincoln. No 11-year-old boy in our own time would be so childish and it’s even less likely that he would be so living in a world of such hardships. And then there are Ben, the man who seems to be the perfect match for Leo despite all her misgivings and Orrin, an enigma who has an undeniable effect on Leo.

As post-apocalyptic fiction, this is a good, strong story but I did not care for the introduction of a supernatural element even though certain characters are quite memorable. Don’t get me wrong, I like supernatural and I usually like it blended with other genres but it just didn’t work for me in this case. Still, I’ll be interested to see what lies ahead for these people who have managed, so far, to survive the unimaginable though they apparently have no idea that they have not yet encountered the worst. Sandra R. Campbell knows how to craft a tale and I look forward to more from her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2015.

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