Author Eric A. Shelman follows up fresh from the smash hit Dead Hunger: The Flex Sheridan Chronicles with a second installment. Part two is also written with a first person perspective from reunited companion Gem Cardoza. The sequel follows the same formula as its predecessor with a unique twist from a female point of view. It’s certainly beyond coincidence that this volume derives from a feminine perspective being nearly an additional one hundred pages than its original. All joking aside it is equally refreshing and invigorating to learn more about the ‘shoot now ask questions later,’ bad ass personality, one Gem Cardoza.
The tale engages in a little dose of exposition as we learn where Gem was when the maniacal, chaotic zombie plague had ensued. Staying with relatives, aunt and uncle, the action segues into an all-out sensory onslaught of brutality and gore as Gem witnesses her beloved aunt being devoured by her uncle. Gem’s tale reconvenes with the present as her estranged boyfriend Flex rekindles their relationship. They make a pact to vie for any grasp of sanity left in a world gone mad. Adopting Flex’s nieces they embark upon their near suicidal quest for answers and normalcy. Enter Hemp Chatsworth. The scientist has been confined to a local prison, safe from the infected yet in a dire predicament in his own restraints. Hemp proves to be an invaluable resource with his knowledge, experience and analytical mind as he joins the unit en route to Alabama in search of a research facility. Hemp plans on conducting a slew of experiments to better understand the outbreak and unravel the cause of the plague. The greater they understand the enemy the greater chance they stand to protect one another.
The dramatic flair of Shelman’s appeal to a sentimental nature in seeing the survivors band together is engaging for a wide spread audience. We invest in our characters’ wellbeing and feel their sense of desperation and despair to restore some fabric of civilization that has all been seemingly lost. On a subconscious level, we put ourselves in the protagonists’ shoes and want to see them succeed at any cost. Shelman is highly gifted in appealing to our sense of empathy, making each of the characters every bit as real as our next door neighbor, poker buddy or best friend. The plot thickens once again as a unanimous decision is made to continue traveling to New Hampshire where the consensus is the environment will be much safer. Along their journey they encounter some additional survivors holed up in a church. Without engaging in any plot spoilers, the final act is worth the price of admission alone as we’re treated to some most artistic depiction of gruesome battle contrasting a heartfelt climax that is worthy of the silver screen.
Dead Hunger II is a tremendous contrast as well to Flex’s original action packed, he said, she said soiree with all the abundance of brutal bludgeoning, brain smashing, gut smearing gore we’ve come to love and admire in one Eric A. Shelman. The Gem Cardoza Chronicle is an epic volume in a saga that alludes to a third installment that fans of the genre surely won’t want to miss. Whether you’re a zombie maniac or simply a fan of well crafted, composed contemporary fiction The Gem Chronicle is a staple for any collection.
Some may argue that perhaps this edition was released a little too soon, on the heels of its predecessor. There’s something to be said for creating a demand and a following, making your audience insatiable and anxious for more. Dead Hunger seems to be a non-issue in terms of demand, capitalizing on a pique of popularity with an innovative twist.