Mad Swine by Steven Pajak is a Permuted Press zombie novel, the second in a series, about a small rural community trying to survive after the zombie apocalypse. It lacks the scenes of neighbors turning against each other which most disaster stories have, which is a nice change of pace. The characters are all likable or, at least, not evil; starvation and zombies alone are the enemies.
Unfortunately, a novel can’t survive on a good idea. Mad Swine has many of the problems inexperienced writers with no, or amateur, editing face: use of the same words over and over, padded sentences that are too long, unneeded description and details. Many readers won’t notice these things, exactly. They’ll just notice their own boredom, and that they feel no impact during important scenes, particularly action scenes.
This is particularly problematic in the opening, which is almost twenty pages of dull, plodding recapping of the first book. After five pages, I started scanning, then skipping; the story actually started some fifteen pages later, and I hadn’t missed a thing. Pajak hadn’t needed to go over things at all, and though he insisted upon doing so anyway, there are many better ways to do it than dumping information over the reader’s head in the opening.
Once the story begins it isn’t bad. The community, running out of food and fuel in the coldest part of winter, must decide whether to stay behind their gate and starve, or brave snowstorms and zombie attacks to try and reach possible salvation. The action and love scenes mostly fall flat for me. However, I really like Pajak’s scenes of dialogue. They made me keenly feel our heroes’ desperation, so I wanted to see what happens to them.
Mad Swine won’t change your life, but it’s a fun book for zombie and dystopia fans. However, it was capable of being more. For his next outing, I hope Pajak gets a more experienced set of eyes to work with him. He has talent.
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