Michele W. Miller
HOW Club Press
November, 2013; $14.95 PB, $3.99 Kindle
Reviewed by James B. Carter
Survivor horror stories featuring zombies have become extremely popular over the years thanks to the genre’s papa, George A. Romero. Unfortunately, as of late the market has been flooded with lackluster offerings, seemingly beating a dead horse or an undead horse to death..uh..err..or back to life. Whatever.
With her debut novel, The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery, Michele W. Miller does everything but disappoint and proves that there is plenty of life, or lack there of, in this often-tapped material. To some extent, by the very nature of a zombie story, it’s impossible not to be derivative, though originality is not an issue when it comes to Miller’s flesh-eating opus.
In this post 9/11 New York City apocalyptic zombiethon, seven survivors luckily, or unluckily, have a predisposition to the alcoholic gene, which manages to keep the zombies at bay for the most part. It’s this kind of creative storytelling that throws the proverbial wrench in the works, flying in the face of your typical brain biting yarn, keeping the blood, I mean story, flowing. Excuse me.
What makes this book stand out, besides its great pacing and true-to-life dialogue, is the characters and their relation to one another. You can’t help but feel empathy for their troubled souls and plight of existence.
With or without chaotic surroundings and goings on, you sometimes wonder if these recovering alcoholics’ lives wouldn’t be easier as zombies: no more worries, no careless judgments or even jealousy from your peers, not to mention addiction, unless of course you consider the uncontrollable urge to eat grey matter gumbo straight from the source an addiction.
Yes, the walking dead are throughout the book as the group leaves the hustle and bustle of the zombie-infested streets of the Big Apple to find refuge in the isolated countryside via motorbikes and fending for themselves with whatever they can acquire. Throughout the book, zombies are not the story, merely a backdrop, just like slavery was in Gone With The Wind. Miller uses the novel’s unconventional circumstances as a chance to deal with social issues and lay down her own personal commentary track on our real-life declining civilization. It’s a striking look at the ills of society without being preachy.
The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery, is a study of human nature in the guise of a horror novel. The reader gets to look down upon the chaos safely like a buzzing fly adhering to an artistically painted wall. Don’t you fret, it’s not all guts and gore. Miller is also able to weave in her brazen New York style humor seamlessly. The humor is harsh and unbridled, delivered in a way that only a native of New York can really master.
If you like zombies or well written books of any genre, then you can’t go wrong with The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery.
The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery was a 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist. It was published by How Club Press and is 240 pages long. The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery is available at amazon.com.