Riley has lived alone with her dad in an isolated cabin in New York State for as long as she can remember. It’s just safer. Her dad’s told her about the time before the zombies, but she can only imagine it. Instead of playing with friends, Riley became a crack shot with a rifle. And she’ll need that skill now that her dad’s been bitten. She’ll be forced to leave the cabin and fight off zombies all on her own. She’s twelve years old. There’s a lot she’ll have to learn about the world she’s never really been part of. She already knows how to kill zombies. But now she’ll learn just how dangerous the living can be too.
When infected by the brain of an extraterrestrial, Karen discovers, among other bizarre powers, the ability to read minds. As she tries to grasp her situation, a secret branch of the military, devoted to paranormal and supernatural phenomenon, starts their dogged pursuit. They will stop at nothing to catch her, dead or alive, because Karen is contagious with a virus they hope to control. A virus that, if spread, would end the world as we know it. On the run, Karen meets Morgan, an ex-agent of the team that’s on her tail, a vampire-turned-vampire hunter. Together, they struggle to stop the government from seizing the virus, a fate worse than contagion. A future of chaos, from which there is no return.
This is my first double-bill review, and it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out I know several other bloggers and reviewers often do mini-reviews of many books, but I prefer to do single stand-alone reviews and not to compress or squish my reviews into bite-sized pieces if I can help it But that doesn’t mean this will be one ginormous review
I’m a big fan of author David Bernstein’s work, and if you’re a horror fan who hasn’t heard of him yet, you will soon and not just because I’m about to review two of his novels
Bernstein’s second zombie offering, Amongst the Dead is the story of twelve year-old Riley, who lives with her dad. But soon, that peace is disturbed, and everything becomes one big survival quest against the undead. She finds herself on her own and forced to fight for her life. With two other survivors of a plague, Joanna and her son Eric, they all try to stick together in the madness, but this proves difficult as they encounter some not-so-nice humans that capture Riley. Although Bernstein’s zombies in this book are conventional, the unique factor is Riley, who is immune to zombie bites, which makes a fanatical group of nuns, Sisters, want to use her for their own devices—namely, to use her as a breeding machine so she can “save” humanity. Unfortunately for them, it’s not a holy miracle, but rather an ill-intentioned science lab that is responsible for the reason Riley doesn’t turn into one of the undead.
As with Bernstein’s previous zombie novel, Machines of the Dead, this novel, which is completely separate and not a sequel as I had previously thought (to be fair, the titles are similar ), is gripping, suspenseful, action-packed, and a quick read. Highly recommended for zombie fans as well as those that don’t usually go for zombie fare like myself.
Now on to Tears of No Return, which is a marked shift for Bernstein, who until now has focused mostly exclusively on zombie fiction. This one is about a former vampire, Morgan, and a woman, Karen, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Through the oddest of circumstances, these two get together and become partners in crime and romantic partners. but there’s no mushy, gooey love scene type of stuff between them, as the story moves ahead at a breakneck speed and there’s no time for that type of stuff. Their attention is focused on their fight against another staple of Bernstein’s books, evil science labs/military organization—in this book, it’s the fictional Murphy Group. Morgan and Karen work together to bring them down from the inside out.
The pacing is relentless, like being on a roller coaster ride with many sharp turns and swerves, and although at times I would have liked it if things slowed down a bit, the chemistry between Morgan and Karen keeps the momentum going in a dynamic way. Although I like Bernstein’s spin on zombies, it’s nice to see him get away from them for a bit, and in such a creative way The writing in both Amongst the Dead and Tears of No Return is fluid, smooth, and shows that it has matured and become more developed.
Bernstein’s “vampire,” Morgan, is one of the unique factors, as this guy feeds on the blood of other vampires. In Karen’s case, she finds out the hard way that tears can spread weird abilities, like telepathy, which she “inherits” in the first chapter.
The characterization is a strong point in both novels, as well, with Riley coming across as an adult, as well as Karen and Morgan complementing each other very well and making the plot more engaging.
With each book, Bernstein just keeps getting better. He proves more and more why he is one to watch. He is a supernova on the rise, readers. He should be definitely be on your TBR pile, and with more projects set to be released this year as well as next, he’s moving slowly but surely to the top of the food chain.