Title: Half a Million Dead Cannibals
Author: Kari Gregg
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M Romance/Paranormal/Horror
Length: Novella/26,782 words/92 PDF pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: The zombie elements of the story worked quite well, but the relationship aspects were less successful.
Blurb: All that’s keeping Riley from the man he’s falling in love with is the ruins of a city filled with half a million dead cannibals.
Strangers, Riley and Graham sheltered together in a basement storage unit when the zombie outbreak slammed into the world three months ago. They lived through the first blast of the plague, but they may not last much longer among survivors scrambling for dwindling resources. They agree to hike from the city and to the safety of the mountains.
They don’t count on the storm they hoped would cover their exit developing into a Nor’easter, though, and they sure don’t think their visibility will shrink so badly that they’ll have to hike into the leading edge of a zombie swarm, either. In the chaos of escaping the ravenous horde, they are separated, with Graham racing toward feral dog packs to the east and Riley sprinting to hostile survivors hunting them to the west.
Nobody said finding and keeping a quality guy (alive) during the apocalypse would be easy.
My last foray into a literary zombieland wasn’t very satisfying. But, I am not a quitter and, when I found out that Kari Gregg has released a new zombie-themed novella, I pried it out of Sammy’s hands (Thank you, Sammy!) and I am happy to report that Half A Million Dead Cannibals was well-written, exciting novella. The best thing about it is its atmosphere. It’s not without flaws though, mainly in the relationship department.
Three months after most of the humanity for unknown reasons turned into zombies, Riley, former waiter, and Graham, construction worker, have met and sheltered together in an abandoned basement. Riley is young (24), openly gay and a bit flamboyant, while Graham is older (late thirties), more reserved and seemingly straight. For a ‘straight guy’ though, he is very touchy-feely towards Riley, which confuses and frustrates Riley. The world they live in is extremely dangerous, not only because of the zombies and constant danger of infection, but also because of the feral dogs roaming the city and survivals prepared to do anything for the remaining resources. The two men decide to leave the city and go to the mountains, hoping that they will find some safety there.
The story is concentrated on the two men – there are no other characters in the story – and their survival. The other survivors, whether they are friendly or hostile, are just distant presence or voices over the radio. That bothered me some, especially Riley’s off page run-in with some of them. On the other hand, this limited world view significantly contributed to the atmosphere, in my opinion, the best element of the story. The author skillfully conveys the sense of isolation, oppression, danger and fear. They are permeating the pages and it’s really hard not to feel the apprehension for our protagonists. The details, such as precautions they are taking, clothes they wear to protect themselves, the ‘luxury items’ they decide to take with them, add to the feeling of doom that hangs over them. Their encounters with ‘crawlers’ and ‘walkers’ were occasionally adrenaline inducing.
However, this is a very short piece and there are no enough pages for more significant development, especially when it comes to men’s relationship. Both Riley and Graham are painted in broad strokes, which, in my case, wasn’t sufficient to completely engage me. Graham’s loses and Riley’s past were hinted at, but, greedy as I am, I wanted more. Graham’s teasing of Riley wasn’t very attractive, though when he decided to start something with Riley, he was a very hot top. In spite of my complaints, I still cared for both of them and the author made me believe that they could be good for each other. I just wish we could have seen some of that in the story. I am hoping for sequel which would further develop their relationship and also give us a bit larger picture of the world.
Half A Million Dead Cannibals is well-written, suspenseful read which, in my opinion, needed a bit more development in the relationship department. I believe that a few more pages could have solved this problem. Still, the adventure and horror fans should enjoy this story.