by Ethan Reid
Simon & Schuster
07 Oct 2014
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher via netgalley.com. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
About The Undying:
After going through a difficult time in her life, American teenager Jeanie arrives in Paris with her friend Ben to spend New Year’s Eve with their former French exchange student Zouzou. Instantly, all hell breaks loose. The earth shakes, power blackens out, all electronics fail and fiery balls rain from the sky. Trying to make it to safety, Jeanie and her friends come across strange beings – pale and eerie-looking, they attack and viciously kill people, feeding on their very lives.
Another Zombie novel?
Zombies. I’ve read enough stories about them to look for something special, something different when picking a new one. Ethan Reid’s THE UNDYING (#1 in a series) lures me in with its setting and the unusual nature of the „zombies“.
Mon dieu, Paris!
Although the protagonist is an American, the story takes place in Paris, one of my favorite cities in the world. Having been to the sites mentioned throughout the story adds a thrilling sensation to the reading experience. My memory automatically pulls up pictures of the Champs-Élysées, the Catacombes, the Arc de Triomphe and particularly the Louvre as it becomes the last stand of the survivors huddled unter Pei’s famous glass pyramide.
Set in Paris, There’s also a fair amount of French in the book – something I personally enjoyed, but which might be a nuissance for readers not familiar with the language.
The nature of the beasts
The „zombies“ are a special breed and truly intriguing. First of all – they aren’t DEAD. Which is why they aren’t called „zombies“ but instead „the pale ones“, „the undying“ or „the moribunds“. Learning more about these creatures is one of the fun parts of the book, so I won’t go into detail here. Suffice it to say that they have a mental effect on the living that is going to make dealing with them THAT much more difficult.
Full throttle start, stalling middle section
After a fast-paced hell of a start with Paris falling victim to what seems like a huge natural disaster or an alien attack, the story unfortunately stumbles along in fits and starts, literally getting stuck in places. As long as our rag tag group of friends – Jeanie, Ben, Zouzou, Farid and Günter – are on the move, suspense is high, the plot advances and we encounter more and more of the moribund. Toward the end, these encounters in particular escalate into (very entertaining) violent and gory scenes. They result in unexpected characters deaths and come with a layer of ghoulish creepiness.
But every time our heroes become stationary, things get tedious. The characters (with Jeanie being front and center) freak out, get into fights and generally waste time doing illogical or useless things.
Implausible character behaviour
Jeanie, whose point ov view dominates the story, goes off on drawn-out mental tangents about ther dead father and her ensuing depression and as a result appears fragile – only to tip into though survivor mode in the next instant, completely incongruent with her earlier weakness. Her shifts in character aren’t plausible. Her behaviour is erratic.
And I’m NOT QUITE CONVINCED that adopting a newborn in the midst of a zombiecalypse when being just off your meds and against everyone’s advice is such a great idea. My disbelief escalates during a scene in the catacombes that goes aginst every human instinct and every medical fact. Sorry, Mr. Reid. I just don’t buy it.
Ben – good or bad?
It is not only Jeanie who has the uncomfortable tendency to act irrationally or vascillate between juxtaposing character traits. The same accounts for Ben. His actions are so contrarious, I still don’t know whether I’m supposed to like him or not. Grey areas are one thing. Not knowing how to categorize a character at all is simply confusing.
Watch out, plot hole!
And then there are plot holes, illogical proceedings, story lines begun and dropped again. More than once it seems that Mr. Reid has his characters hovering until he’s figured out what to do with them next. He builds suspense to let it falter. Or, on the contrary, startles with impulsive moments of insanity and violence that seem to come out of nowhere and feel more odd than anything.
I want to give him a break, though. There ARE intriguing scenes, especially when the „moribund“ come into play, and an upward spiral of tempo, gore and mystery towards the ending of the book make reading it worthwhile.
To be continued?
The sequel to THE UNDYING is already out – THE UNDYING: SHADES. I am yet unsure if I’m going to read it. The concept of THE UNDYING certainly is a fresh one. However, characterization and story execution in the first installment aren’t convincing. I’ll need to sleep over this. If YOU have read book #2 and liked it, let me know if I should give it a try after all!