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CR3 #66: Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney

I have read a surprisingly high number of zombie books for someone who had--up until relatively recently--a fairly strong phobia about zombies. There is something about them that just bothers me. Perhaps it's the mindlessness--unlike vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and other classic literary/movie monsters, the zombie has no motivation. It has no feeling except hunger, and it can't be reasoned with, cajoled, convinced, or threatened. There's no conscious thought, only a need to feed. A zombie is more closely related to an alligator than a human, but it's nearly unstoppable. An alligator can be trapped, injured, slowed down. A zombie is like an eating machine, except it looks like your family, friends, and neighbors. I'm not sure I can think of anything more horrifying.

Unfortunately for me, I've been rather badly spoiled as far as zombie books go. World War Z may be the definitive work on the subject, and all the others I've read since have paled in comparison. The sheer scope of WWZ makes it unlike any other book. However, there have been a few novels that have come close by having really great characters. In a book about zombies, your protagonists need to be very lively in order to compete. Otherwise they just blend in to one big ball of terrorized humanity.

Joe McKinney starts with an interesting premise in Flesh Eaters. He's set it in the city of Houston, just as a devastating hurricane is about to hit land. The main character is Eleanor Norton, a wife and mother who works in the local emergency preparedness department. After the storm hits, most of Houston is under water, and survivors are directed to a local college campus. The crowded conditions and the destruction of ANOTHER hurricane lead to squalor,  disease...and zombies.

Most of the story consists of Eleanor trying to get her family to safety and of her boss and his sons trying to pull off a heist. Although the original concept is good, and both Eleanor and her boss are decent characters, the secondary characters are fairly boring, and I felt like the tale rapidly lost steam after the initial panic. This is certainly not a BAD book, but it's also nothing special, and there are many much better zombie books out there.

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