Book Review: Zombiestan

Part of South Asian Challenge 2012

Title: Zombiestan
Author: Mainak Dhar
Publisher: Duckbill Publications
ISBN: – 978-93-81626-92-4
Pages: 248
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.75 of 5
Reviewed for:

This review is honored to be on and the of the book.

I confess, while agreeing to review this one I had never been this wary about a book in recent times – firstly because I had never been a fan of those gory zombie films and as an extension never read this genre, secondly inspite of thirteen books to his credit I had never read Mainak Dhar and thirdly I found the book jacket really gory. Now after turning the back cover over to the left I have more confessions – I want to read more from this genre, that was completely ignorant of me to have missed out Mainak’s books and the book jacket has a worthy role in the book. Apart from the cover, that (at the cost of repetition) I found gory, it is story telling at its perfection zenith. Gripping, nail crunching and filled with the thriller benchmark Oh Shits, the book is the tale of our world spinning completely out of control by an uncontrolled infection that threatens to extinguish the very existence of the human race on earth lest light shines yet again.

Zombiestan takes the reader on an edge-of-the-seat  journey by brining together terrorism and chemical warfare thus zooming out  the proportions of terrors infinitely, that we already face today. The story takes us to Afghanistan where Taliban is trying to regain its losing grip owing to Osama Bin Laden’s death and the American forces closing in, destroying them one by one. A deal is underway, where mysterious bags are being exchanged, when the US navy SEAL base finds out about it and thus follows a bombarding causing death of the miscreants and leaking of the material being exchanged. What follows is beyond the possible imagination of any living human – The victims die and rise up, converted into beings with yellowed skins, concocted faces, pus and blood sores over their bodies, chunks of hair falling off their heads and with a nauseating stench. They are turned into ravaging primitive blood thirsty creatures who come out after the sunset and go about biting people, who in turn die and rise up again and join the ranks. The infection starts raking all humanity like a flood engulfing every human in their paths and humans are left struggling to live yet another day even in an technologically advanced age because they no one knows how to kill something that is undead!

The infection spreads with an unfathomed  speed and the survivors are hopeless and struggling to make it to the next sunrise. The action shifts to New Delhi where a US navy SEAL who is trying to get home, a seventeen year old boy who is trying to come to terms with the loss of his parents to the infection, an elderly history professor and closet novelist is running away from the infected and a school going girl with her three-year-old brother are struggling to stay alive  – five very unlikely people come together as a team to fight the Biters – as the infected undead are now called. They are running every night to survive yet another day and that is when the little boy gets bitten but light shines through devastation – he turned out immune to the infection – and thus begins the struggle to smuggle the boy to the mountain passes in Ladakh, as they hear a stray radio broadcast declaring it as being immune to the biters. Meanwhile the biters are evolving by the second from brawny primitives to brainy miscreants and they are on the trail of the five as they come in hunt of the one who survived them.

The strength of the book lies in the narration; Mainak takes the reader through a story, which is quite conventional and to an extent movie inspired, like a master storyteller pausing at the right turns, twisting at the right bends, educating and intriguing in the right measures as we tug along the tale of the undead. Though the part where everyone the team meets has their hopes pinned on the three-year-old boy to be their rescuer and they keep getting help from unexpected quarters because of the boy reminds us of Harry Potter especially with people wanting to see the bite mark, overall it is a read that is what can be called a Thrilling Thriller – with the narration bang on, the surprises at the right places and the desperation in the right quality – it is racy, entertaining and exciting. Zombiestan should make for a gripping weekend read.

p.s. Though the cover is gory it contributes well to form the mental image along with the words, for the reader to feel the desperation, fear and helplessness of the protagonists.

Happy Reading

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