I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Simon and Schuster on October 7th, 2014
THEY HAVE COME FROM THE STARS…
In this riveting apocalyptic thriller for fans of The Passage and The Walking Dead, a mysterious event plunges Paris into darkness and a young American must lead her friends to safety—and escape the ravenous “undying” who now roam the crumbling city.
Jeanie and Ben arrive in Paris just in time for a festive New Year’s Eve celebration with local friends. They eat and drink and carry on until suddenly, at midnight, all the lights go out. Everywhere they look, buildings and streets are dark, as though the legendary Parisian revelry has somehow short circuited the entire city.
By the next morning, all hell has broken loose. Fireballs rain down from the sky, the temperatures are rising, and people run screaming through the streets. Whatever has happened in Paris—rumors are of a comet striking the earth—Jeanie and Ben have no way of knowing how far it has spread, or how much worse it will get. As they attempt to flee the burning Latin Quarter—a harrowing journey that takes them across the city, descending deep into the catacombs, and eventually to a makeshift barracks at the Louvre Museum—Jeanie knows the worst is yet to come. So far, only she has witnessed pale, vampiric survivors who seem to exert a powerful hold on her whenever she catches them in her sights.
These cunning, ravenous beings will come to be known as les moribund—the undying—and their numbers increase by the hour. When fate places a newborn boy in her care, Jeanie will stop at nothing to keep the infant safe and get out of Paris—even if it means facing off against the moribund and leaving Ben—and any hope of rescue—behind.
As horror books go, this was actually pretty creepy, up until a point. The apocalyptic nature of the scenario, plus limited information, following those who were not in charge around as they tried to survive and figure out what was happening, is remnicient of a Roland Emmerich film. Yeah, as most apocalyptic stories do, this one started with very little. A blackout on New Years Eve doesn’t render many into panic. Most people continue their revelry and enjoyment of the evening. When morning comes, they find the sky blanketed in dust and aftershocks from something destroying buildings.
Jeanie has come to Paris after her father died, on insistence of her mother and a recently rekindled friendship with their foreign exchange student, to have a vacation as a symbolic and spiritual journey into starting fresh and new after her bout of depression. She brought along her lifelong friend Ben, who is perpetually in the friend’s zone, yet always there for Jeanie. When the building across the way from their hotel levels due to an aftershock, they meet down in the lobby and find another American almost immediately. This new American is a geologist, and starts spouting end of the world scenarios akin to that of which the dinosaurs had to deal with- falling rocks, heat surge, ice age, acid rain. He starts talking about how his wife is with him in Paris, about to give birth (awesome timing!), but he gets hit by some debris and can only stutter her location and demand that Jeanie helps find them.
Obviously, Jeanie wants none of that. But, fate and religious nutters eventually bring her to the hospital anyway. She finds that the wife has died in child birth and that the little one is orphaned. She decides to take the baby, despite the world going to hell. Now, honestly, babies in apocalyptic scenarios are realistic, but they really bother me. Like, honestly, no one wants to read about children suffering and dying and turning into zombies or whatever. That’s not cool.
So, burdened with this baby, she and her friends have to find their way to safety. Honestly, the first couple of chapters were really cool. Dealing with just weather and terrestrial issues was awesome. The addition of stampeding crowds, violent looters, suicides and evangelical insanity was also really freaky and awesome. They lost me somewhere around the monsters. When the monsters were just here and there and randomly eating people, that was a little scary. But when there were a bunch of them, it just stopped being scary an started being a slaughter. I felt the same way about the weeping angels in Doctor Who. I think this a thing that the horror genre doesn’t understand. More doesn’t really mean scarier. In fact, sometimes it has the opposite appeal. Even showing the monsters doesn’t really need to happen. The more secretive, the more scary.
Anyway, I found most of the foreign friends to be interchangeable, despite being large and German or tiny and French. Most were just collateral to allow for danger to happen, yet still keep the main character alive. Ben was the only one who stood out, but only because after a certain point, he became a total asshole and kept trying to leave the group to die. He also has a total fit about Jeanie not being his girlfriend, somewhere around the time that he’s turning into one of the monsters. As last impressions go, it didn’t make me feel sorry for him. I mean, he was already deplorable before that point, wining about his lost tooth and the heat and just about anything else he could think of.
There’s also a weird point where Jeanie starts to lactate. I know that’s a thing, but the descriptions of it juxtaposed within everything else were a little jarring and pushed me out of the otherwise urgent nature of the story. This happened one other time when one of the monsters was described as having a ‘pendulous scrotum’. There’s just no way that can be made scary.
The book ends pretty abruptly, without many questions answered. I wonder if it’s secretly part of a series or what? Even if they go to another disaster site to start over or if they continue with Jeanie there’s plenty of ground to cover. There’s a large beast of some sort controlling all the zombpires, but we never actually find out what it is or if it’s going to be vanquished. There’s acid rain coming is only addressed in passing and with the phone lines out, no one really knows what the rest of the world is up to.
Despite everything, I really enjoyed this book. Not perfect, but still engrossing.