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Season of Rot / Eric S. Brown

Permuted Press / July 2009
Reviewed by: Michele Lee

Eric S. Brown's Season of Rot is a collection of five zombie novellas that from the first page demonstrates how well-versed Brown is in the zombie genre. In scene after scene, readers will find good guys and bad guys, women and children, all trying to survive the undead plague while holed up in hospitals, military bases and even luxury cruise ships converted for war against the undead.

What's hard to find is a true sense of storytelling in any of Brown's offerings.

The difference here is in the distinction between middle-of-the-road horror tales and the kinds of stories that capture imaginations. Brown wields a mean zombie — be it fast or slow, intelligent or mindless, holding a rocket launcher or its own insides. But while the settings and origins of the zombie hordes change from story to story, the plots don’t. Readers are repeatedly told what's happening, flatly informed of the interchangeable traits and circumstances of the characters, and at times even told only about plot advancements through mini-flashbacks after switches in point of view.

Plot points function less like a quick zombie ambush here and more like the stumbling undead that readers will be able to make out from a distance. Season of Rot is also crippled by the blatantly cringe-worthy science, particularly bad in “The Wave” where some mysterious alien malfunction millions of light years away causes a wave of radiation that hits Earth, causing all electronics to fail – even batteries – shatters, and sends a splinter (of a radiation wave) back out to the sun where it makes our favorite star explode. This wave damages technology and fries human brains, but doesn't damage plants or other animals at all. The logic and science are so glaringly horrible that two pages after explaining all electricity-based things are non-functional, a character uses not one, but two, electronic keypad-secured doors only to find scientists running simulations of the wave impact on large TV screens inside.

The worst problem, for this reviewer, is the disconnect between the characters and the reader. These stories are populated with horrible situations, tragic circumstances, and sacrifices, but misfortunes that seem rushed, almost like Brown is speeding us past an accident scene rather than making the reader a paramedic taking full assessment of the situation. The characters are largely interchangeable and their loss and pain is generically sad and tragic, but there is no expansion on these emotions past the words used to inform the reader.

If you want zombies, large scale gun battles, and heroic last stands, then Season of Rot is your book. But if you're looking for good stories – spun out of real people and emotions and more than mere words – then keep looking.

Purchase Season of Rot by Eric S. Brown.

Posted on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 05:14PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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