George A. Romero terrified a generation with his iconic horror film and with this cult-classic novel. Immerse yourself in this unparalleled vision from the revered master of the zombie apocalypse...and be terrified all over again. Zombies have overpowered the living and ravaged the world. Society has collapsed as humans race to save themselves. No one knows how far the creatures have spread or how to stop them. In downtown Philadelphia four people escape the chaos and find shelter in a vacated shopping mall. But as their greed spirals and the undead close in, their haven for waiting out the end of the world becomes the last battleground for survival. And there is nowhere left to hide.
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I know this is a Romero zombie story, but it's really not that good. The characters are as flat as paper, and the 1970s-ish-ness of everything (characters, plot, action, thoughts) is rather boring. Characters do and say things that make no sense whatsoever. They are stereotypically what you'd expect from a B grade movie made in the 70s.
Kudos to the narrator, though, as he did an excellent job of reading the story, which otherwise I probably would have quit listening and retuned the book. Even so, after the first hour, I almost returned it, as it really isn't worth the time to listen to it. The only reason I chugged through it was because it's considered a classic and provides perspective on the zombie stories that come after it. That, and I bought it on sale.
I didn't specifically remember the movie, so I reviewed it and it's the same level of 60s-70s cheesiness.
George A. Romero is the grandfather of the zombie genre, and perhaps the most influential filmmaker of all-thing zombies. His influence has shone down upon pop culture in the nearly-forty years that followed the release of his movie, Dawn of the Dead. You can see it all around you right now with The Walking Dead in comics and on TV, Jonathan Maberry’s terrific Rot & Ruin series, Brian Keene’s The Rising, and Stephen King’s Cell. I doubt that without Romero any of these latter stories would measure up quite as well. They are each a product of a very prolific history that traces back to the Romero movies.
So, it’s more than a bit of a shame that I found the novelization of Dawn of the Dead to be so tepid. While Romero is a fine filmmaker, his work as a novelist, along with co-writer Susanna Sparrow, leaves quite a lot to be desired. Originally published in 1978, the narrative holds up rather well and there are only a few anachronistic elements to remind you how many decades have passed since it was written. We get a brief nod to President Carter and, later, a “huge” twenty-one inch TV set that our survivors have to “lug” up the stairs. My primary issue boils down to the writing itself, though. Stylistically, it’s a mess. Character viewpoints shift on a whim, as if to capture the frenetic nature of a zombie apocalypse – however, the prose is fairly languid and wordy, which slows things down tremendously. And this being a zombie novel, we get plenty of references to the undead but with nary a change in descriptors, and I lost count of how many times the authors referred to them simply as ‘ghouls.’ It’s a lot, though. A lot.
With a seven-hour run time, this audiobook recording feels overly longer and much too ponderous. For a story about the fall of humanity and a quartet of survivors seeking shelter in a shopping mall overrun with zombies, it really should be a lot more energetic and punchy. There are only a few really good confrontations between the living and the walking dead, but too often I felt like the human characters existed in this novel mostly to just talk about the zombies. And we get a lot of talk about zombies. We get way more talk about zombies than we get actual zombies. By the time the finale rolls around and the survivors are confronted with a band of bikers/scavengers, the sudden conflict finally gives the book a bit of life, only far too late.
Production-wise, the quality is terrific and the recording comes through crisp and clear. This is an Audible Studios production, and, frankly, I expect it to be good. Jonathan Davis’s narration is solid, and he delivers a great reading of the material. Characters were presented well and with enough differentiation to keep track of dialogue. I don’t really have any qualms about Davis’s work here, and he does a serviceable job with the material he’s been given.
I’m hesitant to recommend this title for anyone other than die-hard fans and Romero completists. While the film version of Dawn of the Dead is perfect bit of zombie cinema, the novelization is a lackluster affair that oftentimes descends into pure boredom. As far as zombie books go, though, there are many other better offerings out there. Otherwise, stick with the film version on this one.
Audiobook purchased for review by ABR.
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