PLANET DEAD: bloodthirsty, the first installment of the Planet Dead series by Sylvester Barzey is 200 pages of action that fly by as you follow Christine’s struggle to navigate the zombie apocalypse in order to reunite with her family. It is easy to see what inspired the author but this isn’t a simple rehash of any one story. It takes place in Georgia and features a trip to the CDC like The Walking Dead, it has a psychotic clown loving family like House of 1,000 Corpses, Romero-style back from the dead zombies, as well as 28 Days Later zoombies. The book isn’t all doom and gloom, it does have its funny moments. It doesn’t begin to compare to something like Shaun of the Dead in humor. Instead, think Zombieland, which is a movie whose sequel I am personally eager for, so the level of humor worked for me.
Representation is a powerful thing and if you read some of the comments about this book you can tell that people are really connecting with and loving Catherine, which is a great thing for them and this series going forward. It isn’t very often that a woman is chosen to lead a series like this. The most famous would probably be Milla Jovovich’s Alice, from the Resident Evil movie franchise, and even less often is that main character a woman of color. Michonne of The Walking Dead and Selina from 28 Days Later have a new heroin to welcome to the club in Catherine, a lawyer, former military, wife, mother, and all around badass. She is a good person who is being hardened by the world around her but she still comes to the aide of others when push comes to shove because she has to do what is right. However, she does not suffer fools, and if you impede her search for her family, there will be consequences.
In the era of books being licensed before they are published and Hollywood shying away from properties without a built-in audience, I think it is wise to discuss how the story could translate to film. If they took the manuscript and filmed it as is, with no improvements, depending on the budget and cast, it could easily be on par with the later Night of the Living Dead or Return of the Living Dead movies. With some polishing and input to give it the kind of conclusion people would be looking for, it could be on the level of Zombieland or Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead. They wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel, so it would be a stretch to say they could make a classic, but a fan favorite could be within reach.
The book suffers from exactly what you may expect from a self-published novel, including some typos and transposed or misused words that a second editor would have caught. It’s not nearly enough to make the book difficult to read, just a couple here and there, in fact, probably less than in this review.
Reading this book is a bit like climbing a hill. The first chapter is takes you uphill, introducing readers to Catherine and the new world, at a slow but steady pace. The start of chapter 2 is the crest, and then it is all downhill after that as Barzey races to the climax of volume 1. The biggest fault with Barzey’s tale is how, instead of expanding his world, he chose to shrink it by connecting every major character in an unnatural way. Sure, those connections could happen, but that chances of them happening and then everyone meeting up the way they do during the apocalypse is not organic whatsoever. The only other complaint I can come up with is that volume 1 is too soon to have a colon in the title. It should have been simply titled Planet Dead. However, if it had to involve the colon, the author could have chosen something that was more related to the story that we get in this installment. I would have chosen something like, Planet Dead: Happy Meal, Planet Dead: Greatest Show or Planet Dead: Mrs. Briggs.
Recommendable or Not:
While this book cannot receive the highest of recommends from me because it is not a self-contained story, it is easily recommendable. It goes by quick with enough action, danger and intrigue to make me interested in volume 2. And if Barzey continues at this level, I will be excited for the third. But if he can improve on what he did here, and can stick the landing, the series could turn out very good. Until then, I think I will go check out his other book, Terrifying Tales of Suspense.