Book Review: The Remaining by D.J. Molles

The Remaining by D.J. Molles

Genre: Science Fiction, Horror

Series: Book 1 of The Remaining

Publisher: Orbit (May 27, 2014)

Author Information: Website

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Remaining is a great zombie book. Originally self-published in 2012, it quickly became an internet bestseller before being picked up by Orbit, and there’s a damn good reason for that. By now you’ve probably seen a lot of the positive reviews it has garnered, though I’m willing to bet few of them have praised this story for being terribly original. But does that make this a bad book? Heck no. In fact, I would argue that its devotion to the classic zombie survival-horror tradition is a massive part of the appeal.

The Walking Dead fans, this one would be right up your alley. No joke. The “zombies” in this book might not be the traditional mindless shambling hordes we’re used to seeing – the victims of the FURY plague are still capable of talking and strategizing up to a point before the virus degrades their brains (which makes them even more terrifying) – but the overall spirit and style of the narrative is still the same. It’s not out to knock you off your feet with any new or unusual or experimental ideas, but if its goal is to provide a fast-moving, action-packed and entertaining zombie story then I must say it has succeeded rather swimmingly.

Here’s what you basically need to know: the main character of The Remaining is a US Army captain named Lee Harden, who as part of a secret government program is sequestered in his bunker after the sudden outbreak of a new deadly and infectious virus. It’s not the first time this has happened. Lee and about four dozen other soldiers like him (one for every state) are placed in their bunkers every time the country experiences an emergency of national crisis. If the government falls, their job is to come out after the bunker, take stock of the situation and try to gather survivors in order to rebuild. But things in the past have never gone so far or gotten this bad before. When the lockdown period passes without an all-clear or any further instructions from his superiors, Lee emerges from the bunker and prepares to start his mission.

As a character, Lee took a while to grow on me – but he did. Strangely, the moment came when I was finally able to appreciate his faults. To understand, you must realize the few chapters really tried my patience. The entire lockdown period featured Lee being in denial, going back and forth between his decisions and second guessing his instructions. And then there were those long and wearying paragraphs about his guns. The deadline came and went. I kept tapping my foot waiting for him to stop describing the contents of his impressive arsenal, get his waffling butt out there and actually put all that stuff to good use on some hapless Infected.

Then I realized, I was being too harsh. Dude is stuck in a bunker. Not knowing what’s going on because he’s cut off from all communication. No human interaction at all because it’s just him and his dog. If the world outside has indeed gone to hell in a hand basket, he’s probably also scared to death of the responsibility waiting for him on the other side of that tunnel.

So maybe I was being a tad unfair to poor Lee. And really, what a shame it would have been if he was just another archetypal action hero, full of empty bravado rushing out headfirst to save the world? Lee is more realistic this way, even if he did end up doing some questionable things. But then, who wouldn’t make a mistake in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? Contrary to what all the zombie survival guides want you to believe, there’s no instruction manual for stuff like this. Wrong decisions or no, Lee has to make some pretty tough calls as well. The guy has a good heart, but he’s sure as hell also capable of showing no mercy to those who don’t deserve it. I love that in his character.

Bottom line, if you’re a fan of type of zombie apocalypse survival movies that Hollywood does so well, this is that in book form. After a relatively sedate start, the novel picks up and will not slow down, with always some kind of disaster or new setback waiting around the corner for the characters to overcome. No other bells and whistles or fancy-schmancy embellishments, just pure zombie fiction fun.

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