Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Chuckles Retro Reads: The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

Katie is driving to work one beautiful day when a dead man jumps into her car and tries to eat her.  That same morning, Jenni opens a bedroom door to find her husband devouring their toddler son.

Fate puts Jenni and Katie—total strangers—together in a pickup, fleeing the suddenly zombie-filled streets of the Texas city in which they live. Before the sun has set, they have become more than just friends and allies—they are bonded as tightly as any two people who have been to war together.

During their cross-Texas odyssey to find and rescue Jenni’s oldest son, Jenni discovers the joy of watching a zombie’s head explode when she shoots its brains out. Katie learns that she’s a terrific tactician—and a pretty good shot. A chance encounter puts them on the road to an isolated, fortified town, besieged by zombies, where fewer than one hundred people cling to the shreds of civilization.

It looks like the end of the world. But Katie and Jenni and many others will do whatever they have to to stay alive. Run, fight, pick each other up when they stumble, fall in love…anything is possible at the end of the world.

My Review: 
I read this over a year ago now and I'm finally getting round to doing a review of it. Part of the reason is being swamped in reviews but the other was trying to decide which star rating to settle on-3, 3.5 or 4. It's difficult because it is a good zombie novel where the unexpected keeps happening but it is spoiled for me by one moronic character that I hated and wanted to see die a painful death by zombie.

Lets start with the plot. When Katie's wife Lydia is killed by zombie neighbours, Katie flees in the truck with the dog(Jack) of the man who died saving her life. She stumbles across the shellshocked Jenni, an abused wife stuck at her house with her undead family trying to kill her. Together they try to get out of the city to get to Jenni's oldest son at a kids camp. They have to learn to adapt to the new reality of zombies trying to eat them and the dilemma of whether or not to trust the survivors that they meet along the way.

The action scenes in the book are excellent-the beginning where Katie and Jenni escape, the scene at the camp, the incidents on the road. I enjoyed the meeting with Ralph and Nerit, who have survived in their town against the odds. With gas in low supply, the women decide to their chance and reach a nearby town which is turning itself into a fort with a community working together to survive. All of the action scenes leading up to the fort are very well written. At the fort, there are plenty of action scenes involving supply raids, evil humans trying to storm the fort, zombies surrounding the fort...there is always something going on and there must be action to keep me happy.

Now the sub-plots. First we have the whole is Katie gay or what plot. Katie describes herself as lesbian, married to Lydia, and widowed by the outbreak. She rejects the desperate attempt of Jenni for a relationship on the road. As an abused wife, I think Jenni felt that to be of continued value and to say thanks, she had to offer herself to Katie, who gently rejects the offer. It is then forgotten and they continue on as friends. When they arrive at the fort, both women find an interest in Travis. It is kept as some huge secret that Katie is bisexual and I'm not sure why it was written to have Katie ashamed of it and keeping it hidden. There was a lot of drama around Katie's sexuality-maybe too much at times-but it didn't bother me plot wise as I like Katie as a character.

The next sub-plot is the romance. Anyone who reads my reviews knows that I do not enjoy romance in my zombie novels and female authors seem to feel there must be a ton of it in zombie books. I wasn't greatly keen on it but it wasn't a deal breaker. I did like the characters of Juan and Travis so I wasn't hugely put off by it the way I usually am. I didn't like it being set up first as a love triangle and then as a strange love square kind of thing, but I just tried to ignore it and focus on the good things in the story.

However, there was one thing about this book that I really didn't like and it is that which had me wondering what star rating to give this book. I hated Jenni. Yes I get that she is going through trauma because of her abusive husband and then the zombies eating her kids. But her behaviour towards Katie in this book really made me mad. When they arrive at the Fort, she decides that nobody else is allowed to be Katie's friend, sulking and pouting every time Katie dares talk to anyone else yet Jenni is allowed to make new friends! Everything just had to be about Jenni-she decided she wanted Travis and was going to make him want her instead of chasing Katie, she decided that Katie could only be friends with her and she was determined to be the centre of everyone's attention. She is selfish, manipulative and rude.

It's not just Katie that gets manipulated. I have no idea what Juan saw in Jenni but it's obvious that he fancies her and Jenni doesn't want to know-until there is a chance that a new woman they meet might like Juan and then Jenni gets annoyed. She has to be the main attraction or she gets whiny. At the library she gets annoyed that this woman is taking over the book list and moans 'who put her in charge?'...um, she's the librarian and knows where everything is you dumb bitch! Even when Jenni and Juan get together she STILL gets mad when Katie spends time with Travis instead of her. I really hate Jenni and she does spoil what was otherwise an excellent book.

I'd rate the book four on it's own but Jenni gets a rating of zero, and the love triangle plot gets about 1. So maybe 3.5 stars would be the most accurate rating. I will read on with the series as I like a lot of the characters but I hope something is done about Jenni as she drives me bloody mad.

NB I've still to read the rest of this series!
3.5 stars. 


  1. I like this series. Especially the short novellas that go with it.

    1. I've read the first of those short volumes and I really liked it. I really do need to catch up but there are just so many books to get to!

  2. Hmmm, I've been meaning to read this for ages! Sounds like it's worth giving a try.

    1. I really do need to get caught up with this series. There were great zombie scenes in the first one.