Thursday, 12 October 2017

Chuckles Retro Reads: The Gathering Dead by Stephen Knight

The zombie apocalypse has begun, and Major Cordell McDaniels is given the most important mission of his career: lead a Special Forces team into New York City to rescue the one man who can stop the ghastly virus that reanimates the dead.

But as a growing army of flesh-eating corpses takes over the streets and a violent storm renders airborne extraction impossible, McDaniels struggles to find a way out of the Big Apple. The odds of anyone getting out alive plummet further when slaughtered members of his own Special Forces team join the ranks of the gathering dead... with their military skills intact!

My Review: 
The zombie apocalypse has hit New York and the military are evacuating the important people while the ordinary people are left to the mercy of the zombies. McDaniels has two teams in two helicopters to evacuate a scientist and his daughter who may have the basis for a cure. When one helicopter is overrun and the other crash lands, the survivors barricade themselves into a building with a few civilians to wait for help to arrive. But the zombies outside include the other half of the team and they are plotting a way to get inside...

I'm always a fan of seeing the start of the zomie apocalypse in books so I wasn't sure if this book was going to be for me, but the author drops you right in the middle of the chaotic evacuation and it works really well. It is exciting to see the rush to get to the helicopters as the zombies and humans break through into the evacuation zone. The crash and scramble to get to safety is also really interesting. It gets you right into the plot and gives the book a really fast paced start. I liked that! I hate slow starting zombie books so this does not disappoint.

The characters interest me. McDaniels is a strong soldier and leader who has a historically difficult relationship with his senior soldier Gartrell. Gartrell believes in the mission at all costs even if the civilians are expendable because a cure is vital to human survival. McDaniels refuses to sacrifice civilians for the mission as he is a humanitarian. The thing is, you can understand both sides of this. Without the rescue of these scientists, eventually everyone will die by zombie so the cure is top priority-but you like the civilians-Earl the janitor and his daughters, so you want them to be saved. We find out that the two soldiers faced a similar dilemma in Afghanistan where McDaniels put civilians ahead of the mission and it cost lives so in my own way, I liked and had sympathy for both men. I didn't greatly like the scientists but the main focus is on the soldiers which meant my dislike, especially of snotty Regina, didn't stop me enjoying the story.

I think the tension is there throughout the book as the soldiers keep watch for signs of the zombies breaking into the building, while they wait for a rescue. The helicopter that is to come for them will have to brave a bad storm which puts them in danger. The soldiers in the city are too far away to get over there to help them. The river banks are teeming with zombies which would make river rescue dangerous. All of these scenarios add a lot of drama to the plot and you just know that the zombies will not stay outside the building forever. I love all that pent up tension throughout the plot.

Now the interesting element is the introduction of smart zombies. Let me be clear, I hate books where the zombies can talk and do all kinds of things like using guns and driving cars-they are just not zombies for me, they are advanced corpses or something! I was nervous at the thought of smart zombies in this book but I found myself loving the twist. The team whose helicopter was overrun by the dead have found their way to the building and are remembering enough of their military training to plan how to break in. As you watch their plan slowly unfold, you get really nervous for those inside the building, and again, the author just ramps up the drama. I really enjoyed this addition to the story because it sort of felt believable. I could see a newly turned zombie retaining some of its intelligence, especially military men with a massive tactical brain. Excellent!

There are things in this book that I don't normally like in this genre but I felt that the author did an excellent job of introducing these plot devices in a way that I really enjoyed. It is an action packed, tension filled plot, with great characters, twists and some very scary zombies! There isn't much more you can ask for in this genre. I've already read the next one in the series which is a novella and I enjoyed it, so I'm excited to see where the series goes after that-and I've already bought the series in paperback ready to go!

Read Jan 2016
5 stars 


  1. Sounds like Knight really packs in the tension in this one...always a good thing to have in an edge-of-your-seat zombie thirller! :)

    1. I've got some really great zombie books that are fast paced and exciting and this was certainly one of them. Another series I still need to catch up with!

  2. Wow. The author sure did his job is he got you to like not one but a couple of things you don't usually like in zombie books. Have to give this a closer look now.

    1. I just love these military zombie books! There is always so much happening and lots of zombies!