Zombie Book Review: ZombieGift.com Review of Coldbrook
We love zombie books and we receive a lot of requests to review them. While that sounds great on paper, the problem is many zombie themed novels are the same old recycled story. At a certain point it all becomes the same tired tale retold with different characters. Many zombie authors work so hard on penning gore and horror they lose sight of the big picture and fail to find a way to make their story unique and distinctive. It’s understandable. With so many zombie themed books flooding the market, standing out from the crowd is no easy task. Finding a unique approach to the zombie genre can sometimes seem more difficult than surviving an actual zombie apocalypse. Fortunately there are always exceptions to the rule. Take, for example, Tim Lebbon’s zombie novel Coldbrook.
When Titan Books emailed us with a plot synopsis of Tim Lebbon’s Coldbrook and offered to send us a review copy in exchange for our honest opinion we just couldn’t say no. It sounded like it had some distinctive qualities to separate it from the rest of the horde. Boy were we right! Coldbrook is a horror, zombie and science fiction mash-up that leaves you hungry for more.
The book takes its title from the name of the secret laboratory where many events of the story take place. Hidden deep within the Appalachian Mountains, Coldbrook is a facility where scientist may have bitten off a little more than they were prepared to chew. I know what you’re thinking; let’s get things clear from the start. This is not your typical experimental virus mutation and release plot.
Coldbrook Plot Synopsis: (May contain some minor plot spoilers)
The root of the outbreak in Lebbon’s unique zombie tale isn’t an experimental virus at all. That would be far too easy. The author packs much more into this undead masterpiece. There are many more layers to the Coldbrook plot. Coldbrook scientists do accidentally unleash something upon the earth and their mistakes end up being much worse than releasing a simple virus. Instead they create a portal that allows a plague to be unleashed from an alternate world. It’s a twist that many zombie readers haven’t seen before.
Coldbrook scientists have created a gateway to a new world; a portal to an alternate universe if you will. Things start out nice enough, but like many secret laboratories things end up going very wrong. The problem with portals and windows is they offer movement in two directions. Things can enter and exit. Coldbrook took precautions against unwanted and unknown species entering our world. A trusty “eradicator” was built to kill and contain any living thing that attempts to come through the gateway. It’s unfortunate someone didn’t consider how the eradicator would work should something undead decide to shamble through the gateway from another world. Then again, who could possibly have known a group of mysterious unknown entities would deliberately unleash an infection and send hordes of zombies (or “furies” as they’re often referred to in this book) out to destroy every other alternate world.
That’s the crux of the story, a portal to another world unleashes a plague of infected zombies into our world. That’s bad enough. Fortunately Coldbrook was designed to lock down and contain any such disasters. Problem solved right? Not so fast. Instead of being contained to the secure underground secret laboratory, a scientist decides to flee the facility in the heat of the moment to be with his family. Upon making his escape to the surface he also leaves a path for the contagion and the infected furies to find their way out. That’s unfortunate because this infection spreads fast and creates that zombies really only have one central motivating factor: to bite and infect as many people as fast as they can.
As with many zombie stories, there may be a cure and that cure lies with one woman with a mysterious disease and a genetic immunity to the infection that quickly spreads to pandemic proportions. Someone just needs to find her and escort her to a facility that knows what to do with her and a sample of her blood.
If that plot sounds a little too straight forward, sparse and vaguely familiar you’ll be glad to hear it is only the tip of the cold, dead iceberg. Coldbrook is chock full of subplots and character development to keep you bouncing around. You’ll definitely find at least one character you’ll latch on to.
One of the first characters we meet is Jonah, the head of Coldbrook. At seventy six years old Jonah’s health is failing but his mind is still sharp. He continues to struggle with the loss of his wife years ago but his sorrow and grief are balanced with an admiration and curiosity for exploring the wondrous possibilities the breach might offer. Jonah becomes trapped by himself within the facility’s secondary area and must struggle to find a way to attempt to save himself, his surviving colleagues and maybe the world.
Another character, Vic Pearson, is the source for an additional story arc or two. Vic has a wife and family. Unfortunately he also has a former girlfriend and mistress in his Coldbrook coworker, Holly. Vic broke off his affair with Holly when he found out his wife, Lucy, was pregnant. Although that decision doesn’t quite make Vic a noble man, it does speak to the core of Vic’s character. We learn early on he is a man that struggles between right and wrong. Although he may not always make the right decision he is a man that wants to do the right thing deep down inside. In fact we see Vic struggle to make the right decision when the Science Fiction and Zombie stuff hits the fan in Coldbrook.
Although he still loves Holly, Vic flees Coldbrook just as the facility is being overrun by the furies. He abandons his fellow co-workers in a desperate attempt to get to his family. He manages to climb out a ventilation duct maintenance shaft to the surface. In the process Vic leaves an escape path for the infected zombies to exit the sealed and secured Coldbrook. Poor Vic can’t seem to do anything right! By choosing to run to his family and get them out of town, Vic ends up doing even more damage. He later realizes this and does what he can to right the wrong.
Holly is another source for fast paced and nail biting subplot action. When faced with a Coldbrook facility overrun with zombies, Holly decides to take her chances. She flees through the breach itself and into the alternate universe she’s only watched from the safety of the other side. Once on the other side she quickly discovers there is much more to this new world and soon discovers the truth behind what lies beyond the breach.
As if all that wasn’t enough to follow, we’re introduced to yet another major character and subplot about 80 pages in. Jayne Woodham is a 22 year old young woman with a rare and debilitating disease that causes extreme muscle pain and paralysis. The only thing that seems to help or offer any relief are daily and prolonged deep tissue muscle massage sessions. Thankfully her better half, Tommy, is there to faithfully help massage her back to life each and every morning. Unfortunately he can’t do much to help with her fainting spells and blackouts. It turns out Jayne is immune to the zombie infection that has afflicted the world. Someone just has to safely escort her through the zombie apocalypse and to a facility that can actually help.
Still not enough action? You’ll definitely want to learn about what the heck the Inquisitors are and just how the infected zombies came to be. It’s a pretty interesting twist few readers will see coming.
I know what you’re thinking but no worries. Believe it or not, all of these stories end up intertwining to create one fantastic zombie fiction tale by the time you’ve turned the last page.
Does Jayne end up being the source for a cure or is there another potential cure already being explored in an alternate universe? How does Jonah end up being forced into making the ultimate sacrifice to hopefully end the spread of the plague once and for all? How do all these separate stories end up meshing as one by the end of the novel? Is there any hope for humanity? You’ll have to read Coldbrook to find out! Rest assured some questions will be answered and many more raised.
This zombie book culminates with an abrupt cliff hanger of an ending that leaves you somewhat satisfied but very eager for a sequel to answer all your burning questions.
If you love zombies, horror, or the Science Fiction genre you’re sure to enjoy Lebbon’s Coldbrook. If you happen to like all three fiction genres you’ll definitely have a hard time putting this one down.
A Unique Approach To The Zombie Genre: Tim Lebbon doesn’t take the easy way out with the same old mutated rabies virus release plot and we appreciate the extra effort.
Believable Characters and Character Development: Readers will no doubt find themselves rooting for many of the characters in this zombie novel. It’s hard not to find someonone to identify with or to become invested in. The characters are flawed, human and act in generally believable ways. Tiny bits of believability like these work well to balance the fantastic fantasy of zombie assassins being unleashed from the multiverse.
Lebbon Doesn’t Waste Much Time: One of the qualities we admired about Lebbon’s Coldbrook is he didn’t waste much time getting started. Within the first 30 or so pages Lebbon quickly and effectively builds the back story and arms the reader with an understanding of Coldbrook and what the main characters are about. Around 40 pages in the first zombie strolls through the breach and the real gore and action begin.
Changing Point of View and Character Bouncing Help Build The Story: Coldbrook is a long book following the story of several key characters. Changing point of view and bouncing to another character’s story is necessary. While this practice is a necessary evil it is often poorly done and even abused by many authors. That probably explains why the practice annoys many readers.
Fortunately we found this wasn’t the case with Coldbrook. Lebbon actually does a great job in this area. He carefully shifts point of views at just the right point to both build tension and progress the story naturally. The novel is told from a third person multiple point of view perspective that flows about as seamlessly as any seasoned veteran author could hope for.
The Ending We Loved to Hate: “Ugh.” That’s the word, or sound, we found ourselves muttering when read the last few sentences of this novel. We both loved and hated the ending of Coldbrook. That’s always much better than being indifferent toward it!
Without giving too much away, Coldbrook ends abruptly and a little unresolved. I was left with a mix of emotions. There’s a hint of resolution and a glimmer of hope left lingering. The questions left unanswered mean many readers will be longing for a sequel.
I felt a little satisfaction because Jonah makes a sacrifice he’s somewhat forced into accepting. He knows it is for the greater good and since he’s aging and in ill health he manages to accept his fate. However he does so only after getting some questions answered while raising many more for the reader.
Meh. What’s Not So Great.
Asking for an honest opinion means pointing out the good and bad qualities. While there was a lot for us to rave about, there were also a few things we didn’t like about Coldbrook.
It’s a Little Long: Our copy of Coldbrook wrapped up in just over 508 pages. While that may not be all that long for a Horror or Science Fiction novel, it is quite a bit longer than the typical zombie novel we see. There are only a few points where Coldbrook seemed to drag on a bit. There are only a few areas of the novel where Lebbon could potentially trim the fat and thin the novel down but that’s not to say his writing style isn’t efficient and engaging. It definitely is.
It’s a fast read and the second half definitely seems to fly by faster than the first. Maybe it’s because we’re not used to reading 500 page zombie novels, but we found ourselves able to put the book down and walk away for a few days at times on a couple different occasions. This typically happened toward the middle of the novel. Maybe it was simply psychological knowing we still had to get through another 200 pages or so to see any sort of conclusion. It’s difficult to put a finger on exactly why. . . but Coldbrook just seemed a little long and allowed us to lose focus at times. If you prefer your zombie action combined to 250 to 300 pages you may not enjoy Coldbrook. Although we certainly recommend giving it a chance since you’re rewarded with a great story by the time you finish.
Character and Point of View Shifts: Coldbrook essentially follows multiple characters and their stories. Due to the depth of the story that means readers will need to tolerate some changing and bouncing from character to character. The author does a great job of shifting to a new character at the beginning of a chapter and that prevents confusion. We’re simply issuing a warning. If you’re the type of reader annoyed by one chapter abruptly ending in suspense only to yield to a new chapter about an entirely different character in a new situation, prepare yourself.
The Conclusion You Might Only Hate: I’ve said we both loved and hated the ending. I’ve covered what we liked about the ending so let’s take a look at what we didn’t like about Coldbrook’s conclusion.
We were left feeling a little angry because Coldbrook’s conclusion leaves you hanging. In a way it leaves you feeling a little cheated because many problems are left unresolved. It’s agonizing in a way. The plan is carried out to completion but readers don’t actually get to see the outcome. You’re left wondering what ends up happening and whether or not the plan works.
As a reader you have a suspicion Lebbon will be writing a sequel but a fear that he could just decide to leave things a mystery. Honestly he could do either and call it a success and that pi$$es us off because we want a sequel. Will there be a sequel or will Lebbon leave well enough alone and leave us to form our own conclusions? Only time will tell.
The partially unresolved ending of Colbrook is made a little easier to swallow because you see it coming. It becomes painfully obvious about three quarters of the way through the book when you realize it’s going to be nearly impossible for the author to wrap up all the loose ends by the end of the book.
The Final Verdict:
Synopsis: Scientists at a top secret laboratory hidden deep underground in the Appalachian Mountains create a gateway to a new world. With this amazing new discovery comes a plaque unleashed from a parallel universe. Billions of the undead walk the earth and the only cure is genetic immunity. One young woman just might hold the key to humanity’s salvation. . . if someone can get to her in time.
Review Summary: Coldbrook is an engaging and exciting new approach to the zombie genre. Lebbon masterfully blends Science Fiction and Zombie/Horror into an exciting tale of a zombie pandemic of otherworldly origins. The conclusion of Coldbrook definitely leaves you yearning for more!