Zombie Book Review
The Hunt Chronicles Volume 1: Awakening by J.D. Demers
We read a lot of zombie books and J.D. Demer’s take on the zombie genre is right up there with our favorites. While it isn’t perfect, it does provide a refreshing twist in a category of fiction that sometimes seems as stale and dead as the zeds themselves.
The Hunt Chronicles Volume 1 Awakening is presented in a unique journal style. The presentation isn’t all that original and it has been done many times in zombie fiction, but Demer does it better than most. Each chapter starts with a section title and a date. The main events in the book are sandwiched between a short prologue and a concluding epilogue. We’ll get to more on that later. For now it’s enough to say the prologue and epilogue hint at Christian being stuck in a grim situation over a year after the main events described in this novel. It may sound confusing but it really isn’t. Trust me when I say J.D.’s writing style suits this manner of presentation very well. Everything flows along nicely and the dates and timelines are a guideline that assist you rather than being a distraction as is so common in other works of zombie fiction. You can easily read this book without needing to dwell on dates. Time doesn’t jump forward and back like it may in other books.
This zombie novel tells the story of a hero that isn’t so much of a hero most of the time. Our zombie slaying protagonist, Christian Hunt, is an ex Army man but he’s not the hardened soldier you might expect. Christian was a supply clerk that didn’t see much first hand battle. He’s really a bit of newbie when it comes to survival and killing. The awkward main character is one of the reasons I enjoyed this book.
Christian makes mistakes. He hesitates. He’s scared at times. Not every shot he takes is a head shot. He misses. Sometimes he makes the same mistakes again. He’s willing to learn and has the heart to continue on. Overall he’s believable and that’s why I enjoy his character. Of course it’s difficult to survive on your own when you don’t have a very good survival skill set. Christian could use some help and he gets it from some pretty cool characters. No zombie book would be complete without a cold, calculating, zombie-killing bada** that has ice water flowing through his veins. This book gives you just that with a character nicknamed, “Fish.”
Fish is an ex military sniper that saw a ton of action in Afghanistan. He knows how to efficiently kill when the situation calls for it and he does it without hesitation or much remorse. Basically he’s the polar opposite of Christian Hunt and it creates a mild amount of tension and a great story in itself.
Along the way Christian Hunt also scores perhaps his most valuable asset of all, “Boomer”, a German Sheppard with police dog genetics. After rescuing this canine it hangs around and Christian soon learns it has the ability to sense the dead long before he does. “Boomer” saves Christian’s neck many times.
Watching Christian progress from a naive and hesitant fool to a perfectly capable survivor in a short amount of time is what makes this such a great read. When the book ends Christian is still far from perfect but you can definitely see the progression of his character and it is one of the highlights of the story.
I don’t want to reveal many plot spoilers since I feel this is a book worth your time. We’ll cover the basics here and let you read for yourself to fill in major plot action. As I mentioned previously, the story begins with a short 4 or 5 page prologue that provides some basic background information on the main character. We learn Christian is holed up in a two story office building surrounded by about a thousand zombies. It’s over a year after the outbreak started and over a year after the events that are described in this novel. We have no idea how Christian got himself in this situation and at the end of the book you still won’t know. It’s a bit frustrating but definitely leaves you very interested in reading future installments in this series.
The main events in the novel are basically a journal accounting of Christian’s experiences in the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. It describes both Christian’s literal and figurative awakening to the world that lays before him and probably to the same extent an awakening to his own self, his immunity and his ability to survive. Through a relatively short amount of time (the dates span from March 19th through April 22nd) we see how the zombie plague likely started, how Christian survived the initial events, how he came to believe he’s immune and how he worked with others to survive. We get to see Christian progress from a scared and tentative loner with just enough survive instinct to keep himself alive to part of a duo. From there he becomes part of a larger group that unexpectedly needs to relocate their base due to an attack. The main events and the concluding epilogue leave the reader with a mild double cliff hanger. It’s a bit frustrating but it’s well done and definitely leaves you eager for the next book in the series.
At the conclusion of the book we know where the group is heading but we’re left wondering whether they’ll make it there and if things will work out even if they do. We’re also left wondering what’s troubling a normally unshakable Fish. After an epic final battle with a special type of zombie known as a “Scab” something clearly has Fish distracted and off his game. It could be the harshness of the final battle with the undead, but it’s unlikely this hardened vet would let a little undead bashing shake him up. I have a feeling I might know what it is, but I’ll have to wait for a future book to know whether I’m right. As the book wraps up we come back to the realization that Christian is possibly writing his final thoughts on paper as he’s alone and surrounded by the undead. He’s cornered over a year later than the events that transpire in Volume 1: Awakening. What’s happened in the past year? Did Fish, Boomer and the others become Zombie food? How did Christian get himself in this situation and will he get out? We’ll have to bide our time until the story continues and I can’t wait to find out!
What We Loved
- A very well written book with little to no grammatical or typographical errors. (That’s not so common in the world of zombie fiction)
- The chronological journal style presentation of the main plot is done well and not distracting.
- The prologue and epilogue create even more drama and cliff hanger tension.
- Contains just the right amount of violence and gore without being overly gratuitous.
- The zombies have a unique twist without being so unique it will anger purists.
- Special Zombies called “Scabs” add a new level of terror and suspense without being too much.
- The main character is real and believable.
- The military jargon is clearly explained for non-military minded readers which isn’t always the case.
- We love the addition of the dog to the story. As a reader you find yourself keeping your fingers crossed that Boomer doesn’t become zombie chow.
- The author doesn’t need to resort to sexual content like so many author post apocalyptic authors feel the need to do.
- The book concludes with just enough of a resolution that the reader doesn’t feel cheated but it also leaves plenty unresolved for future installments.
Meh. What We Didn’t Love So Much:
The end is a bit frustrating. An author definitely wants to keep you on the edge of your seat as they prepare you for the next book in their series and I understand that. As a reader I can’t help but feel I’d like a few more loose ends tied up while I wait for the next book.
The Hunt Chronicles Volume 1 Awakening is one of our favorite zombie novels to date. While it isn’t perfect, we did put it down without thinking “I’ve read this before.” That’s something we can’t say often. Awakening has just enough of a unique twist to the zombie genre to make it seem unique without offending zombie purists. Overall it’s a great book we definitely recommend reading!
We received an early copy of this book and the cover art has been changed. You can see the new cover art and purchase The Hunt Chronicles Volume 1: Awakening below.