Zombie Book Review: The Burning Z by Clive Riddle

The Burning Z Cover Art Zombie Book Reviews
The Burning Z by Clive Riddle
Cover Design: Ellen Dykes
HealthQuest Publishers



Here are some of the curiosities you’ll encounter within the pages of Clive Riddles zombie novel, The Burning Z:

  • Zombies at Burning Man Festival
  • Zombies that enjoy the taste of fresh urine
  • Zombies drawn to the delicious aroma of porta-potty toilets
  • Heroes clad in plastic Storm-trooper costumes
  • Zombies attacking a fictitious Alamo while trampling life sized Pee-Wee Herman cardboard cut-outs

Don’t worry all of the crazy cooky aspects of the book we mentioned above will make perfect sense if you read this unique zombie novel. Now that I’ve got your attention, it’s safe to say The Burning Z definitely isn’t your typical zombie book. That’s one of the reasons we enjoyed it. We know what you’re thinking and you’re wrong. It’s not another one of those zombie books. I was skeptical at first to.

When HealthQuest Publishers contacted us asking if we’d be interested in reviewing their zombie book, we honestly weren’t sure what to expect. We read their plot synopsis and knew it sounded unlike anything we’ve read before and that’s half the battle when it comes to books in the undead genre.

This isn’t your run of the mill zombie apocalypse survival story which is a good thing. I was worried the whole Burning Man scenario would mean endless references to drug use and other depraved acts. I was wrong! The festivities of Burning Man are certainly central to the story but this book isn’t dominated by it and there’s a lot more substance and meat to sink your teeth into. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a brief look at a summary of the main story. While the following section does outline some major plot points, it shouldn’t contain any major plot spoilers should you decide to pick up a copy for yourself.



Plot Synopsis:

Normally this is a point in the review I hate. So much so that sometimes I leave it out entirely.  This is the part where I normally struggle to write a plot summary because the author and publisher of the book failed to compose any sort of plot synopsis. Not so with The Burning Z. Flip the book over and right there on the back is a near perfect summary of the book’s main storyline.  Call me lazy, but it describes things so well that I don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel. There’s no need for me to debate on how much detail I should go into or if I’m spoiling things for future readers.

ZOMBIES GO TO BURNING MAN: Zombies invade the Black Rock desert, while a flawed hero tries to rescue his rekindled love.

The Burning Z takes us back to the source of a zombie outbreak – a pre-zombie apocalypse world  – but one in which a passing zombie might not merit a second glance: the annual Burning Man festival in the Black Rock desert. A mysterious meteor slams into the Black Rock desert and soon a growing number of zombies are on the loose.

Bruce and Conner – hometown friends who experience sudden success early in their careers, followed by a long downward trajectory encounter the z’s and embark on a quest across the desert to save Conner s recently rekindled high school love who is attending Burning Man. Alan Gorman – the steadfast, retired Air Force physician with expert marksmanship and a prosthetic lower limb – endures his own odyssey trying to alert the authorities to the escalating zombie menace. It all leads to a climatic, costumed battle of the Alamo, inside Burning Man’s Black Rock City.

Do Bruce, Connor and his love survive? What do meteors have to do with zombies?  Zombies like urine? Really? How can that be helpful? Why a Stormtrooper costume? Do the humans triumph and defeat the undead? You’ll have to read The Burning Z to answer these BURNING questions. (Bad pun intended). One thing we can tell you is Mr Riddle definitely left the story open for a sequel. We can’t wait!

Onward to our thoughts! Now that we’ve finally had a chance to read The Burning Z, let’s break it down and take a look at what we liked and didn’t like about this unique zombie book.



What’s Great:

High Quality Paperback: Once we held the book in our hands for the first time many fears of this being a bad book were erased. The book just exudes a sense of high quality. The crisp, glossy heavy weight  front and back cover sandwich 373 pages that feel equally superb.

Cover Art: It’s a mantra you’ve heard me chant over and over again: the zombie book genre is full of horrible cover at. Fortunately The Burning Z is an exception to the rule.  The true aesthetic beauty of this book is in the cover art, designed by Ellen Dykes. The cover has a beautiful blood stained, cracked map of Burning Man and the Black Rock Desert. The design, font and quality of the cover material itself all work together very well. I accidentally spilled some water I was drinking while reading my copy and I messed up the back cover. I was genuinely upset because I like this cover so much!

The Plot: You can’t totally judge a book by its cover. The Burning Z has an engaging and unique zombie plot that keeps you coming back. Zombies and gore are part of the story and not the plot in its entirety. Too many zombie books rely on the same old tired undead clichés. Author Clive Riddle leaves you hanging at the right moments. He throws in changes of perspective and new chapters just as you think you’re beginning to get things figured out. While the plot did slow down slightly for me at a couple points, overall it kept me  eager to read on.

Well Written and Someone Actually Proofread: While this shouldn’t be such a welcome change, the truth is it is. We read a lot of zombie books. We see a lot of undead novels with hordes of mistakes. Fortunately, Mr. Riddle’s zombie tale had no distracting typos or grammatical errors that seem to be so prevalent in other works in this category.

The Ending: The conclusion of The Burning Z left us feeling an odd combination of satisfaction and anger. We won’t give it away here, so relax. About three quarters of the way through the book it was pretty apparent the chances of a full resolution to the problems at hand just wasn’t likely. After finishing the last paragraph that realization hits home pretty hard. While the final pages of this zombie narrative resolve some immediate situations satisfactorily, the book’s concluding pages leave you with the agonizing revelation the story is probably just getting started. Worse yet you’re left hungering for a sequel that you can’t be sure is ever coming. Da*n you Clive Riddle! 😉

Accompanying Website: There is a nifty website to accompany this book: BurningZ.com. This website allows you to read more on Burning Man and surrounding areas and provides links to tons of other fun and entertaining information. You can even read the first 10 pages of The Burning Z !


Meh. What’s Not So Great:

::SIGH:: This is the other dreaded aspect of publishing reviews. Part of the job of anyone publishing a fair and impartial review is to list the bad with the good. Let’s all put on our big boy undies, roll up our sleeves and get to it. Fortunately there isn’t much to dislike about this zombie book.

A Little Too Much Info on Burning Man: The author is obviously passionate and knowledgeable about Burning Man and the Black Rock Desert areas that serve as the stage for his zombie tale: sometimes to a fault. At certain points in the book, particularly in the first half, the author goes off on a bit of a tangent and going into great detail about the layout of Burning Man and the related Black Rock Desert area. Mr. Riddle knows about this stuff and he’s not afraid to show it.  I personally found some of these points in the book to be distracting to me as a reader and others I shared the book with tended to agree.

While this isn’t anything that tarnishes the book , there is just a little too much local love and too much detail about Burning Man in some points. I’m confident the author felt these detailed descriptions were necessary for the reader to fully appreciate the setting and story but that didn’t make me like these sections any more.  One example I keep finding my mind drifting back to is a small section entitled, “Mapping BRC.”

While this little chapter is only about 3 pages long, it’s a good example of some of the Burning Man detail that left me scratching my head.  In one part Riddle explains the street layout and naming convention for Black Rock City. I’ll spare you the details but it left me a little confused.  I couldn’t help but feel like I was delving into an introductory college course on the history of Burning Man. Although the section is beautifully written, for some reason it just didn’t sink in.   I found myself puzzled and chose to simply move on rather than making an attempt to re-read the section in order to understand it more completely.  (Unfortunately for the author, this reader has a short attention span.) I will say my choice to move on without a full grasp on the intricacies of the design layout of Black Rock City didn’t seem to affect me at all. It’s just one complaint that otherwise doesn’t detract from a really good read.

 The Ending: We told you we both loved and hated the ending. We’re only complaining here because we want to read the sequel. NOW!




 The Final Verdict:

4 Out of 5 brains

4 out of 5 stars: Pick up a copy to add to your zombie book collection today!


The Burning Z is a welcome and refreshing new approach to the sometimes stale and saturated zombie novel market.  Author Clive Riddle  obviously spent some time on The Burning Z and as a result he has composed an enjoyable zombie novel written in a compelling and concise style that’s a pleasure to read.While not perfect, we definitely recommend picking up a copy. There were some slow points in the plot for me, but by the time the action really started  picking up in the second half of the book I was excited to read on to see how things unfolded. The story ended in an abruptly open  manner that definitely hints there will likely be at least a sequel in the works. To Clive we have only this to say, “Hurry up and write the sequel!”


The Burning Z is available at Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle e-versions:


7 thoughts on “Zombie Book Review: The Burning Z by Clive Riddle”

  1. Once again you have given another outstanding review. I absolutely love your reviews because you don’t hesitate to point out any flaws. Most of the reviews I read are always praising the product, which is great, but I want a real prospective, not what the reviewer thinks the owner of the product wants to hear! Two Thumbs up!!!

    • Thanks Karen! I hate to point out the negative aspects but it’s part of the job. We respect all of you and the people who trust us to give a fair review too much to sugar coat things. Few things in life are perfect and no one should expect it! Glad you’re enjoying the site.


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