Wednesday, April 3, 2013

'Day by Day Armageddon: Origin to Exile' review

After discovering recent third entry, Day by Day Armageddon: Shattered Hourglass, had been released in paperback, contributor Christopher Mancuso decided to review the first two installments of J.L. Bourne's zombie story.

When it comes to zombies I’m a bit of a purist - at least as far as the pop-culture terminology in reference to "...of the Living Dead" that cannibalize humanity. For me "zombies" most fall into certain criteria, for instance while I enjoyed 28 Days Later, they weren’t zombies. They weren’t dead (or rather undead); they were infected with a Rage virus. When it come down to it, I prefer George A. Romero’s shambling hordes of decaying corpses as opposed to the more modern track-star incarnation of the species like (the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead), which I refer to as Sprinters.

I could provide dozens of reasons, such as the setting rigor mortis or post-mortem decaying of muscle tissue. But perhaps the real reason is because I’m overweight and the thought of running from a sprinting mob of ravenous monsters trying to eat my innards scares the living shit out of me. I’d be food for the masses in less than a city block.

So when a friend suggested that I read Day By Day Armageddon: Origin To Exile by author J.L. Bourne the first question I asked was, "Do they run?" I think that would make for a very short book. He wouldn’t tell me yay or nay (thanks, jerk); he just insisted that I read it. Being a fan of the genre, I decided to give it a shot.

Upon seeing the cover art of the book, I wasn’t overly impressed – the artwork is a little cheesy, like a heavy metal album cover from the 1980s. Then again, I happen to like some cheesy '80s metal so it wasn’t necessarily a turn-off. And for those of you who don’t enjoy a bit of cheese every now and then, you really can’t judge a book by its cover. At least not this book anyway.

Actually, Day By Day Armageddon: Origin To Exile is two books placed together in this one volume. Knowing this beforehand, I was amazed at how seamlessly they went into one another. Honestly, I still can’t tell you where one book ended and the other one began. Conversely, since there is no discernible break, if I had only read the first it may have left me unfulfilled. I do recommend reading these works as one piece since it’s one continuing storyline.

This is writing in the fashion of journal entries starting on Jan. 1 as the main character makes a New Year resolution to keep a journal. In the beginning I was skeptical that this style could be successfully maintained through an entire book, much less two books, however the author did a fantastic job of keeping me interested and, at points, terrified. Even though when you’re reading a section you know te hero is alive and well enough to tell the tale, it doesn’t subtract that from the fear I felt for him in any situation where he has to stealthily escape or fight his way through a cluster of walking dead, or even defend against the threat of human raiders trying to take what little he has. Since this is told strictly in the first person perspective, the reader can only know as much as about the outbreak and the enemy as the main character, which admittedly isn’t a whole lot. There are speculations as to the mysterious circumstances from which this plague arises, but no definitive answers.

Another thing I enjoyed was that there wasn’t an abundance of superfluous dialogue or description that can often weigh a good story down. The author of these journal entries isn’t a novelist; he’s merely a survivor and therefore the writing was unencumbered by unnecessary detail.

Being an active duty Naval Aviator, J.L. Bourne has incorporated a military angle into his story. The nameless main character is also a Naval Avitor, and we all know the old saying of "write what you know."

Mr. Bourne certainly knows his stuff when it comes to flying planes, survival tactics and weaponry. While the scenarios within may be far-fetched (thank god!), the strategy and survival skills he employs lends credibility to helping the reader to suspend disbelief. And the main character faces his obstacles with a certain level of human detachment, as we would expect someone with military training to do. Being an officer, this man is capable of leading civilian and military refugees in their quest for survival in a post apocalyptic world.

As a bonus there is a short story, "If You Can Read This," included in this volume, which focuses on a minor character encountered through the hero’s travels. Even this, which written in a different style, was unexpectedly enjoyable.

If you’re a fan of zombies I highly recommend reading Day By Day Armageddon: Origin To Exile, you certainly won’t be disappointed. Part One was originally released in 2004, with the follow-up published in 2010 (and a 2011 release for the combined edition). In fact, my only regret was that I didn’t read this sooner. For those of you who aren’t particularly fond of this genre I would still suggest giving this book a read; you may be pleasantly surprised.

- Christopher Mancuso