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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Throwback Thursday – The Gathering Dead by Stephen Knight

note: This is another book review that I wrote a decade ago. I did read more of Knight’s books after this one and remember enjoying the heck out of them. That said I don’t think I reviewed any for either my website or any other projects I worked on. At least there aren’t any in my archives.

The dead have risen and are quickly overrunning New York City. An elite team of soldiers is sent to bring a man named Safire and his daughter out of the city and to safety. Safire has some research that might help control the plague that is threatening to destroy the world. The team manages to get him on a chopper, but the dead still take them down (in a most gruesome and clever way…). The survivors end up trapped in a nearby building and looking for a way out. The bodies continue to pile up as the zombies take their toll on those still alive. Do they get the man and his precious knowledge out in time? Well I’m not going to spoil that.

Okay so this is one that I took a chance on. It had great reviews on Amazon and the Kindle version was really inexpensive. I do love some zombie fiction and am always on the lookout for a new series to dive into. Most of the time I'm disappointed, but it is a book like The Gathering Dead that makes the other misfires worth it.

The pacing is insane. It opens up with the rescue team making their way across the city to Central Park where the helicopters are waiting to get them out. Right from the start you can see that the characters are going to be heartless when the leave a woman and her child to the zombies. They have a single-minded purpose and that is to deliver their package to safety. This is a slightly different spin from most of the zombie fiction that I’ve read with survivors just trying to stay alive and sometimes hold onto their humanity. Not to say that there isn’t some hesitation and guilt in their decision. The characters are well developed and given unique personalities. The military characters could have easily been caricatures but instead Knight gives them some definable personalities within the limits placed on them being soldiers. This also leads to a backstory which itself provides some tension as the group moves it way across the city. 

The gore and zombies are presented in a way that I think fans will like. They shamble around in large groups and are dangerous with their sheer numbers. That is a very “Romero” approach which I dug. We get some suitably “sticky” deaths, but the author doesn't linger on them. Though I would have liked him too it does serve to keep the action moving along. Since that is one of the biggest strengths to the book, I can’t argue with that and it keeps the reader engaged. Staying within the framework of the traditional zombie as a monster Knight does toss in a few twists of his own. One of which is a nightmarish idea that had never occurred to me. Again I don’t want to spoil anything but lets just say skyscrapers won’t ever look the same to me again!

To sum things up, great pacing, fun characters, satisfying zombies, and some good twists on the genre make for a good read. With the current zombie craze I’d love to see this book made into a nice and bloody movie. Then again they would probably put a pretty boy like Brad Pitt in it and ruin a perfectly good story.  That said I highly recommend The Gathering Dead.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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