World In Red opens on an airplane. A man named Bohdin is flying home to New Orleans from a sales conference. He’s in a hurry because his wife has gone into labor earlier than expected, and he’s afraid he won’t make it to the hospital in time. He’s got a buddy on his way to the airport to pick him up. All he needs is for the plane to land so he can get going.
Enjoy that moment. It’s the only quiet moment in the book, the only moment with even an ounce of hope that things are going to go well for this man. The plane touches down in a world that has undergone some radical and dangerous changes in the short time it’s been in the air, and things unravel for Bohdin – and everyone else – in a big hurry.
World In Red is the third release in the opening salvo of Print Is Dead, a zombie-themed line of novels from Creeping Hemlock Press, and the debut novel from Gorumba. The first PID title was Pray to Stay Dead, the first novel by Mason James Cole (you can read my review of it here), followed closely by Nate Southard’s Scavengers (which I’ll be reviewing here soon).
One of the things I really like so far about the Print Is Dead line is the fact that these aren’t “shared universe” stories. They are set in different times, and have different rules. The zombies in Pray were straightforward Romero zombies – slow walking creatures exhibiting little-to-no intelligence. In World In Red, though, the only rule is that there are no rules (it even says so on the cover). Some of these zombies move fast, recognize familiar faces, and even speak. There isn’t much zombie dialogue, and not all of it works – some speak in a twisted sort of baby-talk that just didn’t fit the tone for me – but it’s one in a number of interesting twists Gorumba brings to the game. It makes sense, too; as one character says, “Only a fool would think that a virus or a poison or whatever the f*ck it was would affect everyone exactly the same way.”
Oh, and the traditional method of killing zombies? Destroy the brain? That doesn’t always work, either. Which makes for a difficult time for many of the characters.
There are some truly tense sequences in the book, and Gorumba pulls them off with a sure and confidant hand. There’s a lot of talk about Hurricane Katrina, and the experiences many must have had trying to escape that storm are echoed here. Imagine inching your way down a hopelessly gridlocked interstate, with everyone you love and everything you could pack stuffed into your vehicle, while a killer storm relentlessly closes the gap between it and you. Replace “killer storm” with “horde of flesh-eating zombies” and you’ll have a clue as to what your in for with this book.
World In Red is not as polished a debut as the Mason James Cole book, but in a way that works in its favor. The raw feel of the writing actually adds to the chaotic atmosphere of the book. It may be a little too raw for some people, either in tone or execution, but I think a lot of people are going to love it. The ending is almost unbearably bleak, but let’s face it – the world in which Bohdin’s plane touches down is a nasty place, a world in which there probably aren’t many happy endings left.