Creeping Hemlock Press continues the successful rollout of its “Print Is Dead” line of zombie books with Scavengers, an unrelenting horror/adventure novel by Nate Southard.
The titular scavengers are a group of guys from a small town called Millwood, an off-the-map kind of place that’s become home to a large group of survivors of an undead uprising. With food running low and attempts at growing their own crops progressing slowly, the town’s inhabitants decide to put together a group to hit a grocery story in nearby Rundberg, hoping against hope that there are supplies enough there to carry them through the months ahead. They pick this group by a lottery that would make Shirley Jackson proud, a drawing that puts Blake Ellis, Chris Stevenson, 13-year-old Jeremy Motts, Eric Ross and Morris Dawes on a desperate, deadly path from which none of them expect to return.
Look, there’s nothing new here, and there doesn’t need to be. This is pure fun, a straightforward page-turner written in adrenaline instead of ink. Southard does a good job of quickly fleshing out the backstory of each character, taking us in well-timed flashbacks to their lives before the apocalypse, sometimes making us more sympathetic to the men, sometimes a little less so. This is a great way to build up the characters even as he’s systematically tearing them down.
The tearing down part is clearly where Southard is having the most fun. He puts this ragtag group through the grinder, and readers are going to be sucked right in with them. Nobody is spared the worst of what a world full of hungry walking corpses has to offer – including the corpses themselves. Southard gleefully drenches nearly every page in blood and guts, ratcheting up the tension as the group tries to make its way through the ruined town. To his credit, he’s able to pull off nearly 400 pages of nonstop action without it once becoming repetitive or predictable.
At this stage in the zombie game, it would almost seem that works concerning themselves with the undead need to look for some new angle, some new way to portray the walking dead, in order to be successful. Southard proves that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes it’s fine just to put a group of people in small space with a group of zombies and let ’em swing away. This is escapism at its finest, and if what I’ve said here isn’t enough to convince you, check out the book’s page on Creeping Hemlock’s site – you can download the first 100 pages there and see for yourself. I’m betting you’ll hit the “Buy” button long before you get to the end.