Date Published: March 15, 2012
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Zombie
Description: At sunrise, the dead began to walk the earth.
Our days were numbered.
The world was over. One month after the virus took over the United States of America and turned its inhabitants into ravenous, flesh-eating monsters, Dakota Travis and his friend Steve Earnest have been barely surviving. Hiding out in an abandoned apartment building, they struggle to live in a world where danger lies around every corner and is not limited to only the threat of the walking dead. Their latest supply run almost ended with their deaths. When a local gang violently uproots them from their shelter, there is little they can do but run. Their flight finds them sanctuary one town over in a converted insane-asylum with members of the United States military. While things should be safer, an underlying tension begins to rule their lives as Sergeant Armstrong, leader of the small unit, begins to succumb to insanity. Tension runs high within the asylum. When all that separates them from the undead is a chain-link fence, Dakota begins to wonder whether or not they might be safer outside, especially when his feelings for another man leave him an open target to the disapproving within their midst.
Overall I think I give this book a 2.5 star rating. It did not start out good for me, but the book did end on a good note. I picked this up as a freebie a while back and read it now for a book club meeting. Honestly, if it wasn’t a book club pick I would have DNF’d about 25% through. I’m glad I kept going though because it did get better and there were parts I enjoyed.
Sunrise is a zombie novel that focuses more on the characters than what is going on around them. Yes, there are zombies, but they are not the focus of the book. I did find that an interesting change since most of the zombie novels I’ve read have a pretty big focus on the fight scenes and the gory details. Sunrise is mainly about the people involved and their struggle to find a safe place to hide from the end of the world. The characters deal with death and grief, fear and anger, but also love and friendship.
However, for a character-driven novel, we only really start to get to know the characters about halfway through. Most of the character back story is done through dialogue and I found that to sometimes be clumsy. I didn’t feel like I really understood much about the characters for the longest time. There also wasn’t much character development to speak of, other than some acceptance of their situation and beginning to learn to cope. Speaking of dialogue – especially at the beginning but through most of the novel, I found the dialogue to be uncomfortable and it just didn’t flow well for me. I get that this is an end of the world situation and everyone is freaking out and yelling at each other, but it was kind of cringe-worthy and awkward to me.
I also felt like the characters were making stupid mistakes. Yes, mistakes in a world gone to hell overnight are expected, but certain things just seemed off to me. The biggest one that rubbed me the wrong way was when Dakota and Steve were taken in by a couple for the night, and the husband told them his wife has gone a bit nuts and thinks this apocalypse was brought on by sinners – Dakota goes ahead and tells them he’s gay. Why? Don’t start crap when you’re running for your life and when any fight or outburst could get the attention of a horde of zombies and get people killed (*spoiler* it does). It didn’t make sense why that had to happen in the plot, unless this book has an agenda and used that moment as an opportunity. The fact that one of our main characters is gay didn’t have to be a big deal, but it was made into one.
I did like, however, the themes of friendship and family and making the best of what you have. I also liked the relationship between Dakota and Jamie. One of my favorite quotes in the book (because not all of the dialogue was awkward) was spoken by Jamie:
“Throw all that fundamentalist thinking out of the water, babe, because it’s the fuckin’ end of the world. Screw whatever anyone said about not being able to know if you’re in love in the first few days of knowing someone.”
I really enjoyed this because what could have otherwise been an instalove situation was presented in a really meaningful and believable way.
Somewhere maybe halfway through as the characters start settling down, we get more eloquent narration and less of that awkward dialogue that bothered me at the beginning of the novel. Now I think maybe the purpose of this change in style was to show the severity of the situation at the start and convey the feelings of things becoming more bearable for the characters. But while I was reading it felt like I slipped into a different story for a moment, so it was not a fluid or continuous change in the writing.
The story really piqued my interest with some non-zombie-like-zombies, such as the horse and a humanoid that came to their window and told them to run when a horde was coming. I thought that idea was so interesting, maybe it was even the most interesting tidbit in the book for me, and yet it was not developed or further explained. I was really disappointed because I expected something to happen with it, but it never did.
The plot progresses as you would expect in a zombie novel with characters meeting new people, trying to survive together, then getting separated by a horde and some of them finding each other again as they pick up new members of the group along the way. The characters end up in a very supportive group of people as they barricade and stock up supplies to hide out for the winter. Another quote I really enjoyed was “without friends, this world would swallow you whole.” The novel ends with an optimistic outlook of “we’re going to be just fine” and so I was left with an overall positive feeling at the ending.