Friday, February 21, 2014

EXIT ZERO: M.E.A.T.... It's Made of... What?

Welcome to the very first book I've read set in New Jersey that features a zombie outbreak with politically driven origin story with plenty of conspiracy, classic science fiction riffing and a variety of writing styles that capture not only one possibility that could happen in the event of the great ZA (zombie apocalypse) but kept me turning that pages as well. This is Exit Zero by Neil A. Cohen, a dare and a promise to bleak, too serious undead fiction. Zombies don't have to be ordinary. Origin stories do exist. Brains can grow inside the stomachs of test subject carnivores.

Synopsis from Cohen:

A pandemic sweeping across New Jersey. A state abandoned by the country and sealed off from the world. The inhabitants left to kill or to die. When duel use scientific research into hunger and obesity goes terribly wrong, a fast moving pandemic is unleashed that sweeps across the State of New Jersey. The victims become horrific mutations of their former selves. But is it an accident, an attack or a plan much larger in scale? A group of estranged friends must come together during the first 48 hours of the outbreak to journey through the chaos towards their only chance of escape. A Mercenary, a Scientist, a Detective, a Mobster, a Politician and a Prepper along with a beautiful yet dangerous girl from the Philippines are inexplicably bound together by a shadowy corporation. Along the way they learn that their friendships; their careers; in fact their entire lives may have never been as it appeared.

While Exit Zero is far from a perfect read, it certainly is fun featuring some fairly standard action scenes framed with landscapes and social situations that can only be described as pure Jersey. Exit Zero may be the exit for Cape May at the end of the Garden State Parkway, but it represents much more. It's the last chance for humanity, the destination for our heroes (heroes as corrupt as any bridge scandal you may have read about in the Starledger newspaper) and perhaps the ass-in-the-toilet of all humanity. It's clever way to combine everything you may have loved your favorite Kevin Smith movie with a story of brothers (of a sort) trying to survive. 

The book is filled with illustrations that create the feel of a graphic novel, but the narrative and traditional novel feel are still preserved. There are news flashes, emails and journal entries providing a variety of perceptions of the outbreak keeping the novel from becoming a somewhat generic zombie tale. It tells a story in the way we hear stories, the way we experience reality and sensationalized or conspiracy based news stories. 

While this is a very early work for Cohen that needs some polish and formatting, the overall fun and camp of the thing is preserved.  You can't be expected to be frightened as moments of tension are obvious, but you can expect a thought provoking tale that touches on socio-political issues that are fresh in our minds and media. 

Exit Zero is a quick read, and genuinely tries to tell a different tale using some of our traditional zombie lore and modern conspiracy stories. I'd recommend it to folks looking for something a little strange who believe the zombie tale is a vehicle for satire and social critique but more importantly, is a great excuse to write some sick shit. Think of Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City set in New Jersey with stem cells (you'll see). 

You can pick up Exit 0 now! Jersey grown! Self Published an available on Amazon. 

-Doc Terror

1 comment:

  1. A great read with all of the above! You might think you already know some of the characters! I have a few guesses myself, but I can definitely identify all of the landscapes. Anticipating the next one!
    (Glenda, TGW)