Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Sunset by JJ Ritonya
(CreateSpace / 1-440-43171-X / 978-1-440-43171-5 / November 2008 / 342 pages / $14.95 / Kindle $7.16)
Reviewed by Dianne Salerni for PODBRAM
On October 2, 1991, the world ended. It wasn’t a nuclear blast, and it wasn’t a comet hurtling out of space. At about 5:15 in the afternoon, everybody just dropped dead. Or – almost everybody. For the scant survivors who watched every person around them fall to the ground in instant death, the tragedy is inexplicable. Was it some kind of government project gone wrong? Was it divine intervention? And why did some people simply seem immune?
As bad as it was, it got worse. Forty-eight hours after the event, the dead began to walk. And for the few survivors, the zombified corpses out to tear them limb from limb are not nearly as dangerous as the other survivors.
Sunset is the first zombie novel I have ever read, so I cannot compare it to others in this genre. I found the story interesting, and I never had trouble continuing to read in order to find out what would happen next. The author has chosen to narrate events through several intriguing survivors in various regions of the U.S. – a twenty-something failure-to-launch who worked at a video store in Kansas, a computer programmer enjoying a vacation in Las Vegas, a retired cop in New York City, and a terrorist who was just about to blow up a building, along with himself and thousands of other people, when this disaster pre-empted his act. (I thought it was rather daring to include this character in his line up.) I’m not sure I liked the author’s choice to write some of the narrations in third person while others were in first person, but it does not disrupt the story except where he makes mistakes in the point of view.
I was not bothered by the violence done by and against the zombies – that was to be expected in this genre. But I was puzzled by the fact that most of the human survivors were intent on taking up arms and annihilating the other living people – senselessly. There were good survivors and bad survivors – I understood that. But throughout the book there are scenes that seem to ignore the human instinct for species survival. With only 1% of the population left, would you really want to shoot everybody else on sight? Were these people unhinged by the disaster? Or does the author believe that given an event that destroys the fabric of civilized society, the violent and immoral individuals would immediately rise up and destroy those people still clinging to an illusion of law and order? This would have made a good theme for the book, if the author had gone into it in more depth, delving into character motivation and providing a logical or emotional rationale for the violence.
I think J.J. Ritonya is an author with great potential. He can tell a good story, and I hope to see him develop his talents with future horror books that combine the action of this one with a little more depth in theme. In terms of professional appearance, the book would benefit from a proper title page and paragraphs that are indented instead of spaced apart. Sunset should be of interest to readers of horror and post-apocalyptic novels.
See Also: The Author's Website
Dianne's High Spirits Review