Thursday, October 16, 2008

Zombie Field

Zombie Field: The Rise and Fall by Razorback (Bryan Shields)
(BookSurge / 1-419-68865-0 / 978-1-419-68865-2 / August 2008 / 406 pages / $20.99)

Reviewed by Dianne Salerni for PODBRAM

In the year 2010, a United Nations resolution to dissolve all military establishments across the world in favor of one central UN force has been forcibly pressed upon the United States. Millions of out-of-work servicemen flood the American economy, causing a massive downward spiral toward the Greatest Depression ever. Out of this turmoil, an army calling itself VENOME (Vast Empowered Network of Military Elite) arises to oppose the UN force. Under the leadership of Major General Riley, VENOME invades several nations in Europe, and seventeen former US states name themselves part of the VENOME Territory. In an attempt to fight back, the UN raises a Resistance Force. Against the might of VENOME, Resistance fighters face almost certain death on battle grounds called Zombie Fields.

In 2015, Commander Brandi Schofield, a VENOME combat flier, hatches a daring plan to oust Riley from his position as Chief Executive Officer. According to Brandi, Riley has abused his position of power over the previous five years, turning his army into a terrorist organization that lines Riley’s personal pockets. Brandi’s coup is designed to eliminate Riley and replace him with a woman from her own past – a former high school friend and rival, Air Force officer Debbi Smith, the most famous and brilliant female officer in US history.

Unfortunately, Zombie Field suffers from plot problems right out of the gate. The most interesting premise of the book – the rise of VENOME – is encapsulated in a brief prologue. The book begins instead with Brandi’s coup, which is executed without a hiccup in the first one-fourth of the book. The supposedly brilliant character of Debbi Smith fades almost immediately into the background, as the next hundred pages recount Brandi’s exploitation of her new and apparently unlimited powers. Brandi Schofield, the anti-heroine of this novel, is crude, violent, vengeful, and manipulative. She is every bit as corrupt as the man she overthrew, and she uses her new power to continue Riley’s habit of demanding “protection” pay from states and countries. (At one point, she “motivates” an underling to accomplish a task in under thirty hours by strapping a bomb to his neck.)

And what of the Resistance? The war takes an astonishing backseat in Zombie Field, a novel billed as “a thinking person’s military science fiction.” The first time Resistance characters appear in the book, it’s on page 215, when five off-duty privates wander into the neutral territory of Las Vegas looking for female company and are captured by Brandi’s agents. The improbable events that followed left me wondering when, if ever, the central conflict between the military powers would materialize. Of course, it is possible that the author meant to focus the central conflict on the rivalry between Brandi and her foil, the brilliant Debbi – except that this character frequently vanishes into thin air for a hundred pages at a time.

As a final blow, the grammatical errors in Zombie Field distract and befuddle the reader all the way through the novel. There are verb tense errors on almost every page, along with homophone mistakes and incorrect prepositions. There are also a few snafus in the layout of the book, such as chapters beginning on the left-hand page instead of their traditional place on the right. Still, these technical problems are ultimately overshadowed by the lack of plot development over 400+ pages. At the end of the novel, I still didn’t understand the goals of the VENOME organization (except for terrorizing the world), and the threat of the Resistance was sadly lacking. I knew no more about the world context of this novel than the sparse information given in the prologue, and although the author describes his work as “a dark and cynical satire,” I was unable to identify exactly what literature, history, or philosophy was being satirized.

See Also: The Author's Website

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