Review: “Former,” A.E. Stueve

Pros: Interesting concept
Cons: Confusing
Rating: 3 out of 5

A.E. Stueve’s Former tackles the question: What if we had the zombie apocalypse, but a company came up with a cure? What would life be like for those ‘former’ infected? How would society treat them? This all becomes part of a tangled knot of plots involving the no-longer-infected and Profine, the company that produced the cure. We follow Billy and Nancy, two formers trying to be normal, as their delicate balance with the world around them falls apart.

 

Right from the start, Billy Dodge is treated as an important person, even though at first he hasn’t particularly distinguished himself from his peers. I kept wondering when there would be a reveal that would explain this, but it never came. In particular the beginning of the book concentrates on a group therapy session for formers, run by someone important from Profine. The focus of the therapy the formers receive seems to concentrate on recalling memories–apparently formers have difficulty remembering their previous lives. Because of this, it seemed obvious that eventually Billy would recover a memory that would explain why he was important. Instead, it’s like having Chekov’s gun hanging on the wall but loading it with blanks.

It’s annoying that people keep not telling Billy exactly what’s going on. As far as I could tell, nothing was being accomplished by this other than artificially extending the reveal for the reader. It also sounded from some statements like there would be something important about … argh, trying not to reveal late-in-book events. Let’s just say that the book repeatedly gave weight to things that didn’t seem to pan out as important.

I’m not entirely sure why the compound the formers live in was handled the way it was. It’s run by Profine, the company behind the cure. Supposedly the idea is to give the formers five years of therapy and adjustment help and then return them to society, but it quickly becomes clear that this is a pipe dream. It’s hard to imagine Profine putting so many resources and important people, and so much money into this project.

The basic premise of Former is fantastic–it’s past time we got to see what happens when the zombies get cured. Unfortunately, I found the actual novel left me confused as to why things were done in certain ways. It felt… disjointed, maybe? A little underwhelming? It wasn’t bad; it just didn’t wow me. I had difficulty empathizing with the characters. For the first book I’ve read about the post-zombie apocalypse, I expected something more.

 

NOTE: Book provided free for review by publisher.

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