Pros: Some decent zombie action
Cons: Too many logical inconsistencies; flat characters
Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Warning: This review will contain spoilers.
Contamination Boxed Set (Books 0-3 in the series) by T.W. Piperbrook is a tale of the zombie apocalypse (even if it isn’t called that). One day people go crazy; their eyes turn black and they become mindless killing machines. A few people seem immune and scramble to find safety. Unfortunately, someone’s behind the mysterious zombification of their neighbors, and that someone wants to make sure everyone dies. Goons with guns are chasing down those few people who are left. Our heroes need to avoid zombies and humans if they want to survive.
There are a few good tense moments early on in Contamination Zero. Unfortunately it then takes on a distinctive Walking Dead vibe, complete with lawman raiding the station for guns and trying to protect his kid. The burgeoning zombie menace is also pretty standard fare, reducing the tension dramatically. There are a few odd details–these aren’t the digging-out-of-a-grave type zombies, so why would some of them have tattered shoes and dirty teeth on night one of the plague? Also, we quickly find out that the contamination came via some combination of poisoned food supply and water supply. Given the vagaries of who’s eating/drinking what, and how much, and when, how did nearly everyone manage to turn at almost the same time on the same night?
Book one (the second book) picks up with a different group of people. They of course include the requisite geeky guy whose glasses end up taped together and who seems most concerned with whether or not the young woman is impressed with him. There’s less of a Walking Dead vibe this time around. I was a bit confused, however. There’s a zombie in this installment who seems… calculating. He seems to be less mindless than the others. Yet this never goes anywhere, never gets remarked upon, never leads to any revelations. This could have led to interesting plot material, but it doesn’t.
Book two introduces us to the bad guys behind the zombie plague. Unfortunately this creates more problems than it solves–and I don’t just mean for our heroes. Apparently the plague is, for the moment, limited to a handful of southwestern states. Vectors include several sources of food (ground beef is mentioned) and local water sources. In the case of food, you wouldn’t be able to guarantee that enough people would eat a given type of food. In the case of water, there would have to be an awful lot of bad guys to treat every water source in several states simultaneously. It just doesn’t add up. Also, if it’s only affecting a chunk of the United States, then where’s the National Guard? Why aren’t there helicopters, planes, convoys of troops, CDC researchers? It’s as though the rest of the world has shrugged and forgotten those states existed.
The bad guys all act like psychotic thugs, making it exceedingly difficult to imagine them being as well-organized and -disciplined as would be required for the setup we’re asked to believe in. They’re going town-by-town to kill off stragglers instead of waiting for the zombies to kill off people for them. They’re also trying not to waste their ammo on the zombies, because the zombies will die off within several weeks. Well that’s great and all, but in doing all of this they’re losing as many of their own people to the zombies as they’re managing to kill off from the survivors. All they’d have to do is hang out on the borders of the contaminated area, tell people they’re there to help, and then hand a poisoned bottle of water to any survivor that comes along. The bad guys are acting like particularly brainless stereotypical militia-types, only we’re supposed to believe they have vast resources and contacts spanning most industries.
Which brings us to… why on earth did they try to wipe out the population using a plague that turns people into mindless killing machines for several weeks? How does that make any kind of sense? Wouldn’t it be better to infect or poison them with something that would just kill them outright? Hell, if it were a poison instead of a virus then there wouldn’t be all these immune people, which eliminates one more messy step of a messed-up plan.
In book three we spend some time with the man who’s behind the zombie contamination. Unfortunately he makes no sense whatsoever. He’s a pea-brained narcissistic knife-obsessed thug who spends all of his time working out and pretending to be one of his own minions. And yet we’re supposed to believe he’s masterminded biological warfare against an entire region of the United States, and apparently has enough influence over the government to get them to ignore the whole thing. Anyone with the kind of smarts, money, and resources that he supposedly has should be able to think of ten better ways to get what he wants than by engineering a zombie apocalypse.
Every writer needs to sit down at some point, list out his major plot points, and ask the question: WHY? Why does it need to be a plague instead of a poison? Why does it need to be a zombie plague? Not in terms of what the writer wants from the story, but in the context of the world and its inhabitants. It seems as though that question never got asked, and has no answer.
There’s some definite bad dialogue, flat, stereotyped characters, and details that make no sense. But I’m not going to spend space on those because they pale next to the plot holes you could drive a truck through.