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[Read Kindle] ß This Dark Earth ⚝ In a bleak, zombie ridden future, a small settlement fights for survival and looks to a teenager to lead them The land is contaminated, electronics are defunct, the ravenous undead remain, and life has fallen into a nasty and brutish state of nature Welcome to Bridge City, in what was once Arkansas part medieval fortress, part Western outpost, and the precarious last stand for civilization A ten year old prodigy when the world ended, Gus is now a battle hardened young man He designed Bridge City to protect the living few from the shamblers eternally at the gates Now he s being groomed by his physician mother, Lucy, and the gentle giant Knock Out to become the next leader of men But an army of slavers is on its way, and the war they ll wage for the city s resources could mean the end of mankind as we know it Can Gus become humanity s savior And if so, will it mean becoming a dictator, a martyr or maybe something far worse than even the zombies that plague the land If there is one thing you Elitist Book followers are aware of about me it has got to be the number of things I don t like in fiction and how good authors can subvert these preferences and make me eat crow So in another installment of Things Nick Hates I present you drumroll please zombies I m sorry, but they bore me I used to like them and I still hold onto the belief that THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE and WORLD WAR Z are some of my favorite books of all time Still, there is a saturation o If there is one thing you Elitist Book followers are aware of about me it has got to be the number of things I don t like in fiction and how good authors can subvert these preferences and make me eat crow So in another installment of Things Nick Hates I present you drumroll please zombies I m sorry, but they bore me I used to like them and I still hold onto the belief that THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE and WORLD WAR Z are some of my favorite books of all time Still, there is a saturation of zombies sort of like the over abundance of vampires a couple years ago and I find it tiring There are only so many things you can do with zombies and it would take something different to interest me in another piece of undead fiction THIS DARK EARTH by John Hornor Jacobs is that something different and it served to remind me how much I used to love the sub genre The apocalypse has come and gone, ushered in by a zombie outbreak and attempted nuclear containment The remnants of humanity live in a pre industrial society, hunkered down in the ad hoc fortress of Bridge City The city is near impervious to the zeds, a marvel of ingenuity and medieval siege mastery Humans though, have a capacity for evil that far exceeds the mindless, flesh eating, undead An army of slavers has Bridge City in its sights and the survival of civilization falls to Gus, the young man that designed the very fortifications that have kept the wild at bay for so long Do you know how THIS DARK EARTH manages to be both a zombie novel and a book that I love It s a zombie novel but it s not about zombies Don t get me wrong, there are loads of zombies within the pages Tens of thousands of zombies There s plenty of bludgeoning and brain destroying, with buckets of putrid gore and viscera But that s not the focus of the novel THIS DARK EARTH goes to show that even in the wake of global catastrophe, even with the cannibal dead roaming the earth, the living can still manage to take the whole evil cake THIS DARK EARTH is a story of family, community, and survival The three main characters are Lucy, her son Gus, and Jim aka Knock Out Lucy is cold and clinical She is a brilliant doctor, with a highly analytical mind that leaves her detached from humanity She is not delicate in the least Lucy is almost robotic, but that s not to say she is stiff or thin as a character When she exhibits a rare moment of tenderness it is touching Knock Out is a gentle giant, he was a trucker before the end of the world and becomes a loyal companion after He is a genuinely kindhearted man that serves as the adhesive for the others He s the sidekick to Lucy s superhero And then we have Gus, the brilliant child that designed Bridge City who grows into the hardened man that must lead the free and the living Gus shares much in common with his mother, his intense personality is only compounded by the trials of growing up in this post apocalyptic world He is a strange young man, extremely intellectual and still inexperienced in many ways He has a lot to learn before he can become humanity s savior There are other characters, three of the chapters are told from their perspectives, but they serve primarily to forward the story of Lucy, Gus, and Knock Out In this way THIS DARK EARTH felt like a collection of short stories based around a central thread It s not, but the shifting narrative between first person, third person, and one chapter told in journal format gives an interesting, multi faceted view of proceedings The first half of the novel is a somewhat standard post apocalyptic zombie affair One of the blurbs on the back of the book likens THIS DARK EARTH to Cormac McCarthy s THE ROAD and WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks The first part of the book definitely relates to THE ROAD, as Lucy and Knock Out scramble to survive in a world only recently turned upside down It s at the halfway mark that I became fully absorbed in the read It is here that we are introduced to Bridge City and the looming threat of the slaver army From here Gus and the city council race to find a way to stop the army s progress and defend all that they have built This is where the novel takes on a bit of the atmosphere of WORLD WAR Z, but really I couldn t help but think of the CBS action drama Jericho I loved the creation of Bridge City and the society that the survivors had established in the aftermath of the outbreak and nuclear fallout THIS DARK EARTH is a dark book go figure It displays the worst that mankind has to offer, from rape to slavery and greed There is heavy violence mainly zombie slaying but some living on living action too as well as a grisly torture Despite all this there is also a silver lining of hope Despite all the death and despair it shows that we can survive and adapt as a species we can look out for our own Recommended Age 16 Language You betcha.Violence Shooting, bludgeoning, burning, and a painful torture crucifixion Sex Sex and sex talk.Nick SharpsElitist Book Reviews I picked this book up not because I m a fan of a good zombie book even though I am , but solely on the strength of the reviews of his debut novel Southern Gods No, I haven t read it, but I will now.This Dark Earth takes us from the beginning of the zombie apocalypse through the early development of a new civilization Not treading a whole lot of new ground here are we And I think that s what s blowing me a way with this book is that it s nothing new, but at the same time it felt fresh and vibr I picked this book up not because I m a fan of a good zombie book even though I am , but solely on the strength of the reviews of his debut novel Southern Gods No, I haven t read it, but I will now.This Dark Earth takes us from the beginning of the zombie apocalypse through the early development of a new civilization Not treading a whole lot of new ground here are we And I think that s what s blowing me a way with this book is that it s nothing new, but at the same time it felt fresh and vibrant and I COULD NOT put it down I guess that shows what kind of writing chops this author has.We start out following Doc Lucy Ingersol s point of view as the first of the outbreak begins to show up in the hospital in which she works The waiting room breaks out in what I can only compare to Draculas All hell breaks loose She gets away, barely, and luckily gets picked up by a trucker who goes by the name of Knock Outjust as the world is being blown to smithereens, or just well placed nukes in every major city While this isn t a whole lot different from the normal zombie fair, I can say he does a few things differently, at least in my limited experience The first, is the entire set up of the novel It s only made up of 7 chapters, each, for the most part, is a different character and in first person They re all interconnected somehow and thus, you re able to get really close to each of the main characters.The second thing is that you can t trust what will happen with these characters Obviously, this is a zombie novel and of course no one s really safebut then, The Walking Dead still has most of the main characters, even Carlwaitwhere s Carl Speaking of The Walking Dead, if you re a fan of the show, I think you ll really connect with this book Some of the same themes show up here, such as the need to avoid cities with their huge populations.The back cover of the book has a quote from S.G Browne that says this book is The Road meets World War Z While I haven t read WWZ, I have read The Road and I can kind of see where he s coming from The people who have survived at 3 years out are some of the nastiest around There are good people granted, but where would the fun be if only those existed While this book is muchon the pulp end of things, I can definitely see that this comparison makes sense There are some truly poignant events that occur that had my emotions running high I can also say that I don t think I ve read anythingbrutal than what happens to one of the characters and the whole time it felt like I was going through it.On that note, this book definitely isn t for the faint of heart Lots of blood and guts fill the pages, not to mention some other uncomely acts All in all, if you re going to read a zombie book, I d recommend you read This Dark Earth Once you start, you won t be able to put it down anyway, so start now.4 out of 5 Stars Highly Recommended And the award goes to Gallery Books for Most Deceptive Cover Ever, with a second award for the Most Misleading Book Blurb in the Zombie Genre.My blurb Seven interconnected stories follow a doctor, her son and a trucker as the zombie apocalypse goes down The son is a cold blooded Messiah figure while the trucker provides him with emotional guidance Humanity remains largely cruel and selfish, although some people will martyr themselves for the good of the herd Let the rebuilding commence And the award goes to Gallery Books for Most Deceptive Cover Ever, with a second award for the Most Misleading Book Blurb in the Zombie Genre.My blurb Seven interconnected stories follow a doctor, her son and a trucker as the zombie apocalypse goes down The son is a cold blooded Messiah figure while the trucker provides him with emotional guidance Humanity remains largely cruel and selfish, although some people will martyr themselves for the good of the herd Let the rebuilding commence The first section starts off very well, leaving me deeply engrossed in the story Near ground zero, a pathologist, Lucy, discovers that there s something odd about the people overflowing the waiting room They seem to be seizing, febrile, violent, or gnawing at their own fingers and lips Uncomfortable with the drama, Lucy and a pediatrician friend concentrate on a woman with a sick baby Lucy starts problem solving the illness until her pediatrician friend pulls her away from her myopic focus on pathophysiology, and raises the larger issue of their safety They escape with the woman and her baby as heavily ard officers storm the E.R Shortly after, Lucy hitches a ride with Knock Out, a trucker, as she attempts to avoid the containment zone Surviving the nuclear fallout and finding Lucy s son Gus quickly becomes their focus.By giving the reader a close up of the drama unfolding at the hospital, we get a feel for the human tension of early disaster and the obligations of a healer One of the interesting components of zombie stories is the reaction at the outbreak What will happen Will it be recognized Ultimately, it all depends on how fast the disease travels and the incubation period, and so far no one has done it better than World War Z An Oral History of the Zombie War Well, Brooks and the people writing the reports on bird flu Jacobs gives us an inside perspective with a doctor and a possible initial official response, and it s the kind of insight that can really lend an interesting twist to a traditional zombie survivalist story Jacobs writes well, with non stop action and skilled structure and imagery One of the initial views of the zombies Again, milky eyes glared at her Lucy couldn t pin it down exactly, but there didn t seem to be any awareness in those eyes It was as if some deep sea creature felt eddies and currents spun off a passing fish and moved to attack, working on pure instinct Meeting Knock Out, the trucker The trucker who picked her up was a brawny, thick man, bristly and unkempt The cab smelled of cigarettes, energy drink, and corn chips But the fecund normalcy of the man almost made Lucy want to cry Unfortunately, the book fails to shine for two significant reasons and one small one The first is the structure of the collection itself Sections centered on seven different characters are all too loosely connected to result in a satisfying story gestalt As bit character pieces, they range from decent to outstanding, but as a plot, its an unsatisfying way to build tension and consistency.The second major reason the book falls apart is the point of view switching If the plot isn t enough to pull it together, characterization can t save it either, especially when Tessa only gives us a minor, outsider version of the trio of Lucy, Knock Out and Gus, and the engineer Broadsword isn t involved with them at all We barely get to know either of them besides the immediate context of the apocalypse and their relationship to the main characters, so it doesn t carry the emotional weight it could have The sections vary considerably in length, but are shorter toward the end of the book Lucy s is 48, Knock Outs 73, Tessa s 47, Gus 79, Barbara 24, the engineer 35, and the final section 22 It destroys the pacing to be dropped into another person s head so irregularly Making itchallenging is the minutes entry style of Barbara s section, incongruous with the rest of the narratives.The final, ironic quibble when you write well, the expectations are higher and misstepsobvious Rhiannon Frater s The First Days is somewhat similar to the section on Lucy s experience intricate detail in recognizing and surviving the beginning of an epidemic However, Frater s writing is written at a simpler level, so the enjoyment comes out of the fast moving plot and willingness ignore language problems Jacob, on the other hand, is clearly a talented writer, so oddities are stick outThe pediatrician s initial Why are we here In this town line smacked of entry level writer s introduction Then there are the patients in the waiting room for the life of me, I can t figure out how someone can swallow her own lips As a medical person, I ve heard of swallowing a tongue, but as Jacobs clearly loved the lip imagery, it remained distracting I won t bore you with the rest of the hmm moments, but they were there.Finally, I get it It s the apocalypse A story doesn t need to have rape in order for us to understand inhumanity Authors as tempting as the cliche is, try to reach a little higher.Good writing, standard zombie survival story, messy narrative Recommended for readers who want to cover the genre, or are able to treat it as short stories in a connected setting.One star and another star and one other star and a little bit extra of a star equals three and a quarter stars.Cross posted at Liked it overall, but I did have my problems with it The Good 1 The zombies aka zeds, shamblers, revs short for revenants there is nothing unique about Jacobs zombies they are slow, and gooshy, and stink They are dangerous in hordes and are attracted to sound All this we ve seen before nevertheless, the descriptions are remarkably vivid skulls shattering, teeth splintering, intestines bursting, and always the terrible, gag inducing smell of rot.2 The first 121 pages are a comp Liked it overall, but I did have my problems with it The Good 1 The zombies aka zeds, shamblers, revs short for revenants there is nothing unique about Jacobs zombies they are slow, and gooshy, and stink They are dangerous in hordes and are attracted to sound All this we ve seen before nevertheless, the descriptions are remarkably vivid skulls shattering, teeth splintering, intestines bursting, and always the terrible, gag inducing smell of rot.2 The first 121 pages are a complete adrenaline rush Action begins on page 1 and does not relent for a moment We meet Dr Lucy Ingersoll on the afternoon her hospital succumbs to chaos An inexplicable virus is causing people to seizure, auto cannibalize, attack, die and re animate Lucy is our entry point into the start of the end of the world She assesses her situation and realizes she must abandon the hospital if she is to rescue her son, Gus, at home with his father In her attempt to get to her family, Lucy crosses paths with Knock Out, a giant of a man with a gentle and kind way about him These 121 pages are strong enough to stand on their own as a rip roaring novella of zombie insanity, replete with nuclear detonations.The Bad The shifting character POV did not work for me The first 121 pages grabbed me by my short hairs I loved the brutal immediacy of the story Everything feels so urgent and perilous I loved Lucy and Knock Out Then the book shifts gears and we are getting Tessa s story Okay, I ll keep following you Tessa s story is sad and icky But intense I found her very sympathetic Just as I was getting emotionally invested, the story shifts again Now it s three years later and Lucy s 14 year old son Gus takes over narrating Then the POV shifts again and we have some chick Barbara sharing the minutes from the various committee meetings of the Bridge City survivors enclave And there will be onePOV change before the novel concludes So many shifts in narration, from first to third person, lost me by the end of the book It was hard to sustain emotional involvement with any of the major characters The book ends up reading like a collection of interconnected short stories, and on their own, each of the chapters are actually quite strong It s when you force them to act as a novel where things fall apart That s when huge problems with pacing and characterization appear, along with a natural momentum towards a meaningful and satisfactory climax of which there isn t one Despite these issues, there s something about this book that recommends itself It s got that gritty, western kind of vibe going, a little Mad Max, a little The Road and of course Kirkman s The Walking Dead it s just not possible to read about the slavers and Captain Konstantin and not be reminded of the Governor If you re craving zombies, and a bleak and desperate post apocalyptic landscape, you could do a lot worse than This Dark Earth