Book review: Zombies on the Rock, by Paul Carberry

Zombies on the Rock: Outbreak by Paul Carberry
Zombies on the Rock is set in the near future where corporations have bailed out Canada’s bankrupt Government, and as a result have a free rein to do what they want. With a top secret pharmaceutical site just a short drive away from the small town of Corner Brook, what can possibly go wrong?

The tale opens with the discovery of a terribly injured man in the woods, who strangely disappears by the time the police turn up to investigate. Was he murdered, attacked by coyotes or something else? It’s not long before a series of strange attacks occur in and around the town – could they be the result of a new drug or alcoholism, or are they connected to the news reports of a strange viral outbreak and quarantined cities around the world?

The story is told through a fairly large ensemble cast’s POV but mainly concentrates on the characters Eric (a policeman) and Jason (a Government wildlife officer), two friends who are thrust into the middle of events as they unfold around them. The first act does a good job in establishing the location with some nice details and descriptions (I didn’t really know much about the geography of Newfoundland so I looked it up on Google Maps – looks like a nice place to visit!) and slowly cranks up the tension as Eric tries to investigate despite pressure from above to let it go. The plot is a nice mix of (Fear the) Walking Dead, Resident Evil and the beginning bit of 28 Days Later that we never saw. A lot of it feels very familiar, but to be fair there’s a limited number of ways that the beginning of the zombie apocalypse can play out, especially if you are concentrating on normal people.

I won’t spoil any more of the story here, but overall I found the plot very well paced and exciting throughout. There are some caveats, however. Although there are some great tense scenes in the novel, some of the impact is diminished by the lack of familiarity with the characters of the rapidly growing cast within them. Apart from Eric and Jason who are well rounded, I felt the other characters really needed fleshing out a bit to make me care more about what happened to them. When you’ve got a zombie snapping and chomping at someone’s leg, it’s much more dramatic if you feel like it’s one of your friend’s life at stake. An example would be the antagonism between Jason and David Steele, the security head at Pharmakon. Although David’s extreme behaviour is explained and he has a history of being a bully to Jason, it’s seems much more personal to David than is initially explored. Although this doesn’t detract from an exciting set-piece between the two, it would have made it even better if I understood a bit more of the background. This is also highlighted when things kick off and the town starts to be overrun. Characters are introduced in one paragraph only to be killed off a few pages later before we get to know them at all. Although I think this choice was made to show a broad canvas of events unfold, focusing more on a smaller number of people would have made for a much more intense experience. The zombie attacks, while very detailed for the squeamish amongst us (it gets very ‘intestiney’ at numerous points), start to feel a bit repetitive after a while but again there’s only so many ways that zombies can bite people.
Zombies on the Rock is very much a ‘Ronseal’ book. If you’re not from the UK and have no idea what I’m talking about, Ronseal is a company whose advertising slogan for many years was “It does exactly what it says on the tin”. This book promises zombies, gore, action and the fate of the world at stake, and that’s what it delivers. I enjoyed it a lot and I’m looking forward to the next part of the series to see how things pan out, and hopefully learn more about the people within the world he has created.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Disclaimer and disclosure. This book was bought by me from through All opinions are my own, and I am receiving no payment for the review, either by financial or review-swap means.

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