Podcast Review #25: The Zombie Chronicles: Escape

Title: The Zombie Chronicles, Volume 1: Escape
Author: James Melzer
Genre: Horror
Released: 01 September 2008 – 06 May, 2009
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks, Author’s Site
Formats Available: Podcast, soon to be Dead Tree.
Rating: Zombie violence is actually rather less than anticipated in this story and sexual situations are nonexistent. Adult language is present, though not in an extreme abundance. However, this IS a zombie horror novel, for that reason, I will give it a PG13/R rating. Depending on your parenting style, it may/may not be minivan appropriate. I would not listen to it with my 11 year old. (Rating disclaimer: I listen to podcasts during my commute. Situations, language, et cetera that make an impact on me will be noted. However, I’m not taking notes as I drive and something might escape me notice.)

I’ve mentioned before, although my choice of reading material trends towards fantasy, I will read almost anything. This is true of my listening choices as well. I realized recently that though I listen to much general fiction, even more science fiction and fantasy, horror is definitely underrepresented. I currently am trying to rectify this with three horror titles on my iPhone. Two happen to be zombie titles. I truthfully had not heard of Mr. Melzer until recently, but when I did, I was intrigued and happy to give him a listen.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: When an asteroid passes by our planet and leaves a trail of death in its wake, a quarter of the population have become the living dead.

Twenty-five years later the zombies are under the control of the government. Citizens are chosen to participate in Project Mirror, a cloning project in which their “mirrors” are used as food for the undead. When one man discovers that something in his blood is being used to create an army of super-zombies, he decides to help his mirror escape. In doing so he uncovers a secret so guarded that the powers that be will stop at nothing to eliminate him and all those that he loves.

The Zombie Chronicles: Escape is the first book is a series of edge-of-your-seat thrillers that will take you on an adventure beyond your wildest imagination and leave you wanting more with each episode.

Production: The production of Escape is pretty straight forward. It is not perfect, but it is far from poor. I read a piece of advise on Twitter recently from one author saying basically NEVER change a production element once a podcast has begun. This might be good advice, but I really don’t care if an author makes a change to try to improve something. Mr. Melzer, somewhere early on, changed his theme music. While normally this would probably pass without mention, I really think the newer theme was a much better choice. Although the original was fine, it was a bit “bright” for a zombie story in my attention. I’m also very pleased that Mr. Melzer chose NOT to use a The Story So Far device in his podcast.

Cast: This story is pretty much a straight read by Mr. Melzer and he does a fine job. Some of the characters are a bit similar sounding, and I think the story could have benefited by a bit slower pace, but these are minimal concerns. His accents aren’t that good (except for Yoda, which he nailed), but they would be better than mine if I were trying to do the same.

Story: I have a bias against first person narrative. I’ve never really worried about it, I just avoid many stories because of it. Maybe I’m doing myself a disservice, but in my experience it takes a really good author with strong characters to keep my interested in a first person narrative. Escape is written in first person. In fact, we don’t even learn the name of the protagonist until near the end of the story. The story is unique in a number of ways that I can’t explain because it would contain spoilers. However, I can state that the story was strong enough that I listened all the way through.

Verdict: Mr. Melzer has crafted a fine story in Escape. It might not be to everyone’s liking, but what is? I can honestly say it is unlike any zombie story I’ve ever seen or watched. It is lacking in the over the top violence usually inherent in this genre and much more effort has been made trying to create a situation where zombies make sense. Did Mr. Melzer succeed? For me, yes. I did enjoy Escape and would recommend it to anyone that enjoys non gruesome zombie horror. Escape is an excellent start to what I’m sure will be a very popular series. Remember, however, it IS only a start.

Disclosure: I’ve had one brief chat with Mr. Melzer on Twitter regarding the validity of how people are approaching the free model of distribution. (Seriously brief) At this time I do not follow him, but will more than likely rectify that soon. I have no idea whether he follows me or not. I was not offered any incentive to write this review.

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