Wednesday, October 14, 2015

No One Is Safe With Pajak

by Steven Pajak
190 pages
$5.99 Kindle version
The Mad Swine series by Steven Pajak is still one of my favorites, but zombie fans may argue on the message boards about whether or not they qualify as undead - even some of the book's own characters debate over calling them zombies! The "crazies" are infected living, much like 28 Days Later, but due to an ability to regenerate while they sleep, they still need to be killed with a headshot (or decapitation). The infection is suspected of starting with a mutation in the H1N1 vaccines, but some people were immune to the initial outbreak, although those survivors can still be infected by the "crazies." Also, any bodily fluid can spread the mutated virus, and not everyone realizes right away when they are infected...essentially creating a devastating apocalypse in a small amount of time.

In the first book, The Beginning, the main character, Matt, is at work on a college campus when he realizes there is some kind of virus making people go crazy and brutally attack others. Matt tries to gather his family members from their various locations in the city, but he underestimates the speed and devastation of the virus, and his emergency plans go down the toilet almost from the onset of the attacks on campus. Matt is determined nonetheless, and eventually he makes it back to his suburban community where the neighbors try to make a stand together.

The second book, Dead Winter, begins a few months later, and doesn't go into much detail about the battle for survival between communities. After being left with such a dramatic cliff-hanger in the first story, I couldn't believe Pajak placed so little importance on the conflict between the two groups, especially considering the original emphasis placed on people pulling together to survive an apocalyptic outbreak - people who didn't necessarily have close relationships (if any at all) to begin with. By basically skipping over a significant period of time, Pajak missed the opportunity to further develop his key characters, and make the storyline more personal for the readers.

I'm happy to say that Pajak brings all his talent to the third installment, Regeneration. It's six months after the initial outbreak, but it feels like a lifetime and then some. Matt and his fellow survivors are trying to keep it together at the Finnegan farm, but they have suffered another round of losses, and their future is looking even worse than their current circumstances. Matt and Brian venture away from the farm to round up the remaining residents of Randall Oaks, only to discover another group has taken over.

The concept of yet another group of bad guys is not very original in a zombie series, but the ensuing battle is exceptional. Not only is the action brutal and realistic, but Pajak shows no mercy to his main characters. Wesley's POV informs readers what takes place at the farm while Matt is away, which means nothing is left out this time, but it made me wish that Pajak had included a POV from Sam or Kat to show readers how the new group took over Randall Oaks.

The epilogue makes it obvious that this series is to be a trilogy only, and I wasn't disappointed with the ending in any way. If you haven't read this series yet, you should. The monsters aren't always wearing rotting faces.

As always,

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