Uncivil Dead by Jeremiah Coe is a Civil War story about Union and Confederate soldiers forced to make a last stand together against a zombie outbreak. Some Southerners living in a little town called Walnut Woods were sympathetic to the cause of the North, and gave information about nearby Confederate troops. Concerned that the residents of Walnut Woods would face retaliation, one-hundred Union soldiers were left behind to protect them, and to help escaped slaves make their way to the North. The garrison was actually located outside of the town, so the outbreak spread throughout Walnut Woods before anyone realized what had happened.
At first, both Union and Confederate soldiers think they are dealing with rabid cannibals, but it doesn’t take them very long to figure out they are dealing with the walking dead; it does, however, take the Union soldiers nearly halfway through the book before they realize it takes a head shot to kill the zombies…the Confederate soldiers weren’t nearly as fortunate. There is a Union doctor who tries to study the infected by tying them to trees, but he can’t find the cause or a cure.
Eventually the two opposing forces come to the conclusion that they need each other to survive the outbreak, but it’s too little, too late. Coe kept me guessing about who might make it to the end of the book, which was refreshing — I don’t care for predictable storylines. The virus was just as mysterious; it spread to both humans and animals, but the source was never mentioned or even hinted at. Coe writes in such stunning historical detail that I did some research to see if there was a real Walnut Woods where troops from both the North and South went missing without explanation, but, apparently, Coe just has a very vivid imagination. SPOILER ALERT: While Coe took some major liberties with the timeline of known American History, the North still wins.
Uncivil Dead did not have a lot of gore and not many confrontations with the undead until the last few chapters. As a matter of fact, the build-up was quite slow in the beginning, but once the two sides joined forces, the story really took off. I think Uncivil Dead is going to appeal more to the zombiephiles that have a genuine interest in the real Civil War.