The Dead Tide series by Stephen A North is kind of like a zombie soap opera: lots of characters, a rotating POV, and plenty of dramatic scenes...with the undead. Usually, I struggle with a cast this size, and I have to write down notes just to remember the individual survivors and their backgrounds, but somehow North manages to create several unforgettable personalities within the multiple storylines. Also, the drastic change in settings with each POV switch makes every book more exciting, creating the sense of total chaos surrounding the survivors through spectacular action scenes. The best part is the unpredictable nature of the series. I never knew who was going to live or die, and I never knew what particular obstacles each character would face.
In the first book, DEAD TIDE, the focus seems to be more on the police officers forced to choose between helping the citizens of their city and assisting the politicians in their attempt to escape via a luxury ship. Although, there are other storylines which include both civilians and soldiers, as well as the controversial orders given to the military to ensure that the outbreak is contained. In the second book, DEAD TIDE RISING, it becomes obvious the worst is yet to come when the characters meet monsters who are more threatening than zombies.
The series continued to divulge more about the background of the surviving characters, revealing their own individual experiences within the same outbreak area. The human strengths and weaknesses are more than plausible, with North giving extra attention to the details, as the story progressed. Many people behave egotistically, but it's those moments when someone chooses to do the right thing, even when it's the hardest thing to do, which creates a strong bond between the survivors and the reader.
In the third book, DEAD TIDE SURGE, the multiple storylines finally converge, making it easier to navigate. I enjoyed the action scenes far more - not your typical slash 'n' dash that readers often find in horror novels. North has become rather creative with the death and despair surrounding the survivors. Take a deep breath because North's Dead Tide pulls readers in further with a fourth installment...
DEAD TIDE RAGE begins with a list of the characters from the entire series, which is a great way to refresh the memories of readers. The main theme throughout the book is the loss of sanity. Everyone is falling apart, literally and figuratively, doubting themselves and doubting others. Some are ready to end their lives, others are ready to kill everyone around them.
The original Black Ops group from the first book, which had been split up in the beginning, find themselves reconnecting, if only to acknowledge they will never be a team again. There is also the matter of the line of succession for the presidency, pitting politicians against soldiers. In his attempt at a military coup, General Kyler grossly underestimates Candace Fiore's determination to salvage the remaining government. The battle for power between the two results in a massacre.
North kills off many main characters. Some die heroically, some die tragically, but some characters die in small, random moments, and those unexpected deaths are the most shocking. With the remaining survivors scattered once again, the story appears to be winding down, until the Naval fleet survivors reappear with tremendous firepower.
This is most definitely the best novel in the series. North has gone above and beyond with his character development. Even if readers don't remember every detail from the first three novels, the pain and suffering of the survivors, both physically and mentally, highlights the price they've had to pay in order to continue living. The question remains, how much is enough?
If you haven't read this series yet, make the time. At first glance, Dead Tide may seem like just another zombie series, but North has created something far more complicated and devastating. Anyone who loves a suspenseful drama will enjoy this series. Allow yourself to feel the Rage.