Book Review: "Echoes of Violence" by Glen R. Krisch
The Godfather of Zombie Horror, George A. Romero, gave us a legacy of horror that will (pun intended) never die. Ever since Bill Hinzman stumbled through that black and white Pennsylvania cemetery, we’ve been hooked on the hideous possibility of the dreaded “zombie apocalypse”. However, after ten years of saturation from The Walking Dead and all the new work it’s inspired, we’ve become a bit overrun by tales of the unquiet dead on both the screen and the page.
In other words, if you’re going to write zombie fiction in this day and age you’d better bring your A-game or (at the very least) a good concept/mash-up. Chicago author and Amazon bestseller Glen R. Krisch has done just that, blending a Groundhog Day plot device, a zombie superflu, isolated setting, likable characters, and gory prose in Echoes of Violence.
The Upton family- Mom and Dad, daughter Kendra, older brother Charlie, and younger brother Billy- run the Cherryhill Campground in southern Illinois. They live a quiet and peaceful life of seasonal tourism and natural beauty. Unbeknownst to them, a barrier has been broken in a secret lab nearby. Time itself has been derailed and a loop has been created, forcing them to live the same scenario over and over again. It’s a tough situation, learning from your mistakes on repeat. It’s even worse when the flu raging across the country is killing off thousands upon thousands and bringing them back as the living dead. Meanwhile, Dr. Elliot Soto (the man responsible for the whole mess) is in the same hell, trying desperately to get back home to his beloved wife, Keely. With a handful of locals and a horde of hungry zombies for company, their paths will cross if they can make the right choices.
Glen R. Krisch has created a setting that takes the passé threat of the zombie apocalypse and given it a twist that keeps you turning the page. Much of the fun in Echoes of Violence comes from the blistering pace it runs at; at 190 pages it fairly flies by. That’s not to say that speed is all it has going for it, but some books are best consumed quickly (again, pun intended). The action and sometimes wild scenarios are fast and furious, almost like an anthology of kissing cousin short stories laid out in a Choose Your Own Adventure style. It’s a clever storytelling device that really eases the exposition.
The Upton family are excellent characters to spend some time with, though Charlie and Billy admittedly get the bulk of the detail. The parents are noble (if not somewhat stereotypical) cardboard cutouts. The boys older sister, Kendra, gets the worst treatment from her shitty adult boyfriend, Blake Tanner. It’s a nearly loathsome storyline until the comeuppance is received in a turn of events that’s well worth waiting for. The side-arc with “creeper” Dylan Primrose felt frankly out of place and somewhat over the top, but that’s to be expected when dealing with a pedophile…it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Dr. Soto’s backstory was well fleshed, but I damn sure would’ve liked a bit more time with him; his opening was pure madness inspired by Stephen King’s The Stand. More of that, please!
It’s a well-thought out story overall. One crazy event after another (the wildest being of the non-zombie variety) does leave you rolling your eyes a bit, but Krisch is offering up mountains of opposition. Without opposition there is no drama, am I right? Much of the believability of the actions and results (i.e. how do you not know the zombie apocalypse is upon you?) is justified by the protagonists age and isolation. Echoes of Violence is very touching in that way- these are kids just trying to survive a true nightmare scenario by trusting their gut instinct (third intended pun!). The replaying of scenarios and learned lessons brings a sense of building hope that moves the story swiftly to its happy (though still open-ended) conclusion.
Glen R. Krisch has ultimately bobbed and weaved his way through the dangerously overplayed territory of zombie fiction and produced a rapid fire read with a good hook and solid characters. It’s a fine way to spend an afternoon or two. I’m kind of amazed the “Choose Your Own Groundhog” device isn’t more common, to be honest.
3.5 out of 5.0 stars