Wednesday, May 28, 2014

There Is No Surrender - Only Win Or Lose

This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous books, Zombies Don't Cry and Zombies Don't Forgive, or don't mind knowing some spoilers for them. Zombies Don't Surrender, however, will remain spoiler-free.

Zombies Don't Surrender
~Zombies Don't Surrender~
A Living Dead Love Apocalypse Story
Book 3

By Rusty Fischer
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
Zombies Don't Blog

As the final volume in the Living Dead Love Stories opens, Maddy, Dane, and Stamp are still together, though barely, nestled safely inside the walls of Sentinel City, a stronghold designed to keep Zerkers out—and zombies in.

Maddy trains night and day, hoping to join Vera as a Keeper. Dane has been given Sentinel Support in the form a busty blonde named Courtney. And what of Stamp? Although Maddy’s dad has worked hard to rehabilitate him after his Zerker bite, he’s still not all . . . there.

When Dr. Swift inadvertently allows the zombies’ archenemy, Val, to escape from Sentinel City, Maddy’s world turns upside down. She and Stamp are Vanished—expelled from the safety of Sentinel City, no better than common Zerkers. Dane, a Sentinel now, escapes punishment and is assigned to ensure that his old friends never return.

As Maddy and Stamp stray from the safety of Sentinel City, danger mounts . . . and not just for them. Val has taken up residence in a seaside town and enrolled in another Normal high school. To outwit her and save Seagull Shores from all-out zombie Armageddon, Maddy must face her archenemy once again.

Only this time, she’s all alone . . .

Well, I was right in my last review: things sure go to hell in a handbasket in this one. Unfortunately, in more ways than one. I've been reading and reviewing this series for three years now, thoroughly enjoying Mr. Fischer's upbeat, campy, B-movie style and humor. But all good things come to an end, it seems, and so I delve into the final installment in Maddy's Living Dead Love Story.

As always, I liked Maddy. Snarky, sarcastic, and level-headed, she's an easy protagonist to get behind. Unfortunately, she was one of the problems I had with this book. After getting ousted from Sentinel City, and Zombie society in general, Maddy pretty much loses all her motivation. She's sunk as low as she can go, she doesn't have a plan to get out of it, and so for a good chunk of the story she's in basic survival mode. And while that might be interesting for some, I was kinda bored by the whole endeavor.

I had the same complaint with The Immortal Rules. I'm a character reader. If a character doesn't care about anything, I find it hard to care about the character. So when Maddy doesn't have anything driving her forward, no baddies or danger or romance to react to, I found the reading very sluggish to get through. So maybe it wasn't Maddy as much as her plot that I had a problem with...

Part of that plot was falling out of love with Dane. Don't get me wrong, I completely support Maddy getting pissed off at Dane. Dane was a complete douche for a majority of the book. I get that it's natural for people to grow apart after a while, especially when you're not working together, but Maddy didn't describe his 'turn' as gradual as that typically happens. There's a possible explanation thrown in that paints Dane as more sympathetic, but I didn't buy it. I won't say he's completely irredeemable, but he has yet to redeem himself in my eyes.

Stamp, on the other hand, was kind of a mixed bag for me. I liked him as a character, but I was a bit iffy on his use as an object later in the book. Maddy feels guilty for him, both his initial zombification and his later Zerker-age, and so is very protective and supportive of him. She will never feel an attraction to him again, and at times she's even afraid of him, but she seems to like him as a person. But acting sisterly/friendly to a person doesn't equate them as your most precious item.

And that's the other part of the plot I had problems with; our villain mastermind, Val, deciding he is. Then again, Val doesn't seem like the sharpest tool in the shed, and definitely not the most threatening one. Her escape from Sentinel City was so devoid of ramifications that for a good while I thought it was completely staged. You know, as a final test for Maddy's Keeper training. I mean, she had Maddy's father at her complete mercy, and instead of biting, killing, or melting him, she locked him in a closet. A CLOSET?!?!?! She also spent an entire day leering threateningly at Maddy in school instead of actually, you know, doing anything evil.
Least. Effective. Villain. Ever.

Another problem I had was the issue of electricity. I really wish I had re-read the other books again before reading this one because I can't quite remember all the rules made about zapping and zombies. I know Chloe and Hazel died in the first book from being electrocuted. Chloe even says, "One shock to bring us back to life, remember. And one shock to kill us. If you get zapped twice, that's that" (Zombies Don't Cry 289). Yet Dane has a taser, and Maddy a shock pen, both of which are non-lethal... So unless this got explained away in the second book (something about strength of charge, perhaps?), then this is a major flub for the series.

One welcome change to the series, however, was a little girl camaraderie. With it being a Maddy/Stamp/Dane show in the last book, I was really happy to get a little BFF time for Maddy. And after all she went through, it was definitely needed. Heck, I didn't even hate Courtney (Dane's hawt blonde partner) as much as I thought I would. Sure, her character veers suddenly from bitchy to caring, but at least it's better than keeping her eternally bitchy. Still, I liked the new friend/support introduced for Maddy, even if it did turn out to be kinda fleeting...

Which brings me to the ending of the series. Honestly, I'm surprised that this is where Rusty decided to end it, and if the book didn't have "the final volume" printed on the back, I'd totally be expecting another book starring Maddy sometime next year. I mentioned that Maddy didn't have much in terms of goals for a good portion of this book, and that's how I feel she was at the end, too. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but this book ends off extremely open-ended. And not just in the way that Star Wars or Harry Potter does, with the surviving characters having their happy lives ahead of them, but in an I-literally-have-NO-idea-what-comes-next kind of way. It was a bit weird, underwhelming, and perhaps even disappointing.

I just don't see how the series as a whole could have led to this point. It's like the opposite of most stories, where the tough, damaged main character has to learn how to open up and depend on others, this time it seems like everything is pushing our protagonist to depend solely on herself. Who knows, maybe the whole point of this "Love Story" was really the lyrics of Kelly Clarkson's (What Doesn't Kill You Makes You) Stronger. But this twist comes so suddenly (I mean, you wait until the 3RD BOOK?!) that it doesn't fit with Maddy's arcs from the other books.

In short, I don't understand this book. It may be an interesting twist on the stereotypical paranormal romance storyline, but in terms of series and character continuity, it just falls flat. I really wish I could say I'm happy for reading this epic conclusion to the series but, looking back, I kinda wish Maddy's story had been left to Zombies Don't Cry, a cute, self-contained, little love story.

Overall, I'm sure Zombies Don't Surrender is a must-read for fans of the series, for the sake of closure and all, but for me, I almost wish Maddy's story had ended on the hopeful note of the first book, or even the cheery note of the second. I'd still recommend the series for any who enjoy YA romance, zombies, or humorous horror, as that is definitely Fischer's forte. As always, the gore is kept mostly in low-detail, however the zombie violence and one nasty incident involving dogs has me suggesting readers be no younger than middle school, and probably safer in high school and up. I'm sorry to see Maddy and co. leave, but I suppose all good things must come to an end...unless, of course, you're a zombie.

Approximate Reading Time: 5 hours