Sunday, May 1, 2016

Book Review: SAVAGES (Christina Bergling) by Dave Wolff

Assent Publishing, 2014
Mindless, murdering savages. Are they zombies? Are they human? Or are they something else entirely? The undead apocalypse has been told and retold by George A. Romero, Lucio Fulci and many others in cinema and print. The legend is as old as Dracula, Wolfman and Frankenstein’s monster, with basis in Haitian folklore. You might say 1932’s White Zombie featuring Bela Lugosi was the precursor to modern zombie horror cinema, the first ever of its kind. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead and Fulci’s Zombie spawned many imitators in the 80s; those may be tawdry by today’s standards but without them you wouldn’t have the countless offshoots and fan made films you can see in 2016. Nor would you have World War Z, the film version of Max Brooks’ 2006 novel which goes deeper into how the world would respond to a zombie apocalypse. The 2013 film with Brad Pitt was a fast-paced thriller for fans of nonstop action. Speaking for myself I am one of those old school fans who prefer the tension and suspense of zombies who creep up on you rather than run at you full speed (who argue that zombies can’t run due to rigor mortis). The background of this novel was provided by the author when I interviewed her around the time Savages was published. Christina Bergling got the idea while visiting Iraq and, afterward, watching TV’s The Walking Dead. Being exposed to “the unsavory parts of humanity” and seeing what might happen in a situation dreamed up by the Walking Dead producers were the gestation of her novel, which takes both ideas and ties them together in an approach to the genre that is brutally griping and original. With the outbreak of whatever it is across the world she strips away the veneer of civilization and most of what we associate with it, showing the darkness lurking just beneath in all of us. No attempt is made to sugarcoat this or make it friendly to the masses, as the two central characters of the novel interpret the monsters overrunning society in different ways. Published independently, it lays bare the darkness dwelling inside those two characters who discover what most of humanity used to see as love might prove too expensive for either of them. It’s a vicious reimagining of the time-tested legend that everyone should make an effort to check out, but if you do be forewarned. -Dave Wolff

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