Saturday, November 5, 2011

Review: Roads Less Traveled, by C. Dulaney (review by DeadVida)

Roads Less Traveled: The Plan

C. Dulaney

Paperback: 236 pages

Publisher: Permuted Press

Pub Date: August 24, 2011

ISBN: 9781934861998

This novel is a great example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. While my suspension of disbelief never fully engaged, my bullshit-o-meter remained relatively silent. I found myself engaged in the story and tore through the book in two sittings.

I could nitpick – too many 20-something characters, first-base sexual tension, omniscient characters – but that seems unfair because this is actually an entertaining zombie novel that takes some unexpected chances. It marriages, at once, brutality and common sense with a smidge of touchy-feely without venturing over to the land of pointless nihilism. And the dog lives.

The outbreak occurs and Ben, a college student in Pennsylvania, contacts Kasey, an online friend living in West Virginia. They had a plan for this and begin to enact it. As one would expect in a world now teeming with the living dead, nothing goes as planned. Instead of just Ben, Kasey, who is anti-social and dealing with unspecified anxiety, welcomes a group of strangers into her home. She lives in a remote farm house nestled against the Monongahela National Forest that is a survivalist’s dream home.

Conflict, of course, arrives with her visitors – internally and externally; dead and living. The characters are both stupid and too smart, but the mixture keeps this from tilting either way. Dulaney attempts to create complex characters and some are better realized than others. For comparison’s sake, Brian Keene often creates one-dimensional characters, but Colson Whitehead’s Mark Spitz was fully three-dimensional. Dulaney’s characters hover around the 2-2.5 mark. There was more character back story that was alluded to, but perhaps cut. I was left with a few questions. Or maybe she just isn’t done introducing us to her characters. I’m curious to see if they go fully 3-D with the next installment.

This may seem like an odd or disparaging comment, but this would also be good for a YA audience. I mean this in a complimentary way. The main character is a strong, self-sufficient young woman; someone who I think would resonate with either gender. The sex is implied behind closed doors. There is strong language, but nothing they haven’t heard before. There is violence, but it has repercussions. And no sparkly vampires.

Overall, rollicking bit of zombie lit with plenty of action, blood, and coffee. And yes, I am heartened by an apocalyptic world where coffee still exists.