I’ve been really looking forward to a new zombie novel with lots of creepy zombies and suspenseful moments and maybe a little bit of romance; unfortunately this wasn’t it. The whole book felt like a washed out version of The Walking Dead with mostly flat and lacking characters, less world-building and a lot less creepy.
When I first read the title “Red Hill” I thought of “Silent Hill” – the horror movie and I expected at least a little bit of that: Horror, suspense, adrenalin, nail-biting moments. But almost 50% into the story I feel nothing at all, watching the three main characters drifting on the verge of a zombie apocalypse, trying to reach Red Hill, an isolated country house and being bored out of my mind. There is something dull about the story, maybe the pacing or the language. I can’t exactly say why, but it’s just dull. After reading five minutes I look for something else to do, or start skipping entire chapters or skimming through the pages. I have the impression it’s an exhaustive enumeration of she did this and then did that and then she turned and walked away… “Tears threatened to moisten my eyes once again, but instead I let anger take control. The helplessness I felt at not being able to get to my children sent me into a rage (…) the can opener was in the silverware drawer, but I left it, hopeful that Andrew would remember to pack it if he wasn’t already on the road. I also took a plastic reusable water bottle.”You are surrounded by zombies, you can’t find your children you‘re frustrated and furious but you have time to reason that maybe your children would need a can opener if they maybe come back to the house?
And water bottles are almost always reusable, especially the plastic ones. So why tell me so precisely? It doesn’t make sense and it irritates me. “I grabbed one more item, zipped the backpack, and then returned to the front room. I pulled some frames off the wall, and then shook the can in my hand. The aerosol hissed as I pressed my index finger on the trigger, my arm swaying with the silent music of my good-bye as it formed large, conspicuous black words.”
Do people really leave their black aerosol lying in the laundry room, together with (oh how convenient) a flashlight, some batteries, a large screwdriver and a folding knife? Really give me a break.
It was all just so conveniently placed throughout the book. Even the house on the Red Hill was conveniently supplied with enough guns and rifles and ammunition to kill 1000s of the shufflers and enough food to last a lifetime for 10 people. No need to go scavenging or raiding supermarkets or think about farming. Apparently there was even enough toilet paper and shampoo or medicine so you needn’t even mention it. Puhleeease. This is no survival book; it’s a book about convenient but unrealistic circumstances like how they all almost meet at the church, how they go to Red Hill and how convenient every car is full of fuel.
60% into the story all main characters are on the Red Hill, house secured, with water and food supply, electricity. Yeah you name it! Now we move into the romance part.
>Romance should be shown and not told. Authors have to show me, make me believe that their main characters really care about each other. But the romance of Scarlet and Nathan comes out of the blue. One moment they are talking, the next they’re holding hands and we read from Nathan’s view how she is such a strong women and that he doesn’t have the balls to kiss her. Yuck. It makes Nathan, the ex-football player who still works out in the gym and has a body to show it into a wussy boy. And well after slaughtering a few Zombies there is nothing as good as sex. So we get treaded to a sex scene between Scarlet and Nathan. More yuck. His lips are red from kissing her body. Brrrrrrr. too much information for my imagination.
Also up until this point Scarlet was an almost amiable character with potential: a strong-willed woman wants to get to her children. But they are not in the house so what do you do? You spray a message on the wall and go to Red Hill and wait there. No need to call your ex-husbands mobile to try to get in touch with him. But then after weeks of sitting on the porch waiting for her girls to come over the hill, she suddenly starts packing a gun and wants to go all Rambo on the TEDs (our Zombies). Elleny, a 13 year old girl that has been sexually abused, wants to go with her. So naturally you answer this: “I can’t concentrate if I’m watching out for you, too. Got it?”
You insensitive bitch! Why not tell her loud and clear that she is unfit and too stupid to live. Maybe you should have spent less time on the porch with Nathan and more time with this girl showing her how to shoot and survive.
Or here a conversation between her and Nathan: S: “Don’t you know by now that I can take care of myself.” (after patrolling a few times and going Rambo on the Zombies)
N: “Yeah, and it scares the hell out of me. I have tried to understand, but I can’t let you do this Scarlet. It’s reckless.” (No shit Baby, she has the trousers on and you pee yourself thinking of going out. Don’t you have any balls?)
S: “You don’t get to tell me what to do just because we fucked in the yard.” (Uh that was real smart and so nice to say to the guy)
N: You can push me away all day long, but I’m in love with you. I love you, Scarlet, and it would destroy me if anything happened to you.”
Let’s get this very clear; this love declaration is laughable and it makes me vomit. Here you have a 200 pounds muscled flannel-bimbo with no backbone giving the love-speech to our tough cookie the Über-mother that came from the same gene pool as Conan the Barbarian.
What I missed completely in this novel was how the government and military reacted to the threat or the general public. There must have still been some radio and tv stations broadcasting, at least people with batteries and cars could have listened to something. But the military makes an appearance ONE YEAR after the outbreak with jets and an atomic bomb over Wichita. I shit you not. A few days later they even come with a helicopter to Red Hill explaining that not even though you could see the mushroom on the horizon this was not an atomic bomb and the fallout was not radioactive. Yes sure, how is it possible to have a mushroom cloud without the atomic bomb? It’s not! Geez. It’s not as if you can get the radiation out of the nuclear fission reaction in the bomb.
There are dozens of apocalyptic novels out there that are way better.