A woman must face her life while confronting the unliving.
That is the basic premise of Distant Early Warning, a zombie quasi apocalyptic novel by Canadian author Elizabeth Hirst.
In the not so far future, society has changed and gotten more dire but not totally collapsed, because of ecological turmoil. To add to the world’s problems, recently the dead in northern Ontario have risen from the ground as screaming zombies and are pushing the people farther and farther south.
This mess is troubling to Felicia “Denny” Dennigan, a young woman working at a University who has family issues, majorly around her absent father that she loves so much. Then one day she sees news footage of her dad as zombie. Thus begins her trek up north, with the faithful dog Geoff, to find out what happened, and hopefully put him to rest.
And to say she is unprepared, emotionally and organizationally, despite her best efforts, is to put it mildly.
Hirst tells a very compelling tale, and the influence of thrillers like The Hunger Games can be felt on every page. Which means Distant Early Warning can get fairly violent sometimes (but not Katniss level), and some mature issues are present.
A sense of danger exists for Denny even before her trip, all because we can tell she has emotional issues that impair her life. Much groundwork is laid for this early one, with plenty of payoff at the end. Denny’s survival throughout the start of her journey stems mostly from determination and good luck, not skill and experience.
This emotional turmoil impairs good judgment, and when Denny realizes this issue, she does much better against the dangers that peril, her. But of course, like any great adventure tale, this also means the threats get amped up as well. Hirst wisely moves part of the action to the spiritual realm, as Denny smartly deals with foes physical and mental. Methinks the author has studied psychology, because Denny would make a great case study in grief and PTSD and intimacy issues.
My only small quibbles was that the ending happens rather quickly, even through it is all set for a sequel, and that some slight copyediitng would help it. Otherwise, Distant Early Warning is an interesting adventure story with fascinating characters and is quite gripping.
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