Necropolis Now: Zombie Ascension Book One starts out introducing us to Bob, a mercenary for hire who is looking for a serial killer named Traverse, a former Special Forces operative. Traverse is wanted alive despite the gruesome crimes he’s committed over many years of being on the run. When he finds Traverse, the madman speaks of a gate being open that will cause the end of the world. Captured, he is committed to an insane asylum in Detroit.
Three years later, Bob is called upon again, this time with two of his best mercenaries-Miles and Vega- in tow. He has to capture Traverse again, pulling him out of the same insane asylum he was put in for his crimes. The only problem: Detroit is in the throws of a brutal riot, with the city tearing itself apart piece by piece. It is fast becoming clear that this is not your normal riot because the rioters are eating one another.
The story follows Bob’s mission, but also introduces the reader to several other citizens of Detroit who are coming to grips with the situation they’ve found themselves in, including a lawyer, his drug-addled brother, a gang banger, an ex-cop pornographer and his former girlfriend, and a porn starlet currently residing in the same insane asylum as Traverse because she has a penchant for cannibalism.
While Necropolis Now: Zombie Ascension does share similarities with many other tales focused on the initial hours and days that the dead rise, with plenty of panic, gore, and horrific frights, it is how the dead rise and the characters that inhabit this story that make it unique. Detroit has a reputation for being a rough city and it makes for a gritty urban setting for this story. The ensemble cast is headed up by Vega, the female mercenary, Traverse, an insane prophet and murderous madman, and Griggs, the ex-cop who wants to keep on making porn movies while the world unravels around him. This is a very interesting story with Traverse and Mina meeting up at the asylum on the day the undead rise taking center stage. Mina is Griggs former girlfriend and star of his porn movies, at least until she ate the last actor she worked with. Traverse has plans for Mina, and knows that she is more than just another run of the mill psychopath.
The pacing is fast and the action steady in this tale, while the characters are a mixed bag of oddities. They definitely kept me guessing from start to finish, with some of the deaths being rather surprising, and their actions even being more surprising. It’s hard to argue about realism when the characters are so strange and different than the norm.
There is a bigger picture here. The rise of the dead is not through the traditional means readers of zombie fiction are used to, and it is clear by the title that the author intends to reveal all that is kept secret in this book over the course of a likely trilogy.
The author took on a sizable cast of characters and did an admirable job of allowing the reader to see the world through many of their eyes. The characters of Traverse, Vega, and Griggs were intriguing to me. Some of the other characters, such as the lawyer and junkie who were brothers, didn’t resonate. The author makes a game effort to give their story emotional heft, but their story felt hollow to me. And while I didn’t necessarily like most of the characters in this book, I don’t consider that a negative. They kept me intrigued, even if I wasn’t necessarily rooting for any of them. Some of them grew on me in small amounts, and it will be interesting to see how the characters that remain at the end of the book grow and transform through the rest of this series.
Overall, Necropolis Now: Zombie Ascension Book One, has way too long of a title, but is a very interesting contribution to the zombie genre. This isn’t your workaday saga about average people trying to make due in a world gone mad, but is about a bunch of mad people living in the eye of the undead storm. Mr. Bilof has me intrigued enough that I feel compelled to check out the next book in this series when it becomes available.
This review and other great things are available on Patrick's blog here.