Now that we’re well into the mid-season break for AMC’s The Walking Dead, I thought I’d take a stab at something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. I’m not normally one to do reviews so this will be a first for me and the site. I don’t plan on making recommendations or reviews like this a regular thing on the site, but whenever I come across something I think other fans of the genre will enjoy, I’ll pass it along.
If you’re a zombie genre fan like I am, no doubt you’ve seen all the well known movies and read all the popular books. I’ve seen all the movies you’re probably thinking of, and probably several you’re not. I’ve also read more zombie related books than I can remember off the top of my head right now. In that vast sea of zombie related media it is very easy for characters and plot lines to run together but every once in a while I connect with something that really rises above the rest. Right now the book series at the top of my “must have more of” list, and that I simply cannot get enough of, is the Zombie Fallout series by Mark Tufo.
Zombie Fallout is a story centered around the Talbot family; Michael Talbot, his wife Tracy, their sons Travis and Justin, and daughter Nicole. Oh, and I can’t forget Henry, the Talbot’s dog. A survivalist, ex-Marine, ex-white-collar, highway department worker living in Denver when the zombie apocalypse starts, Michael quickly finds himself rounding up family and friends in an attempt to keep them safe. The story is presented as a series of journals Michael has kept since the zombie apocalypse began so you’re getting the story primarily from his point of view as though you’re a fellow survivor who has found the journals while traversing the country.
One of the most difficult parts of writing any good story is making your readers connect with the characters, make them care about what happens next so they’ll keep reading. Mark Tufo does this so easily that you don’t even realize it’s happened until you reach the end of a chapter, or the end of a book, and suddenly find yourself saying, “What? That’s where you ended it? But what happened next?” and suddenly you find yourself scrambling for more.
One of the reasons it is so easy to connect with Michael is because he is just an everyman trying to survive and keep his family and friends safe. He’s fiercely loyal, he makes mistakes, he says stupid things, and just like real life, hardly any of his plans go as expected. Michael’s dedication to his family and friends, and willingness to fight for and with them, is unmatched by any other character and you quickly find yourself pulling for him regardless of whatever mess he’s gotten himself into. Michael being a natural smart-ass often leads to him engaging his mouth prior to his brain. I can relate to this rather well myself and it is probably one of the reasons I fell in love with this series before the end of the first chapter. There are humorous moments to the story amidst the dark moments you know you are going to encounter. Being able to balance expected dark moments in a story like this with a bit of unexpected levity is difficult to do well, but Mark Tufo does it masterfully. More than once in my journey through this series I’ve cried one moment and laughed out loud the next. As a side note, the “pickle incident” was the funniest thing I have read in a book in years; I literally had tears coming out of my eyes I was laughing so hard.
The other thing that sets this book apart is the touch of supernatural Mark Tufo puts in the story. You realize early in the story that it is so much more than just a tale of survival during the zombie apocalypse, as if that weren’t enough to deal with. Since we are living the story through Michael’s eyes, it’s a slow build but once it gets going, there’s no slowing it down, not that you’d want it to.
Another thing that I love about Tufo’s writing is that things that need to be explained are and no characters fall by the wayside or are forgotten about. Plot points get wrapped up and questions are answered. Sometimes the answers may take a while but trust that the wait is well worth it and not done lazily as an attempt to simply mollify fans.
Currently there are 8 books in the Zombie Fallout series with more on the way. One book in the series serves to fill in history from well before the time we meet Michael. It is available in both print and digital formats. If you’re an audiobook fan like I am, I cannot recommend that version strongly enough. Sean Runnette’s narration coupled with Mark Tufo’s writing takes the experience to a whole new level. You can connect with Mark Tufo through his website, his Facebook page, the Zombie Fallout site, as well as Twitter. Mark’s interaction with his fans is wonderful (Sean Runnette’s as well for the audiophiles). Also, though not directly zombie related, if you enjoy the Zombie Fallout series I can also recommend checking out Mark Tufo’s other works such as the Indian Hill series, The Book of Riley, The Spirit Clearing, Callis Rose, the Tim series, and his new Lycan Fallout series. Some of these use characters from the Zombie Fallout series but in completely different ways; think of them as alternate realities if you like.
So if you’re looking for some quality material from a great author to fill the time until The Walking Dead returns, I highly recommend checking out the Zombie Fallout series. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you, too, will probably find yourself facing everyday problems asking, “What would Talbot do?”.