Whispering Pines is a classic, quiet, private American subdivision on the edge of Asheville, NC, set in the pristine Blue Ridge Mountains. Which is good since the zombie apocalypse has come to Western North Carolina and really put suburban living to the test! Surrounded by a sea of the undead, the residents of Whispering Pines have adapted their bucolic life of block parties to scavenging parties, common area groundskeeping to immediate area warfare, neighborhood beautification to neighborhood fortification. But, even in the best of times, suburban living has its ups and downs what with nosy neighbors, a strict Home Owners' Association, and a property management company that believes the words "strict interpretation" are holy words when applied to the HOA covenants. Now with the zombie apocalypse upon them even those innocuous, daily irritations quickly become dramatic struggles for personal identity, family security, and straight up survival. Welcome to normal life in Z-Burbia!
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As a huge fan of and author in the zombie genre, I tend to be quite picky about the books I read. Not least because I don't want to be influenced (whether I know it or not) in my own writing. That being said, sometimes you hear enough about an author that you have to seek out his work, and Jake Bible falls under that category.
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of his audiobook edition of Z-Burbia through an Audiobook boom, in exchange for an impartial review.
And yes, this is impartial. This book is bloody brilliant. I'm a huge fan of first person-perspective zombie fiction. Whilst it doesn't give you everyone's view of the end of the world, it allows you to get into the head of the lead character, sharing their victories, disasters, indecision and genius, in one chaotic ride.
That is the best summary I can give Z-Burbia. We are thrown straight into the action, and Bible doesn't let up, not once. Strap yourself in for one hell of a backbreaker, because our protagonist, Jason "Jace" Stanford is a man on a mission. In his safe community built up after the US has succumbed to a zombie outbreak, Jace is declared basically as the brains of the operation. On a number of times in the book he appears to demonstrate having no brains at all, so I take this as to be excellent lateral thinking and common sense.
I liked this book so much, not just because of the action (of which there is plenty) but because of the realism of the characters. Jace is one cocky character, and I can see how some folks might find his personality hard to believe. However Bible's consistency in delivery really sells this book, and this careful treatment is given to everyone we meet, from overbearing community leaders all the way to misunderstood cannibals.
The book did fall prey to some genre tropes, but it's such a saturated genre that this is simply to be expected, and when it's done well like in Z-Burbia, it's not unwelcome - rather traditional and good, than leftfield and utter trash.
From a narration perspective, I loved Andrew Wehlren's delivery. He hit the nail on the head with pacing, tone, and expressions. At no point was I jarred out of the story by slopping retelling. I like my narration fast, and I did have to pop the speed up to 1.3, but that's a personal opinion and I'm not letting it sway my overall opinion on a hellride of an action story, and a masterclass in audio delivery.
Bring on the rest of the series - I can't wait to see where this story goes!