Over the past four years Wayne Simmons has fast cemented his reputation as one of the authoritative voices in apocalyptic fiction with a penchant for zombies. Fever, Simmons’ follow-up to his breakout novel Flu, continues this trend with an unrelenting zombie novel where no character is neither safe nor indispensable. And that is part of what makes it such a compulsive page-turner.
Whilst Fever is technically a sequel to Flu the story occurs alongside rather than directly after the events of the original. As such, reading Fever before or without any intention of reading Flu will not mar your experience. For those that have experienced the original, Simmons has more than a few decaying winks and references for you to lap up.
The multi-layered plot focuses on a variety of different characters each in unenviable situations as they deal with the gruesome pandemic that has swept its way through much of Ireland. There’s the story of Ellis who is romantically involved with her superior, Dr. Blake Farrow and soon finds herself questioning whether it is him or security guard Abe who she should side with whilst trying to unravel the truth behind the outbreak. Then there’s Shaun, an honourable man who wants to protect his family but is hampered by deafness. This had lead to others, such as his wife Lize’s father, not taking him seriously and making him the brunt of jokes, snide remarks and cruelty. To add to his misery there is an awful revelation that shatters Shaun’s personal life mid-outbreak, leading him to question his relationship whilst still trying to keep everything together for his family. Alongside Shaun and Ellis there are conspiracy theorists, military members, crackpot pilots, a nephew desperately trying to look after his dying aunt and a whole host of other interesting and troubled characters. And that’s what makes Fever so interesting. It’s not just a novel about survivors going through the motions as they fend off blood-baying zombies, it’s about humanity and the cruelty of humankind. The real monsters are the humans who display utter selfishness to survive.
Fever comes across as Simmons’ homage to the zombie genre. Whilst it’s much more than the lazy blood, guts and guns approach of some novels and films within z-poc, one cannot help but feel that Simmons had a lot of fun in crafting this one. Without giving too much away there are nods towards the likes of Resident Evil and George A Romero, whilst the humour delivers a cheeky wink towards Evil Dead. This is Simmons most succinct novel to-date and one really gets the impression that he’s been working on his craft to ensure that every word counts. The cutting board may very well have seen more casualties than the novel itself – and make no mistake the brutality within is every bit as gory and satisfying as you would expect for a blood-fuelled zombie romp. Just as you think you’ve found the novel’s main character, Simmons will dispose of them in a grizzly and effective fashion.
Unfortunately the killing off of key players and the sheer amount of characters to keep track of may mean that some readers find it difficult to form much of an attachment to certain protagonists. This is, however, a minor gripe and on one level is actually a strongpoint of Fever. Not since the graphic novels of The Walking Dead have we seen characters so mercilessly and unapologetically slaughtered, and that’s what the zombie genre needs – unpredictability.
Fever is an old-school zombie novel with fresh pop-culture references and a blood-stained nod towards The Walking Dead. Of all the zombie novels released this year, Fever is up there with the best. If you want to read a fun, pulpy homage to the zombie genre where the real monsters are the humans then pick up a copy of Fever today.
“After the wonderfully gory events of Wayne Simmons’ first novel, Flu, it was difficult to see how he would top it with the follow-up, and yet he has. Fever is not just a sequel; it is a preamble, explaining how the virus from the first book came about, and Simmons’ attention to detail and ability to make you care about a character before relentlessly killing them off makes it one of the best zombie novels in recent years. Succinct chapters, consistently ending with cliffhangers, make it impossible to put down, and the levels of gore and violence are perfectly proportioned alongside the more placid moments. Flu was good; Fever is great.”
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