Under a Red Sun by Vincenzo Bilof
Reviewed by Morgan K. Tanner
Vincenzo Bilof’s novel, Japanese Werewolf Apocalypse was not your standard werewolf tale. There was betrayal, sacrifice, and time-travelling – obviously. And the title, although accurate, was kind of misleading. That was one deep, at times head-scratching, you-better-be-concentrating gorefest.
So going into this one I expected more of the same, only with zombies.
But the undead, although an integral part of the story, merely act as a backdrop to the struggles of humanity. OK, most zombie stories tackle this I know, but not like Under a Red Sun.
Your typical living dead story pits an unlikely protagonist into a world where wits and strength ultimately guide them through the struggles of an epidemic of brain-hungry rotters. The characters try to stay strong, against all the odds, proving that the human spirit cannot be broken.
Well, not here. James Lenin was once a well-respected teacher with a beautiful and loving wife. He hated violence and never even owned a gun. When a chemical bomb brought on the apocalypse, he was as frightened as anyone.
But following his journeys through the wastelands of Earth, witnessing destruction and death everywhere, he becomes not a pillar of human endeavour, but a soulless savage. He does what he has to do to survive, however violent that may be.
When everything you’ve ever known and loved is taken from you, why would you become a ‘better’ person? We’re animals after all, so when humanity is destroyed, the animal instinct takes over.
The zombies in this story, although peckish for bits of humans, don’t always attack. Instead of scene upon scene of undead attacks, sometimes they just amble along minding their own business. And if they do try to hurry after dinner, their obviously-weak bodies defy them, with legs snapping off following little exertion.
James recounts his story to a girl he meets at the beginning of the story, a girl who knows nothing of life before the outbreak. She yearns to hear of the old ways and James’ tale has her entranced. His story of a descent into madness and violence is gripping and sad, but then, how else would he be after the horrors he faced?
Harold, a self-proclaimed ‘scientist’ is the man behind all of this. He claims to want to build a better world, to make man immortal. His plan seems kind of far-fetched and makes no sense when I put it like that, but he really seems sure of himself.
The dead don’t have any worries, they’re just content to be ‘re-alive’ as it were. It’s such a shame that most humans don’t appreciate what it’s like to be alive. It’s almost as though the zombies are more appreciative of existence than their lunch is. Of course, Harold states this much more eloquently.
Compared to Bilof’s other works, I considered this more like a technical prog band making a mainstream album, such was the easy nature in which the story flowed. But as I hit the 80 page mark or so, it gripped me like a rotting arm from the grave and refused to let go. What started as a standard zombie tale developed into something that really makes you think.
I said that the zombies aren’t the main event here, but when they do make an appearance, and they’re hungry, the descriptions don’t leave much to the imagination. There’s blood a-flowing here, people.
As you can tell, I really enjoyed this book, the enjoyment o-meter ever-increasing as I went along. This is a zombie book that fans of the genre, and indeed those that find the living dead kind of cliched, should be looking out for.
You can take my word for it or you can check it out for yourself as it’s Available Now.
About Morgan K. Tanner
Morgan K Tanner is a writer, drummer, and golfist currently residing in the English countryside. The idyllic surroundings make it an ideal place to write, drum, and hide the bodies. The busy sound of the typewriter is perfect to drown out the hum of the antiquated torture equipment.
When he’s not writing or inflicting pain and suffering on his numerous victims, he indulges himself in all things horror and metal.
His debut novella, An Army of Skin is available now.