Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Italian Review of THE FIRST DAYS

The Italian version of THE FIRST DAYS
I received a very nice email from Germana Maciocci recently. She translated THE FIRST DAYS into Italian for Delos Books, my Italian publisher in Italy. She asked me for an interview for the online magazine she writes for and listed a link to her blog where she had reviewed THE FIRST DAYS. She was also kind enough to provide a translation of her review and said I could post it here for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!!

Texas, present day / the near future. Jenni and Katie's lives intersect one day by accident and they decide to escape together, fighting tirelessly for survival, while the world that until a few moments before had been familiar to them is suddenly overwhelmed by an invasion of ravenous undead. At a first trivial glance, it seems to be a terrifying but contained pestilence but it turns out to be, as the journey of two women proceed, a worldwide catastrophe, an atypical massacre where there are no victims in the usual sense of the term but zombies devouring the living, infecting them, creating more zombies, in an endless spiral of horror that cannot only be defined but more than creepy.
Like in Stephen King’s novels, to whom the author was, in my opinion, more than rightly compared, the reader faces the more traditional horror that starting and taking hold in daily routines, thus making it even more incomprehensible, but at the same time, paradoxically reasonable, profoundly human, and monstrously logical, breaking and spreading in the lives of the two protagonists and of the various characters crossing the two women during their desperate flight.

Jenni is a young housewife who has seen her husband and two young children transforming under her eyes, and herself she had risked to become a zombie. She has been planning to leave since a very long time, from a husband abusing her and who already made their family life a living hell. She is saved by a miracle by Katie, who gets by chance in front of Jenni’s house and sees her out the main door, still in her nightgown, while she stares under shock at her family trying to reach and devour her. This vision accompanies Jenni throughout the journey towards a possible salvation, dwelling in her heart like a worm, making her feel torn between the grief for the loss of her children and the profound sense of guilt arising from the relief the woman feels, for the first time in her life, feeling free and no longer burdened with an husband or a chauvinist and overbearing father. The instinct to go forward and to survive is strong in her, thanks to her hope to save from that awful fate at least her stepson, in a camping holiday on Texas’s mountains.

Despite her young age, Katie is a successful attorney, accustomed to think with her heart but at the same time with a logical and firm mind. Unlike Jenni, her family, especially her father, has always supported her, even when she had decided to marry a woman. And it is her beloved wife, one of the first victims of the infection, that terrible first day is assaulting Katie: her transformed image haunts the few hours of sleep that Katie is able to enjoy now, and the regret of not being able to protect and take her away with her. The background picture to her mobile, showing her wife as sweet and smiling, clashes with the memory of the monster that has tried to bite her, confirming further that, the total decline around her being not enough, her world is now at an end, and nothing will ever be like before. Jenni and her instinctively trust each other, with an instinctive empathy going beyond the emergency situation, and Katie’s protection brings Jenni to express a stronger and self confident side of her character, a side she did not even know she had, while the sweetness and the plain helpless appearance of Jenni consoles and encourages Katie to go ahead and to seek a way out, as it may seems impossible, from their apocalyptic situation.
During their escape, the two women cross their lives with many types of people react to tragedy in different ways. Some people surrender and give up to horror, if only because they cannot bear the loss of loved ones or because, now contaminated, consciously choose not to perpetuate the infection and decide to save their own kind, while they are still able choose. Others, like Jenni and Katie, although well aware of the danger and irrevocability of their present and future times, choose to fight and adapt themselves, as it is in the deepest nature average human beings.
And in this new world, in which every natural rule must be rewritten, the two women find refuge in a small community where people decided to barricade themselves in a sort of a makeshift fort, where they do not passively accept to be conquered by the living dead, but to fight for life and solidarity. The drama of the story written by Rhiannon Frater is also in her intelligent and accurate description of the other side of the coin of a situation in which a group of people is compelled to choose, in a circumscribed space, between what is good and what is bad in a scenario which already confuses ideas easily: Homo Homini Lupus.
Desperately looking for a balance between what things used to be and are now, Katie and Jenni are struggling with all their forces together with their new companions, trying not to kill permanently a world which now is completely out of joint, in a never-ending battle where dramatically one cannot see no winners nor losers - even humans who became zombies are just the victims of something or someone that in this book still has no name. As already written in the foreword to this review, this first volume of the saga of As the World Dies throws us without a parachute into a world which is unlikely but not impossible, considering for example all the experiments which are supposedly supported unofficially in laboratories of large world powers, and with outmost ability it invites us to read the subsequent volumes following the desire to see "how it will end," or rather, how it's going to start the new era narrated by Rhiannon Frater.

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