Bargain Book Reviews

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Hell is Empty and All the Devils are Here by Mark Rounds

book review

Warning: Lots of violence and gore

Hell is Empty and All the Devils Are Here by Mark Rounds follows Chad Strickland, along with his family and friends as they struggle to survive the “zombie plague”. I want to let you know up front, that zombies aren’t really my thing, nor are apocalyptic novels. I don’t even watch The Walking Dead, as there’s something about decomposing reanimated bodies walking around, spreading their disease and trying to eat me that just doesn’t do it for me. But this author’s take on zombies is something I can get behind. This book was a spur of the moment choice, and I might have found a new genre to read and here’s why.

For me, it all came down to the world-building and intricate details. In most of these post-apocalyptic/zombie survival novels the scope of the destruction is either limited to one character and their group of friends, or it’s too widespread and worldwide for the reader to wrap their head around and empathize. Thanks to Chad Strickland’s job in the government, not only do we see the small scope of the disaster, hearing Chad and his coworker’s official reports gives us the big, horrific details of a worldwide plague in modern times. I really enjoyed the science and statistics given throughout the novel. It gave the book a very plausible feel, despite the fact that we’re discussing a disease that turns people into infected, cannibalistic monsters. From the government’s reluctance to react to the epidemic, to the entire country’s infrastructure breaking down, to stores being looted and cars abandoned in the middle of the roads, the author gets all of the details nailed down that really had me in the moment. He also has the tone of the novel right; his characters are former military, and you can tell. They use the slang, are knowledgeable with a lot of different weaponry and survival skills, and are overall intelligent people. Here’s my problem: the author was too generous towards his characters. He made things too easy for them. Before you accuse me of being a sadist, because hey, they are trying to suffer through a zombie plague, let me explain.

First, the characters. Every single person that joins Chad Strickland’s group has something to contribute. They’re all military, police, or have some sort of survival skill that the group needs. Where’s the gunphobic, peace-loving hippie that doesn’t want to kill anyone? Or the overweight gamer that thought they could shoot a gun because they beat Call of Duty but in real life, can’t hit a thing and becomes zombie chow. Or the too stupid to still be alive character that survives thanks to dumb luck? They don’t exist in this group, but they would have been a welcome addition. Also, all of these characters are undoubtedly The Good Guys. They always make the right, moral decision and I kept waiting for it to bite them in the butt as these things sometimes do, but it never does. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of action and quite a few times I wondered who was going to bite it thanks to the situations these characters are in, but it never happens. The author always bails them out. So while there’s a lot of tension in the first two-thirds of the book,  by the end, you’re no longer on the edge of your seat wondering who’s going to make it. Even the Bad Guy survives impossible odds and lives to scheme another day. There are a lot of gory zombie deaths, but these characters have an unusually high survival rate for a plague.

The other issue I had with the book was the actual writing. While grammatically correct, and you can clearly see that the author is knowledgeable about the government, military, and various survival skills, cars, and weapons, the writing itself is stilted and formal. For the military and government scenes, this works. But for the few emotional scenes, we have a lot of telling instead of showing. That being said, there is a sweet romance that develops in the midst of the chaos, which was a nice break from all the death and killing.

I have one other complaint. This book is over 500 pages long. I invested the better part of a week into reading this novel (like I said, not my usual genre), and once things started getting interesting (the characters decide to leave their home after a bunch of coordinated zombie attacks), THE BOOK STOPS. The entire group, which has somehow managed to survive thanks to the goodwill of strangers and a whole lot of firepower, makes it out of the city, rescues two of their group that was separated, and that’s it. They don’t make it to their destination, they don’t stop the rogue agent, nor do we figure out who is behind this plague or what’s happening to those that go into remission from the plague. The book just stops. Not cool, man.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Plot: 2.5/5

Characters: 2/5

Dialog: 2/5

Writing: 3/5

Entertainment: 3/5

Interested in this book? It’s free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, or only .99 on Amazon.

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Thanks for reading!

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