Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book: The forest of hands and teeth - Carrie Ryan

I came across this book via a sample first chapter picked up in a bookshop. The combination of the cover image and the title were really appealing. I didn't know this was considered a young adult novel. (Not that that would have stopped me). I also didn't know it was a zombie book, although it didn't take too long to figure out.

I liked the way that it was an slightly uncommon take on a zombie story. It is set several generations after a virus has decimated the population leaving only isolated enclaves of uninfected people.

However, I was quite disappointed with this book. Even though it's fairly short there would have been room to do a lot more if there was less of the overwrought and unconvincing romance aspect. For me it teetered just on the edge of what it should have been: dark, creepy, and even a bit inspiring with a message of following your dreams, and not settling for what others tell you you should want. The main character, Mary, verged on being a Mary Sue with her naivete and all the boys revolving around her. Ok that's a little harsh, but I found the romances that the novel is built around unconvincing and that didn't leave much else. It was an interesting set-up, an isolated village surrounded by fences to keep the Unconsecrated (clearly zombies) out; a small society strictly controlled by the Sisterhood. Mary is trapped in this tight place by the death of her parents and her brother's rejection, leaving her with nowhere to go except the Sisterhood (and only in an inferior and ill-trusted position there). I would have been interested in a story where Mary challenges the status quo, drawing out why the sisterhood run things this way and some of the secrets they're keeping. Instead she just wants to escape (understandably).

The latter half of the story I think owed more to zombie movies, with a small group surviving on the forest paths and in another, abandoned village, and some fighting and killing of the Unconsecrated; I got bored and just wondered where it was all going. There were a lot of questions unanswered; I gather the book is being made into a movie and there are clear opportunities for a sequel. That's all well and good, but a novel, especially a debut novel, should still stand alone as a good satisfying story; for me this one didn't.

4 comments:

Karen said...

Looks (cover art) and sounds (plot summary) like a combination of 'Twilight' and 'The Host', only with Zombies instead of Vampires or Aliens. If you haven't yet read any Stephenie Meyer...don't.

dr k said...

hmm im not sure about the vombie thing myself. i thought of reading pride and prejudice and zombies but i think the zombie part would ruin it for me!

Olivia said...

I actually didn't pay that much attention to the zombie stuff. If you were sensitive to the notion of undead humans beating themselves against fences until their bodies fall apart - yes it could be a bit gross. Also of course they want to bite you and then you die and become one of them. All that was kind of background noise for me though, I saw the scenario as post-apocalyptic, where the forest full of zombies could easily be replaced with radiation danger, for example.

Donna Lee said...

I love a good zombie story. My family (yes we're weird) routinely speak of the zombie apocalypse and how we could survive. I'm pretty sure I'd die in the first wave, I'd have a hard time shooting anyone in the head. For me, I like my books to have a good story in them and characters that are interesting. I've never read Stephanie Meyers for that reason. Too predictable and boring.