The book begins with T.S. Elliot’s poem “The Hollow Men,” leaving off the final stanza. Chapter one of the novel is just six words: “This is how the world ends.” This sets the tone, not that this will be a dystopian novel like Earth Abides, but that this will be a story of sadness and horror.
In his first major publications, Ghost Road Blues, the chapters were longer and Mr. Maberry took his time getting to the meat of the story. In Dead of Night, the chapters are shorter (there are 105 in 357 pages), but this is not like a Dan Brown technique. This is purposeful. Whereas that writer has never written a chapter more than a few pages, and his characters are always cardboard cutouts, Mr. Maberry always develops his characters fully.
When we meet the antagonist in the second chapter, Lee Hartnup is dying. We experience his death through his eyes, and we learn the meaning of why Elliot’s poem was chosen. This is an effective technique because it puts us in the mind of the killer right from the beginning. Even before we meet our two heroes, we have met the bad guy. I don’t know of many other writers who have had the moxie to pull that kind of stunt.
Then there are our heroes: Desdemona “Dez” Fox and JT Hammond. Dez is a hardnosed, balls-to-the-wall chick. She is afraid of commitment, and the only person she really trusts is her partner. JT views her as a sort of surrogate daughter, though he would never tell her because of her pride. They work well because, and not in spite, of their differences.
So what about our bad guy? Because a doctor injected a serum in him, he was completely aware when he died. More importantly, he was supposed to have been buried right away. Instead, an unknown family member claimed him. Ooops! Well, the purpose of this was to punish the bad guy while he was rotting away, so that he would be conscious and aware. Instead he becomes a Reanimated Corpse. In the more common parlance, that would be a Zombie, the walking dead, a member of Congress. Havoc ensues.
Instead of being a copy of other zombie stories, this gives a brand new spin on how the zombie is created. Most of them become tedious after a while, but this kept me on the edge of my seat. The fast pace, quick writing style, and Mr. Maberry’s distinct voice are all things that keep the reader wanting more.