Uprising

Christopher Newman asked me to review his e-book Uprising, so here goes:uprising

Uprising imagines a world (much like that of Fido) in which zombies have been rendered harmless by science and put to work for man.  Of course (a la Jurrassic Park/Westworld ), things don’t work out.  From the opening scene of enslaved zombies rebelling at a Wal-Mart-type big box store, it quickly becomes clear that zombies cannot be controlled.  This is an ancient theme, which Newman uses to good effect.

Newman also intelligently considers the impact of a zombies-as-slaves world.  (What is the effect on unemployment?  What is the adjustment to the prices of goods and services?)  He considers the situation from the point of view of political leaders, and militant special-interest groups.  It is an interesting and mature approach, and lends realism to the tale.  I don’t want to go too far into the other specifics of Newman’s zombie-world, but they are dark, and readers may enjoy discovering them.

The main character, Chuck Olsen, works as a kind of zombie-processor at a plant the locals call the Ghoul Factory.  The grisly descriptions of the interior make one think of a slaughterhouse.  This grim work leads to a consideration of the novel’s central question: To what degree do American corporations actually care about their employees?  The specter of the Wal-Mart is always present.  This is Uprising at its best.

Do I have criticisms?  Sure.  There is a tendency to overexplain the contingencies and peripherals of the zombie world.  And while Newman is excellent at crafting plot devices, some of his descriptions of narrative action can be awkwardly phrased, and the dialogue runs from strong to very weak. 

In the scenes where Chuck Olsen and his wife are in bed, the dialogue seemed fake and twee and made me wince.  I have no doubt that this dialogue may have been taken from actual exchanges between a man and his loving wife in bed, but they just didn’t translate to the page.   (Intimate exchanges between lovers are hard to write.  Back when I reviewed manuscripts for Iowa Book Doctors, I often found that otherwise competent writers really struggled to create natural exchanges between lovemaking couples.  Playful dialogue can be the hardest.  Reading the dialogue in Uprising, I was frequently reminded of Neil Peart’s tour memoir Roadshow, which was an excellent book but had this running joke where Neil and his male travelling partner would pretend they were a gay couple and act silly.  I have no doubt that their jokes were actually funny when they occurred in real life, but they just didn’t translate to the page.  [I think that sometimes real dialogue that actually happened is not always the best dialogue to use when writing fiction.  Randall Jarrell once ruminated that a soldier can do brave things on the battlefield yet fail to produce writing that inspires bravery, and a great lover can be a real lady-killer in real life, but fail to produce verses that inspire amour.  This is why “Writer” is a job at all.  If anyone could do it, then it would not be a skill requiring thousands of hours of cultivation.] )

But I have digressed.

Overall, Uprising was a nice surprise.  I provide the linked coordinates here.

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One thought on “Uprising”

  1. Thanks so much for the plain speaking Scott!

    As editor of this book I have to go along with what you say. This is the only one of Chris’ publications with us that we could not classify as a romance. They are, however, equally dark.

    I think it’s because happily married people don’t even realize they are boring!

    In case you ever have zombies with crumbling toe issues, I have this tip– pearlescent flesh colored nail polish. It isn’t just for toenails! Kills all sorts of secondary infestations of the toes.

    And hope your throat is better.

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