Deadlands by Lily Herne

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Deadlands by Lily Herne

Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Margaret Young
Reviewed by Margaret Young
Summary: One of the best books I have read in a very long time. This isn't your typical slash and bash zombie novel. This is an absolutely brilliant book, packed with twists and turns that just happens to include zombies.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Much-in-Little
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1472100900

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I was hesitant to choose this book. I love a good dystopian future book. The problem is, I don't define very many of them as good. I have read far too many zombie books that really don't offer anything different, plenty of blood, gore, and damsels in distress, but not enough character development, or logical thought. Psychological horror can be ever so much more chilling than blood and guts, but it is also much more difficult to pull off. Sarah and Savannah Lotz, the mother and daughter team who have written this book under the pen name Lily Herne, have managed to do this perfectly.

I was initially surprised to learn this book was the work of two authors. I was even more surprised to learn that the pair alternated writing, one creating part of the story and then the next stepping in. There is no change in writing style, or in characters. The entire book has the smooth even flow of one highly accomplished author. There is absolutely no transition from one author to another, but perhaps the best of both writers has worked its way into the entire text. The character Lele is so realistic, I couldn't help wondering if many of character traits and emotions were a reflection of the author. The teenage angst is very real, and I expected the author to be fairly young. However, there are other aspects of the book that reflect more maturity, but these carry over from one chapter to the next seamlessly. The impression is of a young person wise beyond their years writing, this text. It has all the emotion and vitality one would expect from a teen, while still having the depth of meaning one would expect from a much more seasoned writer.

The Deadlands is by no means your typical zombie book. The undead here are not just reanimated corpses. Some are mindless rotters, but others are highly intelligent life forms. It quickly becomes apparent that these represent some sort of alien life form which can exist in the bodies of the dead. These are not the type of zombies that run about biting and eating brains, instead they want to possess human bodies. This has more in common with Invasion of the Body Snatchers than the Night of Living Dead. Humanity has fought a desperate war against these creatures, and lost. The remnants of humanity now survive at the whim of the Guardians - an intelligent subset of aliens who are always shrouded. These Guardians rule the survivors through human collaborators, the Ressurectionists, providing for the basic needs of humanity, but at a terrible price.

First all the dead must be surrendered to the Guardians, who take them away for reanimation - but worse than that three living teenagers must be provided each year for the honour of becoming sacrifices to these creatures. The Ressurectionists hold power through the Guardians and control all activity within the city, even seeking to control thoughts and beliefs. Humans without vital jobs are bred like cattle to provide more bodies as hosts for the victorious life forms. It is a desperate world where it is difficult to known which enemy to fear more - the living or the dead.

The Deadlands begins with a funeral, which marks the end of Lele's childhood and a transition to a new, and difficult way of life. Her beloved grandmother has died, meaning Lele has been forced to leave the agricultural settlement where she has lived with her brother. The settlement was run by the Guardians as well, but not with the iron grip of the enclaves and Lele is about to find herself in a world where loyalties are tested, where new alliances must be formed, but where she has no idea whom she can trust. Against the backdrop of a totalitarian state and the threat of the undead, Lele has the challenges of growing up as well. She is a spirited, but snarky teen, at times selfish, at least as far as her father and stepmother are concerned, and quite sulky.

Then again she does have more to sulk over than your average teen. She faces struggles fitting in, or more accurately not fitting in at a new school - but to give her credit, she refuses to pretend to be anything other than what she is - to belong and stands up to the bullies very well. But just as Lele is beginning to form some life for herself in the enclave, two bombshells tear her world apart. The first is that she learns her brother who depends on her is to be sent away to an institution for other children are seen as different. While she tries to find a way to save him, she finds an even bigger change about to take place. She is chosen as one of the teens to be handed over to the Guardians. But unlike the others who meekly accept their fate, Lele fights back, soon finding herself alone in the Deadlands, surrounded by walking dead. She is quickly discovered by other survivors in the wastelands, has she found salvation - or just another set of problems?

This book has been compared to The Hunger Games, and considering the very strong independent female character, and of course the inclusion of a lottery for young people to be drawn as sacrifices makes this comparison hard to escape. In reality, the term lottery is only used as a description of the selection process for victims. It does not appear to actually be done by lottery at all, but rather as the decision of those in charge, in this regard I would have to say this book has little in common with The Hunger Games. Where it does have similarities is in the fact that the main character is a very strong , intelligent female. Lele could never be described as a damsel in distress. It also has a great deal of character development, so the reader really relates to and feels for the character.

The book can also be compared in some ways to Charlie Higson's The Enemy. Like Higson's books, this is a story of the relationships of the survivors more than of the zombies themselves. In this case though it is not so much camaraderie. Lele is a loner, and it will take time for her to be able to trust and connect with others, and the others will need to learn to trust her as well - but just who should she trust? This series is also less violent. There are some ninja style fight scenes and even the odd explosion, but the terror here is a far more psychological than physical. Another major difference in this book is that has a very strong female lead. Finally, I could certainly draw comparisons between this book and the original I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. True, Lele is not a sole survivor, but at times she is as isolated as Matheson's character, and the authors write the anguish of this isolation just well.

The Deadlands is a brilliant Young Adult book. It has a very believable teenage character, who you can't help but warm to, and I feel most teens will relate to. This book is very much a crossover title that I would expect to find every bit as many adult followers as teens. I enjoyed it immensely myself, in fact I was on Amazon looking to see if there was a sequel yet before I had even finished the book. (If I had waited I would have known I will have to wait to until October). True, the main characters are all teens, but this book has enough suspense, and enough twists and turns to keep any adult reader turning the pages. An adult can also draw parallels between the situation in the book and current political trends. I have read that adults turn to post apocalyptic fiction when the real world we live in becomes so desperate, that people begin to see a world populated by the undead as more hopeful than the mindless existence many of us endure. But beyond accepting the oblivion, this book asks - what are we doing to change it? How can we make life better for others? Have we lost the passion of youth to create a better world? The occasional jibe that those suffering are the ones who gave the Ressurectionists power in the first place by voting them into power will ring especially true for many today, as will the fact the Ressurectionists can retain power by giving into a few of the more selfish wants and demands of the people. Finally, when we learn how the aliens think of the human race it can certainly provide food for thought, it might also leave us questioning - what exactly is it that defines us as human?

In providing a balanced review, I really do search for something to fault the book on and in all honesty I am finding this very difficult. It does take a little while to build up the suspense, and the book gets better and better as it goes along, but the introduction is absolutely necessary to the development of the story, so I can't fault it on this. I've spent more time trying to find a single fault in this book than on everything for the rest of this review, and I still have nothing. My only complaint is that I will have to wait five months to read the next book.

If this book appeals then you might also like to consider:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Enemy by Charlie Higson

Bad Faith by Gillian Philip

Buy Deadlands by Lily Herne at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Deadlands by Lily Herne at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Deadlands by Lily Herne at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Deadlands by Lily Herne at Amazon.com.


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