Double Dead (Tomes of the Dead) by Chuck Wendig
Publisher: Abaddon/Nov. 2011
Coburn’s been dead now for close to a century, but seeing as how he’s a vampire and all, it doesn’t much bother him. Or at least it didn’t, not until he awoke from a forced five-year slumber to discover that most of human civilization was now dead—but not dead like him, oh no.
See, Coburn likes blood. The rest of the walking dead, they like brains. He’s smart. Them, not so much. But they outnumber him by about a million to one. And the clotted blood of the walking dead cannot sustain him. Now he’s starving. And nocturnal. And more pissed-off than a bee-stung rattlesnake. The vampire not only has to find human survivors (with their sweet, sweet blood), but now he has to transition from predator to protector—after all, a man has to look after his food supply.
So, you’re a dessicated vampire (that’s gone without blood for years, and has been in a kind of stasis) that comes to in the middle of an abandoned theatre with zombies nomming on, well, everything living. What do you do? You need to get blood, right? Our vamp, Coburn, attempts to do just that, but when he bites into one of the zombies, he quickly realizes that zombie blood is bad for his health. Well then, it’s time to find some of the living, yes?
After heading outside and realizing that the world has pretty much gone to hell, and tangling with some of the living dead, he comes across a group of survivors. Food! Not so fast. Key among this group is a 15 year old girl named Kayla, who’s not about to have Coburn feeding off her father and her friends, so she strikes an unlikely deal with the vampire. Coburn protects the group from cannibals (we’ll get to that), and other baddies, and they’ll make sure he gets to feed. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Yeah, not so much…
Coburn the vampire is a foul mouthed, hedonistic, arrogant, self-centered son of a bitch, and he knows this, so how the hell he let this kid talk him into this deal, he’s not sure, but he is hungry, and he could use a place to crash, so he hops on board the RV that our little ragtag group has commandeered. What follows is a pretty wild ride through a destroyed American landscape populated with things much, much worse than the walking dead.
Double Dead is a terrifying, violent, American road trip through zombie hell. Wendig throws in a cannibalistic group that brings to mind something right out of Rob Zombie’s worst nightmares, zombies out the wazoo (of course), a military compound taken over by trigger happy yahoos dressed like clowns (I kept picturing Killer Clowns From Outer Space), and some hybrid creatures that will make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The author spares no gruesome detail, but lest the word “gratuitous” start floating around in your mind, it’s really…not. The gore is necessary to the story and it’s tempered with a fair amount of black humor. Aside from the flying body parts and decapitations, it has probably one of the grossest (yet creative) vampire feeding scenes that I think I’ve ever read (seriously, *shudder*.) Double Dead made me laugh and cringe in equal measure, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it does have heart. Yep, this gritty, gross, blood drenched vamp/zombie fest has a heart. I certainly didn’t expect to develop a certain amount of grudging affection for Coburn (and his little dog Creampuff), but I did! There’s also something special about our Kayla, but I’m not going to give away that secret. It’s just part of the awesome that is this book.
The author credits Robert McCammon (one of my all-time fave authors) at the end of the book as inspiration, and I can certainly see shades of Swan Song in Double Dead. Amongst the horror, there are themes of loyalty, redemption, and even love that the author manages to weave in with an expert hand. Chuck Wendig has one sick, twisted imagination, but in his case, it’s a talent, and he poured that talent into this kick ass vampire/zombie apocalypse tale. Crisp writing, bullet fast pacing, and twists that I didn’t see coming make this one a can’t-miss for horror/zombie fans. The damn thing even made me cry. Seriously. If you’re in the mood for something a little different, a little sick (ok, maybe more than a little), a little funny, and a lot awesome, pick up Double Dead, and get your freak on, yeah?