Earlier this year I reviewed Flu by Wayne Simmons. Fever is a sequel to the book – or rather a prequel and a parallel story. Fever exposes the origins of the virus and takes a look at the entire epidemic through the eyes of various different players. I was originally supposed to review Fever right after its publication, but never received the review copy and proceeded to forget about the whole thing until recently. Better late than never, right?
The book follows different characters and their storylines. As is typical of a structure like this, the storylines are somewhat interwoven. What made me happy were the references to Flu, seamlessly tying the two books together. Many of the things I wanted to see more of in Flu were present in Fever, for example the military aspects that felt a little detached in the first book.
There are many similarities between the two books and many of the same comments still apply. Simmons keeps his writing compact and efficient, and there’s a lot crammed into the 290 pages. At times this borders on excess, with a lot of different storylines and characters getting introduced, but it gets easier as the book progresses. The style is still very brutal and carnal, and I think Simmons still holds the title of “Author with the most disgusting zombies”, with the flu-ridden corpses (and soon-to-be ones) spewing bloody mucus from every orifice and so on.
With their similarities, we’re still talking about two different books. While Flu had a strong political vibe, with a large part of the conflicts rising from an establishment/anti-establishment setup, Fever draws more from the pool of social conflict. This is helped along by a cast of characters different from your usual zombie fiction fare, through which themes such as sexual minorities and disabilities both physical and mental are explored. This results in a book that feels refreshingly different while retaining a solid genre feel. While not as prominent as in Flu, the anti-establishment sentiment is still present, and you definitely get the feeling that the government isn’t doing a very good job at reacting the problem to say the least.
On a related note a word of possible warning: Fever is bleak – very bleak. While not quite reaching excessive, David Moody -like proportions, this book definitely isn’t a happy read. Personally, I liked it, but I understand it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. A large part of the dark humour present in the previous book is missing this time, making Fever pretty depressing at times. This is something of a double-edged sword: humour helps you relate to the characters (Shaun of the Dead being a prime example) but can easily lead to the whole thing getting silly and unbelievable. Luckily, Simmons is a good enough character writer that his characters function even with the humour turned down a bit.
Overall verdict: If you liked Flu, you’re bound to like Fever. It’s a gripping, bleak zombie read, with thoughtfully crafted characters and plenty of interesting storylines and points of view to keep the reader interested. While it probably won’t leave you feeling warm and happy inside, it’s an interesting, harsh example of a worst case zombie outbreak scenario. If you haven’t read Flu, I suggest reading it before Fever.
As usual, I picked up my copy from The Book Depository.