I wasn’t expecting Dead Sea to deliver as much as it did.
It begins with a pretty standard outbreak and action, but as Keene is a practiced veteran of the genre, it’s well written enough to hold the attention.
The troubled narrator, Lamar Reed, is an engaging and slightly enigmatic lead as he escapes the fires and undead of a swiftly apocalyptic Baltimore, ending up on a coastguard cutter with a bunch of other survivors. As they search the seas for possible sanctuary, things start to get really interesting and the second half of the book is a real page turner.
There are a standard characters in the group – the asshole cop with attitude, the tenacious kids – but fortunately this doesn’t harm enjoyment as it may have in the hands of a lesser talent, and they develop nicely with plenty of surprises along the way.
There’s enough of blood and violence to satisfy the sinew-thirsty gorehounds and when the crew dock at a rescue station for supplies, we get an imaginative, sickening treat that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling.
Although the science of the zombie disease is pretty generic (with the bonus of cross-species), the conversion of the infected is very dark, and one scene describing a confused crewman’s fall to the sickness is genuinely haunting. There’s also a couple of incidents when you realise what’s brewing before the protagonists, and it’s fun waiting for the shit to hit the fan as they carry on oblivious.
The book only stalls briefly with the sudden introduction of 20 or so characters as the narrator boards the ship. For the subsequent few chapters, I had to keep flicking back to their initial meeting to remind myself of who was whom, something to be expected in a sprawling space opera, but not usually the case in a Lesiure 300 page horror thriller.
But this is my only complaint and I read it in 2 sittings. After “City of the Dead”, Keene’s 2nd zombie novel, I thought I’d had my fill of his undead, but now I’d happily read another. Right now in fact.