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Rigor Mortis #1 COVER

Rigor Mortis #1
60 pages
January 2009

Day by Day Armageddon
Reviewed by DeadVida
By J. L. Bourne
Paperback: 228 pages, $14.95
Publisher: Permuted Press (Nov. 2007)
ISBN-13: 978-0978970772

With a few reservations, I quite enjoyed Day by Day Armageddon. I started reading it on a work trip and found myself staying up too late one night. I set it aside for the flight home and tore through the rest of the book oblivious to the fact I was confined and dehydrating so as not to use the lavatory. It was well-paced and entertaining.

The book opens on New Year’s Day with the narrator resolving to keep a journal. The next day mentions a flu making the rounds in China. Within two-weeks the outbreak has come to his neighborhood. The narrator, a naval officer, decides not to return to his base and go it alone. His home, complete with MREs, solar panels, and generators is a survivalist’s wet dream. The author has evidently put a great deal of thought into making a home a fortified compound. The use of the journal entries here makes particular sense because he is isolated and trying to process everything he is thinking and doing. His terror, anxieties, and disgust with his first zombie encounters are palpable. He and another survivor down the block use lights and Morse code to make contact, then walkie-talkies, and eventually begin traveling together. I felt their initial developing relationship was a particularly strong part of the book, and unlike most zombie tales where people are thrown together and forced to forge bonds in minutes. The neighbor, John, and his dog, and the narrator eventually flee their homes and are forced to improvise on the run. At one point they find a marina and locate other survivors. They all then move into an abandoned military compound where the threats go beyond the living dead. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, but there is another book in the works.

J. L. Bourne is in the military and utilizes his knowledge of firearms, airplanes, and military protocol. If any of this is fictional, I’m so not the person to nit-pick. That said, a little goes a long way and the descriptions can feel a bit tedious, especially when you consider that someone who knows all this stuff probably wouldn’t be writing it down in a journal. I know some exposition is needed for the audience, but it felt clumsy at times.

The journal style lends itself well to a story like this, where it really is about humanity’s reaction to the living dead. It is never clear if he is handwriting in his journal or typing and that is something that bothered me. There are occasional smudges or crossed out words, but it doesn’t fully commit to handwriting or being a typed Doogie Howser-esque journal. I keep a moleskine journal and mine is filled with shorthand and odd notes. If I type journal entries they tend to be more descriptive and readable because I can’t also rely on my handwriting to tell part of the story. I can see the obvious problem with him using his laptop to write – consistent power supply and always having it with him on the run. I would like to have seen a mixture of handwritten, perhaps frantic entries, and longer typed pieces. Also, there’s been online criticism about the typos, but these are debatable because of the nature of journal writing. Hell, if you saw my journal you would think I was functionally illiterate.

With the story unfolding first person, you know you are viewing the events through the narrator’s eyes and Bourne does a decent job with foreshadowing and sketching out characters via his perceptions. At times I felt the content of the entries strained credulity or the narrator’s voice sounded stilted, but again, the journal format caused me to argue this differently than I could a standard piece of fiction. Overall, a tense, entertaining apocalyptic zombie romp.

The book has a sizable web-following and the author does respond to posts on the forum pages: www.tacticalunderground.us/forum/

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