Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Beyond Exile by J.L. Bourne

Beyond Exile by J.L. Bourne is the sequel to his first zombie novel, Day by Day Armageddon, which I reviewed last time. The story follows on exactly where part one left off. At the end of Day by Day Armageddon the cast of survivors had found a safe sanctuary to hole up in and call it home. I won't spoil the story by saying where or what their new home is but it is well chosen for its defensive capabilities. Such a place inevitably attracts attention, be it from a marauding gang of humans, zombies or the military.
The marauding gang is dealt with at the close of book one, thanks to a great deal of good luck. The trouble with the zombie threat is that no matter how many they kill, there is always lots more to take their place. Zombies are just relentless. They keep on coming and never give up. In Beyond Exile the author introduces a new threat - the zombie horde. By horde I mean thousands and thousands of zombies gathered together as one massive group of undead. The faster, more intelligent zombies act as scouts for the horde as they probe ahead of them.
The other group I mentioned was the military. We learn that the military forces of the U.S.A. are still functioning, although in a vastly reduced capacity. Once the zombie apocalypse kicked off, the military forces were hit hard and suffered catastrophic casualties and loss of life. The narrator of these two books, as I mentioned last time, is an officer and pilot with the U.S. Navy, who has gone rogue. His first interaction with the military is to rescue a squad of soldiers who had got into difficulties not far from his base. He successfully rescues them after intercepting a radio message they'd sent. He could have ignored them but his conscience would not have allowed such a decision. Despite blindfolding the soldiers on the way back to his base, they still figure out his location when he releases them (again blindfolded)  and soon they return with heavy reinforcements. From then on he is forced to work with the military group but interestingly enough, he outranks all of the soldiers, which puts him in command of them, once he reveals his true identity.
This book concentrates far more on military procedures than book one, and J.L. Bourne's real life status as a naval officer comes to the front as he draws on his own experiences.
The format of the book is identical to Day by Day Armageddon - a daily journal written by the unnamed navy pilot. With the introduction of the military I expected the book to take a different turn to book one but that's not really so. The bulk of the novel deals with the hero going on a reconnaisance mission that goes badly wrong when he is being flown by a helicopter. The helicopter crashes and he is the only survivor. How he gets back to base takes up a good chunk of the novel. We learn of his mood swings, his despair at being alone and injured, constantly being alert enough to stay one step ahead of the zombie threat. No matter where he goes, zombies are never far away. His survival skills are tested to the limit. The longer he remained out there the more I doubted if he'd ever get back home. He really does suffer, both mentally and physically.
All in all, this is a fascinating read. I was glad I was able to read both books back to back because after book one I was desperately keen to know what happens next. I mentioned the zombie horde earlier on and they are truly frightening. The book ends with one such horde (there are more as satellites are able to track their movement) attacking the survivors' base. At this point the survivors can call upon military back up. The firepower unleashed upon the horde is phenomenal (A10 gunships were my personal favourite)... but it hardly makes a difference at all! Such is the mass of zombies gathered together. Now that's scary!
Criticisms? I'm going to ignore the typos and bad grammar again, because I think they are deliberate. There were a few ocassions when I thought the narrator was incredibly lucky but I guess a hero needs a slice or two of luck to survive. To be honest, I enjoyed book two more than book one, which given how much I liked book one is very high praise.
Beyond Exile is published by Permuted Press and retails for £8.99 but as I said last time, shop around and you'll find cheaper copies available. I was not sure if there was going to be a book three in this series but one of my followers mentioned that there would be, although possibly in a different format. I hope it happens as I'd be very keen to read it. If you haven't bought either of this novels, I'd recommend buying them both together and doing what I did, read them back to back.

12 comments:

  1. Great review Bryan. His work has certainly earned its place on the book shelves of Zombiephiles.

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  2. I agree, great review. I can always tell when a book is really good when I am "keen to know what happens next". That sums it up perfectly for me.

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  3. @Adam. I must admit to being very impressed by Mr. Bourne's two novels. He has a good grasp of the zombie genre and you can tell he is a fan of zombies.

    @Luckyjoe. I couldn't agree more, my friend!

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  4. Another great sounding book that I'm putting on my list to pick up. I've only had one trip into Zombie novels, and that was with Brian Keene's "The Rising" which was not very good, in my opinion. I think I'll try these ones sooon, once I finish with my current read. Thanks for posting.

    As well, I've recently started an ATZ preperation blog that I'd be honoured if you would add to your links. Or at least check it out, as I appreciate all comments.

    Adam
    http://adam-mph.blogspot.com/

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  5. I have just got this on audiobook. I haven't read the first yet.

    Do you think it will be ok standalone?

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  6. @Adam. I didn't think too much of "The Rising" by Brian Keene either, nor its sequels. These two novels are much better and I'm pretty certain you'll enjoy them a lot more.

    As for your new blog, many congratulations on starting out. I wish you all the best. I'm only too happy to add you to my blog list. I've joined your ranks of followers and left a couple of comments on your review posts. I've had a good read through your posts and you're off to a good start. Post regularly and you won't go wrong. If there's any help or advice you want, don't be afraid to ask.

    @Brummie. It can be read (listened to) as a standalone novel but to be honest, you're doing yourself a disservice. I would heartily recommend getting hold of "Day by Day Armageddon" before moving on to "Beyond Exile."

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  7. Damn you Vampifan, two more books to add to my ever increasing must have bbok list.

    Seriously though two great reviews, your enthusiasm for the author shines through. The style of it being a journal also tweaks my interest, as it'll read less like a novel and more like peaking over someone's shoulder at their private thoughts. One of the reasons why I liked World War Z so much was the style it was written in.

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  8. @Zabadak. Should I be sorry for adding to your list of must-have books, Joe? Nah, I don't think so, not when they're this good. These certainly don't read like a normal novel and I do like your analogy of "peaking over someone's shoulder at their private thoughts." Very true. I agree with you about "World War Z" - it worked well because of the style it was written in.

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  9. LOL, great sounding book, I will attempt to aquire them in audiobook format.....yay for lazy reading!

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  10. @The Extraordinarii. I love your comment "Yay for lazy reading!"

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  11. Good man Vamp, good review but now I need to buy both of them:P

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  12. @Fran. Yep, my friend, gotta read them both!

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