Sunday, 21 August 2011

Day by Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne

There is no better advertising for any product than word of mouth recommendation.When I posted my last book review (for Deadline by Mira Grant), Brother Joseph, one of my followers mentioned that he'd just finished listening to the audio book of Day by Day Armageddon by J.L. Bourne and that he'd thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a book that I had been considering buying for quite some time but I kept putting it on the back burner. Brother Joseph's recommendation was enough of a spur to make me buy the novel. I had to buy the novel as I'm not a big fan of audio books. So, to cut to the chase, I'm mighty glad that I did take the plunge and buy it. It ranks amongst the best zombie novels that I have read.
The novel is written as the journal of one man as he struggles to survive in a world overrun by flesh-eating zombies. The story begins on 1st of January (year not revealed) as the narrator makes a New Year's resolution to chronicle his life in a journal. We never do learn the name of the narrator but we do know that he is an officer in the U.S. Navy, serving as an aircraft pilot. This is worth pointing out right from the start, because the actual author, J.L. Bourne is on active duty as a commissioned U.S. Navy officer. It rather begs the question, is J.L. the actual narrator in his imaginary apocalyptic world? I don't know, but his knowledge of all things military gives the book a greater level of realism when he mentions guns, aircraft and other military hardware. In short, the guy knows what he's talking about, and I respect that.
As the story begins, TV and radio broadcasters make increasingly frequent reports about some disease originating from China that is spreading globally. As the days pass it becomes obvious that this is no normal bug that is being spread. People panic and stockpile food and other supplies. The narrator, with access to military broadcasts realises that things are going downhill far too fast and he too stockpiles his home, as well as making it secure from "looters". Reports of cannibalism and the rising dead are dismissed as rumour at first but as the zombie plague spreads the truth dawns and in no time at all we are plunged into the all too familiar zombie apocalypse setting.
The narrator receives a call to report to his unit based nearby in Houston, Texas. He makes the decision to ignore the order and stay at home - a decision that is later proved to be the most sensible one. He starts out alone but soon acquires the company of a friendly neighbour, John, and his dog, Annabelle. They initially decide to stay in Houston but that plan is abandoned when the First Lady announces on TV that numerous U.S. cities will be targetted for nuclear destruction to stem the rising tide of zombies. Houston is one of the cities on the list. So they leave the city and begin to trek across America, picking up more survivors on their travels.
I'll say no more about what happens but I found this a gripping novel of survivalism and humanity. The narrator is well equipped to survive in this harsh, unrelenting environment. He'd certainly start out as a Rep:5 Military veteran if this was an ATZ campaign. But, unlike the action heroes of Hollywood, he does suffer if he gets injured. Wounds take time to heal. There is no such thing as overnight recovery here. Things like dehydration affects the body adversely and he is aware of this.
Pleasingly, there is plenty of zombie action in here to satisfy any fan. The zombies in this novel are the slow-moving kind we are all too aware of from George A. Romero's films. However, after the bombs are dropped, a new breed appears. These are faster and more intelligent than the normal zeds. Have they become mutated by the radiation of the nukes? The answer is a rather vague, possibly.
I've read a few criticisms of the novel claiming that we don't learn enough about the narrator's past. Sorry, but this is just not true. It's all there in the journal if you read it properly. It's just not all in one convenient chapter. You have to probe and search the text to find out who he is and why he is the way he is, but believe me, the info is there. The only thing we don't learn about the narrator is his name and quite frankly, I can live with that.
Another criticism I've read about is that the novel is full of typos and clumsy grammar but I'm not sure if that really is a valid criticism. After all, this is the journal of a naval officer, not an academic, written at times in very stressful and dangerous situations. How good would your spelling and grammar be if you were writing your journal under the light of the moon whilst surrounded outside by a horde of zombies who want nothing more than to rip you to shreds? If this was an ordinary novel then, fair enough, it has been badly proofread. As someone who has studied proofreading, spelling mistakes do jump out at me. But, as I said, this is not a novel, per se, it's a hand written account, and for that reason, I can accept the typos and bad grammar. Quite frankly, it adds realism.
One thing that fans of the novel will appreciate is that the author signs off with an acknowledgement - there will be a sequel! It's called Beyond Exile and I'll review it next time. Day by Day Armageddon is printed by Permuted Press and retails for £8.99. I recommend looking around on the Internet for much cheaper copies. Try Amazon (£5.57) or The Zombie Shop (£7.99).


  1. I'll second your recommendation Vampifan. I've read both books and thoroughly enjoyed them. Some of the attraction is that while reading, part of my brain is going, "Hmmm...that's a pretty cool scene. I wonder if I could put an ATZ scenario that models it and then play it out."

    Plus I like the fact that the zombies are Romero-type slow ones (for the most part). I'm an old fart and like my zombies to be the classic old-school types.

    Your review renewed my interest in the book. I think I'm going to go pull it off the shelf and enjoy it again.

  2. @ConfusedDad. Since becoming such a big fan of ATZ, I find that I, too, am thinking how to recreate a scene inan ATZ scenario and what figures to use. It must be a gaming thing!
    I also much prefer the slow-moving zombies. Fortunately, the faster ones hardly appear at all in this novel.
    I'm glad to hear that my review has rekindled your interest in the novel. Job done, I'd say!

  3. J.L. is a great guy. Have talked to him a couple times via the Zombie Squad forums his handle there is Raptorman. Both him and Z.A. Recht have great books out, unfortunately Zach passed on in Dec 2009, with a third book in his Morningstar Saga unfinished, though there was talk of one of his friends (who iirc is also an author) trying to finish it and release if for all of Zach's fans.

  4. @Doug. Thanks for that info. Very sorry to hear about Z.A. Recht. I haven't read any of his books but it is always sad to hear of the passing of anyone gifted, like an author.

  5. Thanks for the recommendation - I found a copy of the audio book (I listen to audio books at work as I work by myself most of the time, plus I find listening to them helps keep the 'black dog' at bay), and I found a copy of the 2nd book in the series too :-D

  6. @Shelldrake. As I mentioned in the review, Brother Joseph liked the audio book as well. They're not for me but nevertheless, I hope you enjoy your listening experience.

  7. Great review Vampifan. I read this book last year and really enjoyed it. It ramps up the tension and is essential reading for any Zombie apocalypse fan. Still need to read the sequel, quite fancy getting it from the Zombie shop and support a small business at the same time.

  8. I've been meaning to pick this up for a while. Tell me, V, did you ever track down a copy of Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection. Field Notes by dr Robert Twombly?

    It's also in a journal photgraph punctuated by lovely journal-style artwork and is written from the point of view of a Biologist attempting to survive an outbreak caused by.... well, from an unusual source shall we say.

  9. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll look out for the book.
    I wonder if the spelling and grammar were deliberate, just to add some authenticity to the journal, like you said, if (and it would be a very big if), you were to write a journal in that situation, you'd probably not be too bothered with spelling and grammar.

  10. He's also writing a third in the series. That one will diverge from the journal format as he's building some other, really interesting, characters, and wants to show their perspectives.
    Definitely a good book to have on hand for zombie stuff. You might also want to look for "The Rise" as another zombie apocalypse novel. It too was written online before being published (DbDA was as well) and even follows the blog/journal approach. It's a different take on the subject.

  11. Realism is never a bad thing and written by someone who has a fair idea what he's talking about and basically what he would do in the situation of a zombie apocalypse. Godd review again sir.

  12. @PhilH. I bought my copy from the Zombie Shop for precisely that reason.

    @Dangerous Brian. That's not a book I've read. I guess I'll add it to my shopping list.

    @Ray. That was my thinking as well. I wonder if all the typos were deliberately kept in to make the book more authentic.

    @Varangian. I wasn't sure if there was going to be a third novel but if there is I'll be very interested in it. Good news! Again, I haven't read The Rise. That, too, is going on my shopping list.

    Many thanks for the book recommendations. I do take note of what you like and try to buy them for myself.

  13. @Fran. Sorry, I missed your comment. You posted whilst I was answering the previous comments. I totally agree that when you know your subject you can write with far greater authority. That's why I so admire crime writers like Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwall, both experts in their fields.

  14. The second book is even better Vampi; a bit more action, and a lot of creepy scenes. There is an audio book for that too. I know you don't do 'em but for me it is great to have these AD's to listen to while I sculpt...

  15. Its been a while since I picked up a novel, but your review certainly helps to push me in that direction, sounds like a great read.

  16. Great review Brian. Thank you. Your comments on this mirror my thoughts on Z. A Recht's work. It almost reads like a gaming session, so perfect fodder for scenario ideas.

  17. Thanks for the review. This sounds like a very good book.

  18. Thanks for posting thei VtG - I'll add them to my list!

  19. I haven't read many zombie novels myself, but this one really sounds worth picking up. Thanks for the review, Bryan.

  20. @Brother Joseph. Once again, thanks for recommending this book to me. I have read Beyond Exile and I'll review it next time. Thanks for explaining what AD means. I'd never have guessed!

    @The Extraordinarii. I don't think you'll be disappointed with this one.

    @Zombie Ad. So true! Let's be honest, we're all looking for inspiration for our zombie games.

    @Luckyjoe. It was a pleasure typing in this review and I hope you do seek out a copy.

    @Colin. As I said above. I went on word of mouth recommendation and I certainly did not regret it.

  21. Glad to see you are reviewing some of the must read zombie books, Bryan. This one is definitely one of my favorites. There are a lot of rumors that Bourne is really a James Bond type in the real world sense at least. In other words hes pretty smart.

    A similar and very interesting read is Living with the dead. It is very similar and is on the web as a blog written from a survivors POV but make sure you start at the beginning or buy the compilations on amazon.

    I believe one of Mr. Rechts relatives is going to finish the 3rd book.