Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Domain of the Dead/Remains of the Dead by Iain McKinnon

I've never reviewed two books at once before but in this instance the decision to is fully justified. Once again, we're in zombie apocalypse territory. This time the story is set three years after the outbreak began. Domain of the Dead, which is the first in this mini-series, opens with a small group of survivors holed up in a large food warehouse, where they have remained throughout the apocalypse. They are surrounded by a vast horde of flesh-eating zombies and they have almost run out of food. The heroine of the novel, Sarah, is contemplating suicide, when she hears an unfamiliar sound. A helicopter has appeared and landed in their city, not far away from their location. She persuades the others in her party that their best hope of salvation is to make contact with the occupants of the helicopter. As they fight their way through the zombie horde some of them don't make it. Those that do find a small team of five military personnel. The soldiers are friendly and offer to help transport the survivors away from the zombie-infested city. But there is one big problem - the helicopter has a very limited passenger capacity and will only hold four passengers - five if a child sits on the lap of an adult. One of the soldiers, Bates, refuses to give up his seat. Another soldier, Angel, a female sniper was wounded and she had to return for medical attention. That left two seats. Sarah, her friend Nathan and young child, Jennifer are chosen to ride in the chopper.
It takes them to a research ship miles out at sea. The ship's doctor gives them a thorough examination and explains what has been going on in the world during the past three years. Humanity is surviving but the zombies vastly outnumber the living. They are introduced to the ship's captain and to the chief scientist, Cutler, who don't see eye to eye. Here we have a situation inspired by Romero's film Day of the Dead with the captain and scientist at loggerheads. Heck, the captain even calls the scientist "Dr. Frankenstein" just as Captain Rhodes did with Professor Logan in Day of the Dead.
On that very day when the newcomers arrive, Cutler makes a scientific breakthrough in finding a cure for the zombie disease. However, it proves to be anything but and when he injects himself with it, he soon turns into a zombie. In no time at all the ship is overrun with zombies, leaving just Sarah, Nathan, Jennifer and the two soldiers from the helicopter, Bates and Angel to fend for themselves in a desperate situation.
The sequel, Remains of the Dead, tells the story of the two soldiers, Lieutenant Cahz and Cannon the machine gunner, who were left behind with survivors Ryan, Elspeth and a baby girl. Another survivor, Ali, is separated from them but he manages to survive on his own. The two groups find refuge in abandoned buildings not far from each other. Cahz knows that the helicopter will return for them but that it will take many hours for it to reach the ship, get refuelled and return. Elspeth gave up her place on the helicopter because she was bitten whilst fleeing from the warehouse. She knows she'll die soon, so that is why she chose to stay behind.
Just as Ali and the others make contact, Cahz's group is forced to flee when their hideout is threatened by a neighbouring fire. Cahz leads Cannon, Ryan and the baby out of the city towards the coast in the hope of contacting the helicopter as it flies in, or if they miss it, when it flies back out. Things do not go well for either group but to say anymore will be to give away too much of the plot.
I really wanted to like these novels, as they had both garnered many positive reviews on Amazon, which is where I bought them. But sadly, I have to say, I was very disappointed with them. Once again, both books are blighted with numerous spelling mistakes, bad grammar and poor layout with sentences breaking up in the middle of a line before continuing on the next line. Whoever edited and proofread these books did a very poor job of it!
Secondly, I found the characters to be unsympathetic and I couldn't really care whether they lived or died. All of the lead characters in both books suffer.. a lot! Fair enough, in a zombie apocalypse people do suffer, but McKinnon really puts everyone through the wringer, both physically and emotionally. It just got too much for me.
Thirdly, there is a science lesson given by Doctor Robertson, Cutler's assistant, girlfiend and the person who examines Sarah, Nathan and Jennifer in the middle of the book as she tries to explain the zombie outbreak. It is long-winded and totally unnecessary. it just so happens that Sarah was a science student, so she understands most of the gobbledigook that Robertson spouts.
Fourthly, I was amazed at how quickly the infection spread on the research ship in Domain of the Dead. In no time at all a crew of about 100 are wiped out and transformed into zombies. I'm sorry, but I just couldn't buy that at all. Especially not when just under half the crew were military personnel.
Finally, is the ending of both books. I won't say much because I don't want to spoil them for you but be warned, the endings are bleak. Plus, when you read about what happens at the end of Domain of the Dead you know that there is no way that Remains of the Dead can have a happy ending. I must admit that my judgement of Remains was very much influenced by me not enjoying Domain. I suspected it would be more more of the same and it was, although if anything it is even bleaker.
As I said earlier, a lot of readers rate this series very highly, so maybe I'm in the minority for disliking them. I don't know if you've noticed, but I've added a number of page tabs to the top of my blog. One of them is for book reviews. I mark my film reviews with scores out of ten but I never rated my book reviews. Until now. If you click on the Book Reviews tab you'll see my ratings for every book I've reviewed so far. Up till now, all of my book reviews have been very favourable. Not so for this pair, however. I'll give them both a score of 4 out of 10.
They are printed by Permuted Press and cost me £10.95 each from Amazon's website. Not good value for money, I felt!

35 comments:

  1. Thanks for the heads up and honest review, if you say they're bad then they're bad, a pity as the story didn't sound too awful, the zombie apocalypse is not a fun time but fiction and TV love bleak as can be seen with the bleak and dreary Walking Dead.....

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    1. Fran, I always believe in calling a spade, a spade. I'm just telling it as I felt and much as I love zombie fiction, these two novels did nothing for me.

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  2. Ditto... I'd rather hear honest and frank. If I go and buy a book on recommendation and it turns out to be rubbish, then that also clouds my opinion of the person who recommended it. With so many independent publishers out there now, there are a lot of badly written books out there too.

    Thanks!

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    1. I totally agree with you, Arlequin. I'd rather read an honest review, warts and all, than one which sugar-coats the product.

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  3. Thanks, Vampifan. It sounds like I'll be giving these books a pass.

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    1. Given how much they cost I'd advise thinking very carefully about buying them.

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  4. Shame, they both sounded quite good at first!

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    1. In my opinion, the premise was fine but the finished article was very much lacking.

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  5. That remains of the dead cover is excellent, one of the best I've seen!

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    1. I certainly can't fault the cover, Roger. It is very striking.

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  6. I'm been burned by Permuted Press wayyyyy too many times. I think I'm done with them.

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    1. I hear you, Justin. I've had a few books from them that have been disappointing. What really narks me is just how expensive their books are.

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  7. I agree, I read the sample and wasn't impressed and I agree some of their books should not be priced so high. There is another label that charges 9.99 for a kindle book but they deliver in my opinion.

    Probably my biggest complaint about small press is charging 7.99+ for a novella which is a very short book. Sometimes only 80 pages! If you look around you can find better books for 99 cents.

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    1. In no way at all can books by Permuted Press be considered good value for money. A lot of their novels that I've read have a page count of about 200. ("Domain" runs to 180 pages and "remains" to about 220 pages. Their novels invariably cost more than a tenner. Remember, the £10.95 I paid for each of them was the discounted Amazon price. Compare that with say for example, Twilight: Breaking Dawn, which I just read last month. It ran for 700 pages and cost me just over a fiver. As my American friends would say, do the math! As you say, Roger, asking $8.00 for an 80 page novella is just a rip off!

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  8. Thanks for the review Vampifan. I always appreciate your effort to save me some cash as I've found your tastes very much jibe with my own. If I'm going to fork out for a book (or an audio book to listen too while painting) I like to know in advance if I'm going to enjoy it or not. You've never let me down yet!

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    1. I'm very glad you feel that way, Lead Legion. I, too, pay a lot of attention to other zombie fans' reviews. Word of mouth recommendations are usually reliable and likewise for criticisms. I'm even more pleased to hear that i haven't let you down yet.

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  9. Great reviews Bryan - must learn to spell corectly before hitting 'publish' :)

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    1. Thanks, Adam. To spare your blushes, I've permanently deleted your deleted post.

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  10. Very disappointed that these two turned out to be lemons, they had sounded like they had good potential in a preview I'd read.

    Although the Zombie Community tends to read on recommendation, sometimes some-one has to be first and save the rest of us cash! I really like the first cover, though still won't be buying it.

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    1. Joe, I had high hopes for both novels after reading so many positive reviews of them but sadly I just couldn't get away with them.

      I've read a fair number of novels based solely on the recommendations of others, so if my criticism of this pair saves others from wasting their money, then something positive has come out of my experience.

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  11. Hmm I missed this so guessing my Blog roll stop working..
    Thanks for the reviews I will bear that in mind

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    1. Sounds like Blogger's playing silly buggers again.

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  12. Sorry you didn't enjoy them Vampifan. You have some good points regarding price and editing. Until the mainstream press start picking up genre fiction I guess this will always be the case.
    As for the novels being bleak... yes they are :-)

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    1. Thanks for taking the time out to comment, Iain, especially as I was less than complimentary about your novels. Novels being bleak I can accept, especially those set in a zombie apocalypse. What really pisses me off is poor proofreading and editing. Now I know this has nothing to do with the author. Once you deliver the finished manuscript it is up to the publishing house to properly edit and proofread it. Sadly, far too many zombie novels that I've read recently have been badly let down in this department. It is not fair on the author and it is not fair on the reader.

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    2. To give my editor his due I'm a difficult author to work with. I' m dyslexic and I can assure you 99% of the errors I made have been weeded out.
      But excuses aside the main thing I want a reader to get from my novels is enjoyment. I appreciate that a spelling mistake or a type setting issue can pull a reader out of the story and that's the last thing I want.
      I hope you noticed a considerable improvement from Domain to Remains as I have improved my coping strategies for my dyslexia.
      Hopefully my next offer will be better received... but I can't guarantee a happy ending :-)

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    3. I never knew that, Iain, and I admire you for admitting you are dyslexic. I have studied proofreading, which is why spelling and grammar mistakes stand out like a sore thumb to me. Yes, to be honest, they did cloud my judgement in my overall assessment of your novels and I now realise that is unfair on you so if I have caused offence, I do apologise.
      If your next novel has anything to do with the undead I will buy it but I will read it with a better ubderstanding of how you operate. I wish you all the best for the future.

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    4. Don't apologise. Its how you felt about the experience. You were honest but most of all you weren't malicious or worst still inarticulate.
      Those are the reviews I hate "This book was crap 0 stars".
      I appreciate not everyone will like my style of writing but that's just how things are.

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    5. That's very kind of you to say, Iain and I appreciate that. If i criticise something I always give a reason for why I don't like it. I totally agree with you that mindless criticism serves no purpose whatsoever.

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    6. Good news. Permuted are having a sale on e-books. Domain of the Dead has been reduced to $0.99 in the US and £0.77 in the UK.
      Not a big price to find out if it's any good.

      US:
      http://www.amazon.com/Domain-of-the-Dead-ebook/dp/B003V1WJ2W/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&m=A7B2F8DUJ88VZ

      UK:
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Domain-of-the-Dead-ebook/dp/B003V1WJ2W/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1

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    7. Damn, but they're good prices!

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    8. e-books ftw.I am now sorely tempted £0.77p !

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    9. I don't blame you, Joe! For that price it's practically a give away.

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  13. £0.77 - bargain, and kudos to Iain for joining in the discussion.

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  14. Guys I have a Sci-Fi out From the Torment of Dreams. It's free to down load from Smashwords.com using voucher code HW45W for this week only. Enjoy :-)

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