As I received The Rising from the narrator for review consideration, let me first address his performance. Joe Hempel did a solid job with the multiple human characters that Brian Keene writes within The Rising. It was easy to differentiate them by sound alone and the slight accents that he gave to each of them. (I will say that Martin’s voice was a bit wobbly in the beginning, but he soon finds his rhythm with it.) The zombies all sounded the same, but that really wasn’t an issue for me. While Hempel doesn’t quite have the range of some of the other more well-known narrators, he still brings a dependable, easy-to-listen-to performance to the table.
With that handled, let’s address the book itself.
The Rising is a competently written tale of a man’s journey to get to his son after the zombie apocalypse. Jim is swiftly joined by a preacher, and later on by a woman named Frankie. It is well-paced, filled with action, and has occasional moments of levity (mostly dark humor) that made me snicker. Zombie goldfish, anyone? The book starts fairly shortly after the apocalypse has happened, and ends on a ridiculously infuriating cliff-hanger that me yelling at the author. (Having previously read the mass market edition before, I’m not sure how I didn’t remember this cliffhanger. Maybe I deliberately blocked it out of my mind.) Technically, we do get a full mini story-arc in the book, so I can’t gripe too much, but… but… ARGH!
Jim is… Jim. We’re given a bit of background on him, but the key points are that he loves his son and he’s going to get to him come – pardon the pun – Hell or high water. Martin, the preacher, is fairly inconsequential and mainly serves to provide support for Jim. I did appreciate that he never tried to force his faith down Jim’s throat. Frankie is an African American heroin-addict who had an absolutely horrible thing happen to her at exactly the wrong time. She goes through hell on several levels during the book, and I felt sorry for her even as I respected her transformation into someone who stands up for herself and for others. I know this was the author’s preferred edition, and therefore it contains more development to the characters supposedly, but I do still feel like Frankie was gypped. Keene had an opportunity to truly develop an interesting, sympathetic character in Frankie and he just fell short on it.
The Rising is a book with a very unique twist on the zombie apocalypse, and the start of a series that is utterly disturbing, but it is not a shining example of perfection in writing. The Rising does have issues; but, I don’t have as many issues with it as I know other people do. This is partly because, I think, of how sensitive I am to certain issues in comparison to others. Everyone has things that will get under their skin a little bit quicker. For me, the degradation that one of the characters is forced to undergo doesn’t bother me as much as the repeated use of dead children. I actually ended up admiring the strength of the character, even as I sighed at some of the clichés. But the dead kids…
The first time we see a dead baby in The Rising, it was just weird enough that I was able to kind of laugh it off. The second occurrence is intimately connected with one of the characters, and while the repeated references to it (like the dream sequence) did bother me, I could understand why the character kept thinking about it. So, again, I was able to ‘forgive’ it. However, there are circumstances in The Rising where the dead children are an image clearly used for shock factor, and those annoyed the bejesus out of me. But again, that is one of my triggers, and it might not bother other people at all.
Overall, The Rising was an enjoyable listening experience. I can’t say that I enjoyed it quite as much as I did the first time I read it, because growing up sucks and life happens and sometimes you just can’t read with the innocence you once did. However, I look forward to continuing to renew my acquaintance with Brian Keene’s work. He is undoubtedly a very talented author and there are scenes from his various books that I think about years later and just shudder.
Disclaimer: In case it wasn’t obviously from the first line in the first paragraph – I received a copy of this book from the narrator for review consideration.