There are only so many things that can be done with the zombie concept as we know it. In Deck Z, you’ll find the typical zombie-plague tropes in play (even though I found the connection to a strain of the Bubonic Plague grounded it a bit better in reality), so if you’re looking for something more original in that department, this story probably isn’t for you. However, if you don’t mind that and you like fast-moving action adventure tales set against a historical backdrop, then pick this one up.
There aren’t many super-gory moments in this novel, but each of those is so cleanly-rendered it’s toe-curling. There is one paragraph in particular to which I vocally reacted. I wish all writers of gore knew how to do it as well.
For Titanic buffs there is good news, as therein is where the novel excels: the details of what we know happened on the ship’s maiden voyage and during the disaster—the first use of S.O.S., Ismay’s cowardly escape, and the musicians playing to the very end among them—are warped to fit this revisionist version seamlessly (we buy, for example, that the real reason the ship was steaming toward New York at excessive speed is because of the zombie threat). This Titanic lover had a ball waiting to see when next history and legend would be expertly manipulated to fit the plot.
If you like atmospheric, enigmatic slower burns, then Deck Z probably won’t meet your expectations. This book is plot-driven, written in the style of those great 1970s action-adventure tales, like The Word, Ghost Boat, The Island, and others. There are thuds at the end of every chapter, and we are given just enough about the characters to get us through the story—only what we need to know. I had reached the end of the ride before I knew it.
This novel didn’t get a five due to poor editing. First, the book is set in past-tense, and yet flashback scenes are not written in the pluperfect. This marred the immersion—I found myself wielding a red pen for most of the read. Second, there were a couple of spots in which both a question mark and an exclamation point were used at the end of dialogue, like this: “done!?” In my experience, double punctuation is a mistake made by the less experienced. Given today’s competitive climate, I was surprised to find these errors in something issued from a large publishing house. In the future, if I come across another Chronicle Book title I’m interested in, I will spend more time thumbing through to check for better grammar before I buy it.
Still, I’d recommend Deck Z if you’re looking for a light, fun read, you enjoy action-adventure and zombies, and/or you’re a Titanic aficionado. I liked it enough that it’ll go on my “books I’d buy for gifts” list. I just might have to fix all the grammar errors with my red pen first.