Z Plan : Blood on the Sand by Mikhail Lerma
Cale was sent to Iraq with the usual thoughts any Soldier going to war might have; being lonely away from his family, not wanting to take another human’s life, and above all, the fear of never returning home. Although well trained, nothing could have prepared him for the horror he was about to face.
Cale never thought the thing that could keep him from ever seeing his wife and daughter again would be a zombie apocalypse. As he and a handful of fellow Soldiers escape their base after a massive zombie attack, becoming deserters in order to survive, he begins the long and unexpected journey home through the harsh terrain of the desert; a barren landscape now swarming with not only undead cannibals, but also the enemy he was originally sent to fight.
The newly formed group plans to travel west, find a boat and maybe, with a bit of luck, make it back to America. Cale is tested beyond his imagination and brought to the brink of insanity as he loses friends while fighting the flesh eating masses. He risks his life for weeks, focused on holding his wife and daughter in his arms again. It seems all hope is lost when he finds himself alone and adrift at sea … but is hope really lost?
With the success of television shows like The Walking Dead and movies like World War Z, there has been a glut of zombie fiction over the last couple of years. In all honesty, some of it is pretty bad, very derivative and going over old ground, but there is also a heck of a lot of it that is damned good. I’m glad to report that Z Plan: Blood on the Sand falls squarely into the latter category. When I read zombie fiction, I’m looking for a few key elements. There has to be an ever-growing sense of dread; a feeling of claustrophobia, of nearly complete helplessness. Characters have to face off against seemingly insurmountable odds but, and this is a big one, steadfastly refuse to give up. I need just a little glimmer of hope, just to keep things interesting. If an author successfully blends all these elements together then I don’t think that they can go far wrong.
I like this interpretation of the classic zombie mythology. Lerma has served in the armed forces and his knowledge of military procedures, techniques, weapons and tools really gives the story an authentic air. Cale is a grunt, on the other side of the planet from his loved ones. When the world goes to hell, you might think that the military would be best placed to survive. Turns out they’re just as likely to be victims as the rest of us.
Cale’s journey is as much about the internal terrors he has to face as the external. He has just one goal in life – return to his family. As he travels many miles, he is eyewitness to the world coming apart at the seams. Society has collapsed swiftly, and horror is heaped upon horror. I think its fair comment to say that things get pretty bleak. Watching a character exist on a constant knife-edge is engrossing stuff. Cale’s grim determination refuses to let him quit. It keeps him moving forward and helps him to power through every obstacle he faces. Cale will not let anything, dead or alive, stand between him and his ultimate destination.
Regular readers of the site will know that I tend to have a soundtrack on pretty heavy rotation whenever I am reading a book. I like a bit of atmospheric noise to help set the scene. For Z Plan: Blood on the Sand I heartily recommend the Dead Island soundtrack by Pawel Blaszczack. I can’t think of a better accompaniment. It fits well with the narrative tone. Makes sense that the soundtrack to a zombie survival horror console game fits perfectly with zombie survival horror fiction.
The one thing I did notice is that this story feels a little like the beginning of a larger tale. I’ve had a bit of rummage on the Internet and it appears there is a sequel already available. Z Plan is perfectly serviceable as a standalone read, but I was pleased to discover that there is another book that continues Cale’s long, bloody journey home.
Z Plan: Blood on the Sand is published by Permuted Press and is available now. If you’re a fan of everyone’s favourite undead shufflers then I suggest you give it a try. This is solidly entertaining zombie fiction.