I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Positive by David Wellington
Published by Harper Voyager on April 21st 2015
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Zombies
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In the bestselling vein of Guillermo Del Toro and Justin Cronin, the acclaimed author of Chimera and The Hydra Protocol delivers his spectacular breakout novel—an entertaining page-turning zombie epic that is sure to become a classic.
Anyone can be positive . . .
The tattooed plus sign on Finnegan's hand marks him as a Positive. At any time, the zombie virus could explode in his body, turning him from a rational human into a ravenous monster. His only chance of a normal life is to survive the last two years of the potential incubation period. If he reaches his twenty-first birthday without an incident, he'll be cleared.
Until then, Finn must go to a special facility for positives, segregated from society to keep the healthy population safe. But when the military caravan transporting him is attacked, Finn becomes separated. To make it to safety, he must embark on a perilous cross-country journey across an America transformed—a dark and dangerous land populated with heroes, villains, madmen, and hordes of zombies. And though the zombies are everywhere, Finn discovers that the real danger may be his fellow humans.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome meets World War Z and I Am Legend in this thrilling tale that has it all: a compelling story, great characters, and explosive action, making Positive the ultimate zombie novel of our time.
‘It grows in the dark part of your head like a fungus. All the while eating holes in your brain until it’s a sponge full of virus […] That was what had happened to my mom. For twenty years, ever since the crisis, she’d been dying inside. A little more every day.
And maybe it had been happening to me, too.’
Finn has lived within the sheltered gates since he was born. The world outside is a complete mystery, yet the stories he’s heard has made him thankful for his safe and sheltered life. The safety is shattered when his mother spontaneously turns and he’s forced out into the mysterious world with a new tattoo; a plus sign on the top of his sign marking him as possibly infected. His only hope is to get to the military camp in Ohio where he can live out his final two years of incubation before he can be accepted back into safety. But two years is a very long time for someone who doesn’t know how the world truly is.
The way an author handles the scientific aspects of a post-apocalyptic novel is key. Some authors handle it head on and explain in minute detail and others leave their characters in the dark and simply focus on the survival side of living in the new world. Both work, but if you’re going to attempt to explain the scientific side of things, it best make sense. In this world, it’s been twenty years since the initial outbreak and no one has seen a zombie in fifteen years. Once infected with the zombie virus, the incubation period is apparently anything from twenty seconds to twenty years. So, you get bit, you might be good only for the next hour or you could be fine for the next twenty years, but nobody knows for sure. Since the outbreak happened twenty years ago, I’m not sure exactly how they’ve been able to successfully test that theory. It also isn’t explained how the outbreak happened to begin with, so the science of Positive was definitely lacking for me. One specific line about killing a zombie by stabbing him in the liver also had me baffled. Come on! Zombies don’t give a shit about their livers.
Also lacking, was the character development. Our narrator, Finn, is an extremely naive individual when we’re first introduced. Positive acts as his coming-of-age story in a world falling apart at the seams. He’s forced to figure out quickly how to survive and how to adapt his mind to the concept of how things truly work outside of the gates of New York City. In that regards, this story reminded me a lot of Ashfall with our young, male narrator forced to adapt to the new world around him. Obviously, all that was missing were the zombies. Similarly was the fact that both stories focused on the part where humans turn into a whole other type of monster as well. The issue with Finn was how quickly he managed to shed himself of his naivety. It could be said that the things he was forced to experience could speed along that process but it just didn’t feel like genuine progression.
The portrayal of female characters was pretty appalling as well. Positive has two main female characters for the most part; one played the role of enemy and the other was meek and submissive (there was one strong female that made a brief appearance but it wasn’t enough to satisfy me in regards to the way the rest of the females were portrayed). The submissive one, well, I suppose it could be argued that she was strong in her own way and got Finn and the rest of their party out of a few sticky situations. It could also be argued that being a victim of abuse led her to this mind frame and that it couldn’t be helped but… View Spoiler »even when she turned on her ‘master’ and I was praising her strength for finally standing up to the abuse, she instead turns around to the next male in the room and basically accepts him as her new master without any hesitation. I mean, serious? Come on. I understand the survival instinct to ally yourself with a strong individual but Finn couldn’t save his own ass let alone everyone else. « Hide Spoiler Was it really so much to ask that we couldn’t get one strong female main character in this giant 450-page story?
Unfortunately, even setting aside the issues I personally had with Positive, what really lessened my enjoyment of this story was the fact that I have read so many stories in this same genre that were simply so much better. Positive didn’t manage to bring anything new to the genre and didn’t have much in the way of originality, but newcomers to post-apocalyptic stories will likely find more enjoyment than I did.