Half horror, half fantasy and totally preposterous, Wellington's conclusion to his apocalyptic zombie trilogy (after Monster Islandand Monster Nation) follows the efforts of teenage Sarah, one of Earth's few surviving humans after a global epidemic has turned most people into flesh-eating zombies, to rescue her former protector, Ayaan, from his zombie captors. Her quest brings her from the coast of Egypt to the shore of New York's Governors Island, and sets up the long-anticipated mortal-monster showdown with the Tsarevich, a zombie master whose evil genius and thirst for world domination have generated the series' most outrageously ghoulish contrivances. Fans will relish the monster mash finale, in which a Welsh sorcerer, a horde of animated mummies and a decomposing zombie army engage in a pyrotechnic firefight complete with heavy artillery. (Aug.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Monster Planet: A Zombie Novelby David Wellington
Surviving the end of the world was the easy part? It's twelve years since the dead came back. Ravening, mindless zombies have devoured almost every living thing on the planet. The few, scattered survivors are surviving on canned goods and a refusal to give in and die. They are lead by Ayaan, a former child soldier turned brilliant strategist. She's… See more details below
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Surviving the end of the world was the easy part? It's twelve years since the dead came back. Ravening, mindless zombies have devoured almost every living thing on the planet. The few, scattered survivors are surviving on canned goods and a refusal to give in and die. They are lead by Ayaan, a former child soldier turned brilliant strategist. She's twenty-eight years old, in a world where the average life expectancy is twenty-five. Together with her adopted ward Sarah, who has the psychic ability to see the life-force of the undead, she's gathered a few hundred survivors in Africa and given them safety, something to eat, and the possibility of a future. It would be a lot easier if the zombies weren't so well organized. Out of the east a dead prince has risen. The Tsarevich, the most powerful lich the world has yet seen, is able to command his fellow zombies and has crafted them into an unstoppable army. He has swept across Russia and eastern Europe, hunting down every survivor he can find. He's about to come down on Ayaan and her desert oasis like a tidal wave of death and horror. Yet quickly enough Ayaan realizes he's not just out for her destruction. He has something else in mind, a goal that will take him--and her--across oceans, all the way back to Colorado where the first zombies rose from the grave. He's going back to the Source and when he reaches it, no one will ever be safe again. The fate of all life on the planet is up for grabs, and if Ayaan and Sarah can't stop him there will be no more second chances?
Wellington's first zombie novel, Monster Island, brought a new idea to the genre. If a person's brain remains oxygenated as he or she dies, that person will come back as a zombie but with full human intelligence and the power to control other ghouls. In the third installment (following last year's Monster Nation), these self-aware zombies are given a name-lich-and a host of new powers, like making plants and fungi grow in great profusion or turning ghouls into high-speed killing machines. Most of these überzombies have joined under the banner of the Tsarevich, a shadowy character with plans unknown. Readers see this world in parallel narratives by Somali soldier Ayaan and her protégée, Sarah. Wellington seems to have written each installment of the trilogy in a different style, and this concluding book is almost like a spy novel. There are ghosts moving behind the scenes, lich double agents, and appearances by Islandcharacters thought long dead. This makes for a confusing narrative, far from Island's straightforward, fight-the-monsters plot line. Recommended for larger horror collections.
Karl G. Siewert
Read an Excerpt
A Zombie Novel
By David Wellington
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2005 David Wellington
All rights reserved.
Ayaan shoved the helicopter's cargo loading door open with one booted foot and dry desert air rushed into the body of the helicopter. The aircraft wobbled and soldiers grabbed for stanchions and nylon loops to steady themselves, but Ayaan just shifted her footing. The warrior stuck her head out into the blue sky, the graying ringlets of her hair bouncing in the wind. Her face wrinkled as she squinted at the burning sands. There were people down there—alive or dead, she couldn't tell—and they were advancing in the direction of her encampment. For once this was no false alarm. "Get me a close approach," she shouted.
From his position at the controls Osman didn't turn to answer but the crew all heard him over their radio headsets. "Of course, girl. How close would you like? Do you want to smell them?"
Ayaan ignored him, instead turning to Sarah. She gave the younger woman a warm smile and beckoned her to come over. "Don't worry," she said, "I won't let you fall out."
Sarah moved to the open door of the Mi-8 and leaned out over the fuel pods. She needed to get a better look at the army below them, without the interference of the copter's fuselage between her and the mob. Fifty feet below grey arms strained toward the helicopter as if they could grab it and pull it down from the sky. The dead had lousy depth perception.
"I need an estimate of their strength," Ayaan demanded. "Are they fresh?"
Sarah studied the crowd as Osman slewed the copter around in a wide turn over them. This army had come out of nowhere. The dead rarely announced their movements but a group this size required some kind of coordination. Mindless ghouls didn't work together unless some strong will was directing them. What they had come for was a mystery. What Sarah did know was that Ayaan wouldn't allow it. This little stretch of the coastline of Egypt was her nation, maybe the last nation of the living left on Earth. She wasn't about to let the dead take it for themselves. Ayaan had always prophesied that something like this would happen. For years they had drilled for exactly this kind of attack and finally, inevitably, it had come. They had scrambled the copter the moment the first reports of movement on the perimeter had come in.
Now Ayaan wanted Sarah's opinion about how to proceed. Sarah was younger, just out of her teens, so she had better eyes. She also had other senses that Ayaan lacked.
Trying to ignore the howling of the wind outside of the helicopter, the glare of the sun on the sand, Sarah pulled the hood of her sweatshirt up to cover her hair. She focused her attention on the parts of her that could sense death, just as she'd been taught. The hair on the back of her neck and on her forearms. The sensitive skin behind her ears.
She closed her eyes, but she kept looking.
What she saw startled her. The ground below teemed with purplish energy, dark splotches where the dead smoldered cold and hungry. But between those shadows burned beacons of golden light, stronger, more vital—alive. Impossible. The dead and the living couldn't work in close proximity. The dead existed only to devour life. Still. She saw what she saw. Even as she attempted to process what that meant she saw one of the golden shapes moving, lifting something to its eye. Something held with both hands. She opened her eyes and saw a living man with pale white skin aiming a rifle right at her.
"Look out!" she shouted into her microphone, loud enough to make herself wince. Before anyone could respond a bullet tore upward through the fuselage of the Mi-8, barely missing the foot of one of Ayaan's soldiers. The woman shrieked and jumped backwards as automatic rounds tore through the thin skin of the copter's belly. Light shot upwards into the cabin wherever a bullet came through, streaking the dark cool space inside. Noise drummed along the deck plates, pattered on the helicopter's roof. Ayaan started shouting orders but Osman was ahead of her. The helicopter banked around so hard Sarah could hear the airframe wanting to come apart. The pilot yanked back on his control yoke and they popped up into the air like a cork out of a bottle, gaining altitude fast enough to make Sarah's stomach curl up on itself like an injured animal. She swallowed back the vomit that rushed up her throat and lifted one hand to try to brush the sweat from her forehand. She stopped in mid-gesture, though, when she saw her hand was sticky with blood.
Terrified of looking, too scared not to, she turned slowly around. The interior of the helicopter had been painted bright red. Blood had pooled between the crew seats and was draining slowly through maybe a hundred narrow bullet holes. What remained of a dead woman lay sprawled across the deck, one shattered, thumbless hand so close to Sarah she could have reached down and held it. She felt a perverse desire to do just that.
It was Mariam. The expert sniper of the platoon. It had been Mariam. It wouldn't be for long.
The hand twitched. Closed into a loose fist. The dead soldier convulsed upward, her shoulders rolling as she sat up to look at Sarah with blank eyes. Her mouth opened wide, blood spilling out from between her teeth. Most of her rib cage on the left side had been blown away. She definitely wasn't breathing.
It could happen that quickly. Sarah had witnessed the rise of the dead before. Ayaan had taught her what to do about it. She took her pistol out of her pocket and lined up a shot with the dead woman's forehead. Even as the new ghoul lunged at her she fired. A little splutter of blood burst from the woman's right temple. It wasn't a solid kill. She could feel the ghoul looming over her, getting closer. They were slow but deadly—a single scratch or bite would be enough. Her fingers shook as she lifted her weapon and tried to aim.
Ayaan rushed Mariam and grabbed her by one shoulder and her remaining hip. "Cover," she shouted at Sarah. Sarah protected her face and head from clawing fingernails as Ayaan rushed Mariam out of the open cargo door. Her undead body pinwheeled down to smack the sand in the midst of the army below.
Ayaan and Mariam had been together since they were schoolgirls, since before they had gotten their first periods. Since before they learned how to shoot. Nobody said a word in protest or outrage. The thing Ayaan had dumped into the sky hadn't been Mariam anymore and they all knew it. It was just that kind of a world, and it had been for twelve hard years.
Osman kept climbing until they were well out of range of the guns below. The dead kept reaching for the helicopter but the living stopped firing and they were safe again. "Firearms," Ayaan said, wagging her jaw around to pop her ears. "The dead don't shoot."
Sarah steeled herself. She needed to be part of this conversation. "There were living people down there, too. Maybe a third as many as the dead. They were all carrying rifles. I don't claim to know how that works."
Ayaan nodded. "We knew there had to be one of them providing close support." One of them. A khasiis. The Somali word meant "monster". English speakers used the word "lich". The not-so-mindless dead. When a ghoul managed one way or another to preserve its intellect post mortem they also tended to develop certain new faculties. They learned to see the energy of death, just like Sarah did. Some of them learned to control other undead, to communicate with them telepathically and bend them to their monstrous wills. Ayaan had some experience with liches. She had shot one in the head years prior, one named Gary. Gary had not only survived that shot—he'd gone on to enslave an entire city. It took a raging inferno to finally bring Gary down and Ayaan had lost plenty of friends in the process. One of those friends had been Sarah's father. "There must be a top-level asset nearby," Ayaan said.
"Top-level is right, if he can override their natural instinct to devour the living." Fathia, Ayaan's second in command, leaned her chin on the stock of her assault rifle and looked scared. "Gary could do that, for a little while. But even he had limits. If this army has been moving together for a long time, marching together—it would take a stronger khasiis than Gary. And there's only one of those that we know about."
"The Russian," Ayaan said. Her eyes narrowed to thin, angry slits. "The Tsarevich."
Sarah knew it had to be true. But what would the world's most pre-eminent monster be doing in Egypt? Everyone knew the boy lich's story. He'd been injured in a car accident, a hit and run, back when there had still been cars. He had languished in a semi-comatose state for years in a hospital bed, half dead even before the Epidemic began. When the dead rose the boy had been abandoned where he lay, only to die and rise again with his intellect intact—and with new senses and abilities, new supernatural powers no one had ever seen before.
They said he had an army of the dead, and a cult of the living, and that in some parts of Siberia he was considered to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. The stories about him always revolved around his cruelty and his power. They made him sound like a devil. For himself he claimed only to be a Tsarevich, a Prince of the Dead. Everyone knew the stories, but no one had thought he would ever come so far.
"He came here himself," Ayaan said. "He's here, now." Her cold eyes lit up, but grew no warmer. "He has made a mistake."CHAPTER 2
Ayaan had a responsibility to the survivors—the living—she had left outside of Port Said. She could have ordered Osman at any time to circle back and provide air support for the camp. She didn't. The other women in the helicopter started to trade sidelong glances, the occasional half question. "We've never fought an enemy with guns before. Shouldn't we regroup, get some reinforcements?" Leyla asked.
Ayaan glared back at them. Some of Mariam's blood still flecked her cheek. "The camp is hardened against attack, if that's even what he's after. If we give him a chance to get away now we'll never see him again. We're going to find the Russian, today, and we're going to remove him from play."
It was enough for most of the soldiers. Ayaan had lead them into stranger encounters and she had proven her tactical brilliance a hundred times over. If she said she knew what she was doing they believed her. Sarah wasn't so sure but she kept it to herself. The women remembered her father with respect, but that had never rubbed off on her. As the youngest member of Ayaan's unit and the only non-Somali her opinion counted for little. Still she couldn't help having a bad feeling.
Ayaan had always been more than cautious. She'd bordered on paranoia in the past—and it had kept her people alive. Now she was throwing herself into the lion's maw. It made no sense.
"I've got visual confirmation of a second group," Osman called over the headset band. "Smaller ... maybe fifty individuals."
"Close with them but keep an eye on the floor." Ayaan had a pair of field glasses in her hand. They had been designed to provide night vision but the batteries had died years before. They still worked as binoculars in broad daylight. Her voice turned to ice cubes slithering out of a pitcher. "There."
Sarah moved forward hand over hand, grabbing at the nylon loops sewed into the headrests of the crew seats. In the cockpit of the Mi-8 she could look down through the chin bubble and see what Ayaan was talking about. About fifty people—almost all of them dead—were laboring up the side of a sand dune below her. Most of them were tugging on thick lines, dragging behind them a flatbed rail car kitted out with enormous balloon tires. On its back crouched a kind of tent, maybe a yurt. .50 caliber machine guns in universal mounts stuck out from the sides of the flatbed, while in the middle ghouls stood at enormous cranks, adjusting the flatbed's suspension as it pitched over the dune.
The flap of the yurt fell back and someone emerged from the shadowy interior. Then something happened to the light in the helicopter, to Sarah's eyes, and to her more subtle senses. She looked again at the figure in the yurt's entrance. Though she was still five hundred meters away Sarah could make out his features perfectly. She felt as if she were looking through binoculars, though she wasn't. He was a boy—shorter even than herself, maybe ten or twelve years old. He was astonishingly beautiful.
His skin was so white it stood out bluish in the desert sun. His complexion was perfectly clear, his hair a pale gold lighter than his skin. His large, soulful eyes smoldered with blue flame. He wore the armor of a medieval warrior, scaled down to fit his frame and enameled in glossy black then worked with a motif of bones and creeping vines. He carried a scepter in his right hand topped with a bleached human skull. Sapphires winked from its dark eye sockets.
He looked right at Sarah. Not just in her direction but right at her, making perfect eye contact. Which was when she realized something was wrong.
"Grab something, ladies," Osman called just as he swung the Mi-8 around. The machine guns mounted on the flatbed blasted tracer fire through the air, yellow sparks that arced up and tried to touch the aircraft. Fathia leapt up out of her seat even as the bullets tore past so close Sarah was dazzled by their flickering light. The soldier started yanking assault rifles down from the rack at the front of the cargo bay and tossing them to her squadmates. Ayaan unstrapped herself and picked up the oilcloth bundle of her own weapon. The same AK-47 she'd carried since she had left school.
Osman had never impressed Sarah before by displaying courage but he didn't shrink from Ayaan's orders—perhaps the two of them shared some secret reason for acting so irrationally. The pilot opened up the copter's throttle and pushed forward on the yoke, throwing the Mi-8 right at the flatbed with all the power the dual powerplants could muster. Soldiers leaned out of the crew door and the rear loading ramp, secured from a deadly fall to the sands below only by their safety lines. The air in the helicopter vibrated with the noise of their weapons discharging again and again and again. As quickly as that they were in the midst of battle.
One of the ghouls working the flatbed's cranks slumped against its wheel, its head a dark smear. The flatbed slewed to one side. The Russian's troops retaliated by spraying bullets across the fuselage of the helicopter and shattering one of the porthole- like windows on the starboard flank. "Again, and closer this time," Ayaan shrieked as she slapped a full magazine into her rifle and tested its iron sights.
"I'll take you right up his nose if you like, and leave you there," Osman replied but he wheeled around for another pass. He brought the aircraft in low and fast, almost losing his landing gear as they brushed the top of the yurt. Ayaan's rifle snapped and spat with tight, perfectly-controlled bursts of three bullets each. The ghouls dragging the flatbed scattered away from her fire but not fast enough. Heads burst, bodies spun and fell. One of the machine gunners slipped and fell onto the sand, his blood jetting from his ruptured chest.
Sarah stared at the boy standing on the flatbed. He looked like the soul of calm. The fusillade of bullets hadn't even ruffled his thin white hair. There was something not quite right about his energy. It was dark, of course, the boy was undead, a lich among liches and his energy swallowed light like a black hole, but ... what was it? Sarah couldn't quite decide. But something was wrong.
Bullet holes appeared in the floor of the helicopter and Leyla hurried to throw an armored blanket of rubberized Kevlar across the deck plates to give the soldiers a little protection. As the helicopter swung out and away from the flatbed and beyond the range of the remaining machine gun Sarah clipped her safety line to a tie-down on the floor and tried to grab Ayaan's arm. "Whoa, whoa," she said, trying to roll with the helicopter as it banked, hard, "there's something—" she shouted, but her poorly-fitted helmet had gone askew on her head and she couldn't hear her own voice over the engine roar. "Ayaan!" she shrieked.
Ayaan wasted no more time. On the third pass she switched her weapon to full automatic and emptied a clip into the Russian boy, her arms tracking him with the precision of a machine. The wooden flatbed around him splintered and spat dust but he didn't even glance at Ayaan. No, his eyes were still fastened on Sarah's. He was still looking at her. Into her.
Excerpted from Monster Planet by David Wellington. Copyright © 2005 David Wellington. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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