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4.3 30
by Michael Thomas Ford

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The First Rule of Torching: Cleanse with fire.

Josh is by far the best zombie Torcher around—at least, he is in his virtual-reality zombie-hunting game. Josh has quickly risen through the player ranks, relying on the skill, cunning, and agility of a real Torcher.

The Second Rule of Torching: Save all humans.

But luckily for Josh, zombies


The First Rule of Torching: Cleanse with fire.

Josh is by far the best zombie Torcher around—at least, he is in his virtual-reality zombie-hunting game. Josh has quickly risen through the player ranks, relying on the skill, cunning, and agility of a real Torcher.

The Second Rule of Torching: Save all humans.

But luckily for Josh, zombies exist only in the virtual world. The real zombie war is now more than fifteen years in the past, and the battle to defeat the deadly epidemic that devastated his family—and millions of others—is the stuff of history lessons.

The Third Rule of Torching: You can't bring them back.

Charlie is the top-ranked player in the game. Since all the players are shrouded in anonymity, Josh never expects Charlie to be a girl—and he never expects the offer she makes him: to join the underground gaming league that takes the virtual-reality game off the screen and into the streets. Josh is thrilled. But the more involved he gets, the more he realizes that not everything is what it seems. Real blood is spilling, members of the team are disappearing, and the zombies in the game are acting strange. And then there's the matter of a mysterious drug called Z. . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It's not all fun and games when make-believe zombie-hunting turns violent in this fast-paced futuristic thriller. Fifteen years after a vaccine was developed against the zombie flu, the hungry undead are a thing of the past, relegated to bad memories and virtual games, such as the one Josh and his friend Firecracker play, despite their parents' disapproval. A rising star online, Josh is thrilled when Charlie, another skilled player, invites him to join an underground group of live-action zombie-killer role-players. Even as Josh bonds with Charlie and her team, he begins to suspect something's not right with Clatter, the enigmatic brains behind the operation. Worse still, the game itself is proving more dangerous than he expected, leading to a desperate struggle for survival when things inevitably turn sour. Ford (Suicide Notes) artfully constructs a credible concept against the backdrop of a darkly atmospheric post-post-apocalyptic world. Several secondary characters remain underdeveloped, and readers might wish that the ending unfolded more gradually, but the partnering of virtual gaming with the brutality of "real" zombie warfare achieves an effect that is equal parts chilling and fun. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
“Ford expertly builds the tension in this long, escalating thrill ride.”
Children's Literature - Dana Benge
Like most boys his age, Josh plays video games too much. He and his best friend, Firecracker, always play Torchers in their video game so they can kill the zombies. But, Josh's parents don't approve of his game because they say it's disrespectful to the people who died during the real zombie war years ago, and that Josh's aunt was the first to be infected with the zombie virus. After hearing the full story of his aunt's infection with the virus, Josh agrees to stop playing, but he isn't able to keep his promise for long. When he returns to playing, he meets another player, Charlie, who tells him he can play the game in real life if he's good enough. What Josh doesn't realize is that the real life games aren't games at all, but a set up created by a deranged scientist to pit players against real zombies in matches where he makes millions of dollars. By the time Josh figures out how much danger he and his friends are in, it may be too late for them all. Zombies aside, this book is terrifyingly real in its portrayal of a young man's descent into an addiction that threatens not only his life, but his friends as well. Ford does an excellent job of hooking both adults and young readers. This is one not to be missed. Reviewer: Dana Benge
VOYA - Jeff Mann
It is the year 2032, and it has been fifteen years since a documented case of zombie flu has occurred. The zombie virus had turned many normal people into zombies and forced those not infected to battle the zombies in a war. The zombies were defeated by being burned to death. Josh, a hardcore gamer, knows his zombie history but is more interested in a video game where he torches zombies. When Josh is contacted by Charlie, a fellow gamer, he is invited to play the game in IRL—In Real Life. Josh knows it is rumored that there are still a few living zombies and that some top gamers get together to kill these zombies. Josh discovers that the IRL games are not just an urban legend but are reality and soon finds himself secretly battling real zombies, watching real people get hurt, and taking a mystery drug called Z. Ultimately, Josh and his friends try to take down Clatter, the organizer of these IRL games and the creator of Z. Z is a rollicking ride that many middle school students are likely to enjoy. The opening chapter, a history lesson at school about the zombie flu, and Josh's journey from video-game zombie-killer to real-life zombie Torcher will prompt most readers to continue reading. A touch of romance between Josh and Charlie also adds to the plot. Ultimately, the last portion of the book is not quite as engaging as the first two thirds, but those who followed Josh's journey will not be disappointed. The lack of a clear resolution and a few unanswered questions will leave some readers a touch disappointed; however, Ford clearly has more zombie-hunting action planned for future volumes. Reviewer: Jeff Mann
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—It is the year 2032 and Josh and his buddy Firecracker spend every spare minute playing their favorite computer video game fighting zombies. Josh's parents disapprove of the game; his aunt had been one of the unfortunates in the last generation who caught a terrible virus that actually turned people into real zombies. That tragedy seems a distant reality to Josh and his friend, and when one of the cyber-game players contacts him to see if he wants to play a reality-based version, he jumps at the chance. Charlie turns out to be an avant-garde girl who introduces him to the zombie game that at first seems something akin to today's paintball wars. However, the "kills" seem very real. Josh is a good player, and when Charlie introduces him to the drug "Z" that makes it all so much cooler, Josh starts ditching his friend and his responsibilities to play the game with Charlie and the other worrisome players like Scrawl and Clatter. As the games progress in various parts of the underbelly of the town and Josh takes more and more of the drug, things start ebooking out of control and the game gets more dangerous and a little too real. This book is a thriller, and the clever plot and characters will have readers hoping for more.—Jake Pettit, Thompson Valley High School, Loveland, CO
Kirkus Reviews
Fifteen years after the zombie plague destroyed families and threatened the world, the ravenous creatures are once again confined to the video-game realm. Recruited by a shadowy live-action gaming group to battle against animatronic zombies, Josh is thrilled to show off his gaming prowess. But as his friends vanish and the gore increases, he realizes that the game may be more real than he knows. Ford leaps in with flamethrowers blazing and burns through pages at a rapid pace. There's very little character development, but readers who want zombies with personality have Daniel Waters's Generation Dead (2008) to turn to for that--the point here is nonstop movement. An ominous feeling shadows Josh's world, and its tension is nicely reflected in the blend of action and horror. The horrific revelation, the generic cast, the cliffhanger ending—these are all standard zombie fare, but the author manages to make the expected exciting again. For a quick escape, this is a sure-fire way to burn time. (Horror. 12 & up)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Michael Thomas Ford is the author of the teen novel Suicide Notes as well as several essay collections and adult novels, including Jane Bites Back. He lives in San Francisco with his partner and their five dogs.

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Z 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very good read. Hard to put down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever
MercedesMud More than 1 year ago
I really liked the idea of this book and the book itself. There are few role playing fiction books that I have found which are worth the read. It's a page turner, keeps you on the edge of your seat and I'm wondering if there is a sequel.
Cid More than 1 year ago
The Setting - is 2032, fifteen years after the Zombie War. The world has been cleansed of zombies, and high tech gadgets replace many of the organic things that once lived alongside humans; pets, insects, they're all gadgets now. And man, do humans rely on their gadgets! Paper. What's that? Video games lack cords, they're fully submerged virtual reality worlds where you feel and sense everything. Global warming has taken its toll, melting the polar ice caps enough to cause water to have risen significantly. But most of all, humanity is complacent; the zombie threat is of the past. The Characters - were interesting. I decided halfway through the book that I couldn't think of them as high school kids; it just wasn't believable in my head. Josh has to be either a sophomore or a junior in high school, yet he faces few consequences, runs around with lots of freedom and thinks with more critical skills than most high school students possess. I decided halfway through that I would think of Josh and the others as live-at-home college kids, freshmen or sophomores maybe. The relationships between the team of Torchers is defined by the initial dynamic and then they don't really grow. I don't really buy into the emotional turmoil, the bonds, or any of it - and I think it could have been much more powerful had I felt along with those characters. The Plot - was the other reason I decided to think of the characters as college kids. Josh must deceive his family to join the other Torchers in their real life battle against the zombies, well, the cybernetic zombies - right? There's the drug, Z, which I can believe - plenty of high school kids do drugs sadly. I just question the ability of a bunch of high school kids to battle zombies who are stronger than they are and work as a team functioning with high levels of memorization. I thought that the book missed out on a lot of the thriller/horror aspects what with being toned down for a YA audience. At the closure of the book I felt that it could have been so much more powerful and heart wrenching, it could have given me nightmares - but it just wasn't on that level. I enjoyed Z, it's an interesting zombie story with a twist, it's just not as scary or powerful as I'd hoped it would be.
Anonymous 8 months ago
She entered katana on he back
Anonymous 8 months ago
Walks in and sets my stuff in a room that i claim. I sharpen my daggers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! Wish they would come out with a second book because the ending sounded as if they could come out with a second book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Katie. Age:16 or so. Height:almost 6 feet tall. Weight:not important. Description:muscular,tough,not much of a talker. Shes got long brown hair with purple highlights,deep purple eyes,and wears denim shorts,a black t-shirt,a purple vest with her 6 pokeballs clipped on the front,and a purple pendant on a golden chain. Pokemon team:1. Lucario,lv45. Carrying Lucarionite. 2. Slurpuff,lv37. 3. Pangoru,lv39. 4. Fearow,lv63. 5. Dragalgae,lv47. 6. Ninetales,lv38. Occaisionally has an Umbreon or Glaceon instead of Slurpuff. <P> Moonfall: Katies younger sister. Height: exactly 4'10" and proud of it! Age: 11. Has a high necked red long sleeved shirt, black jeans, and black boots. Livin' the dream, baby. Green eyes, glasses, waist length brown/blond hair. Pokemon: Espeon, 69, Pigeot, 45, Slyveon, 32, Flareon, 40, Delcatty, 50, and Purloin, 15.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tyne More than 1 year ago
Love this book...what about a ending?what about a second book?don't like the ending!!:(
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was an okay book really. Not as suspensful as i hoped but overall it was okay.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Got exicting at begining then dropped to an ok book
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not all that great.
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Tom Madden More than 1 year ago
it is good and i fun,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago