Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Allison Hewitt Is Trapped

by Madeleine Roux


The trouble with zombies is that these implacable, mindless creatures don't make for very imaginative villains in their own right. So in a zombie apocalypse it's down to the survivors to provide all the witty banter and radical escape plans whilst reanimated corpses groan and beat at the door. It takes a cool, interesting central character to make a story like this work.

Allison Hewitt is a bookshop attendant, and the story is told through her blog posts. To begin with she's holed up in the break room of her workplace with a handful of other survivors, watching the chaos on CCTV. They have some supplies, but they know that eventually they're going to have to move on and brave the zombie hordes because things will run out.

Allison starts out as the sort of person who cares as much about books as she does for food or other necessities. She seems like a pretty normal woman, prepared to defend herself against creatures who should already be dead but not crazy about swinging an axe. But as time passes she's faced with tougher choices and more extreme challenges. As she moves from place to place she meets and loses friends, and on the way learns about trust and love and what it will take to survive.

The zombies themselves are plentiful, but they're not all that speedy and the infection isn't airborne. So although they're a constant threat they're mostly a background terror. Allison is also worried about her mother, who may be out there somewhere, looking for her and still alive. It's a hope that sustains Allison, but it also leads her to do some reckless things at times. Another danger comes from other people, who can react to the breakdown in law and order and the destruction all around in extreme ways.

The blog format has certain drawbacks, because it's a bit of a leap to believe Allison has a working laptop, power, internet access and a reliable host for so long when everything else is in flames and ruins. However the blog adds a certain tension, thanks to the panicky comments when Allison doesn't post for a few days and the unpredictability of random messages posted by readers around the world. Allison is a very candid writer, and even when she doesn't go into quite as much blow-by-blow detail as you might get from a different narrative style it's all there between the lines.

Allison Hewitt Is Trapped is a story about potential. Allison changes from a very ordinary employee into an extraordinary survivor over the course of the novel, and it's such a gradual shift it's entirely believable. At the same time others around her are realising their own potentials, whether it's for greatness, sacrifice, evil or madness. But it's all told with delightfully upbeat humour seasoned with shameless candour. Allison can be coarse and silly and high-spirited, but these qualities make her all the more endearing. I found myself really caring about her love affairs and grief and guilt trips, and whether she would ever find a place to call home amidst the wreckage of America. The carnage and destruction of a zombie apocalypse doesn't seem so bad after all, if you can spend it in Allison Hewitt's company.

25th January 2011

Book Details

Year: 2011

Categories: Books

    Female Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson