March 28, 2012

Z Strain (Book Review)

 by Stephen Herfst

Z Strain

By Rutger Klamor

Self-Published: 2011


3.5 / 5 zedheads

Core Story

The story revolves around a succubus named Lilith (queen of the whores) who was created before Adam to be his equal but was deemed unfit and cast down into hell. Every thousand years, she aspires to bridge a gate between hell and earth through a ritualistic process. She is assisted in her ploys by a handful of demons, a Strix (basically a large owl) and the ability to raise people from the dead. She has been thwarted up until now but has another opportunity approaching in present day … and this time nothing is going to stop her.


I began this novel with no preconceived notion of what to expect. Of course I expected zombies, but not the introduction I got. I was ‘welcomed’ instead by a fellow traveler that introduced me to a tale that would pass the time while I drank his ale. This was not the opening I expected, but served as a warning that this story was going to be a little different!

The first third of the book was a little strange as it had very little ‘screen time’ dedicated to zombies, despite the title. A lot of the back story was about her demon entourage, with demons named Azazel (I couldn’t help thinking of Fallen with Denzel Washington), Huwawa (sounds like a convenience store) and Asmodeus (just plain silly). Even if these demons do exist in our ancient mythology, I couldn’t help feeling that original names should have been used.

At the point that Damien “Dee” Specter, the protagonist, came into the novel, the story picked up. He was written nicely and there was clear character development and a well-realized understanding of his history and motivations. Since he was the protagonist for this story, it was good that the crux of the story followed his exploits. The transitions between the various story arcs were handled nicely, and it was relatively easy to follow all the characters' different motivations. At points, I was unsure why the author would choose to focus on certain parties, but it all made sense in the end, even if the connections were a little bit too convenient.

The author’s strengths were best displayed at moments of urban warfare against the zombies. The weaponry and ballistics were detailed and surprisingly accurately; the author had actually served in the military. There was a slightly comical adversary in the ‘arch-enemy’ called Chains. I don’t think he ever threatened to be dangerous, with the reader’s expectation usually falling into the category of, ‘how is he going to screw up now?’

However, Z Strain has an inconsistent tone that changes between gore, humour, humanity, and romance. ‘Comic book’ sound effects ruin the tone (bang, puff, brrrrr, thump), and there are spelling/
grammar mistakes at points.

In summary, I enjoyed the book. The pacing was quick and the story was not a chore to read despite being over 400 pages. Rutger has an entertaining way of writing that keeps the readers’ interest. If he was able to maintain a consistently high writing standard and focus less on the demons in the beginning, it would have been a far better book. Without judicial editing, this is only a good book.

Guest Reviewer Bio

Stephen Herfst is the author of his debut novel, Zed. The novel revolves around a thought-inflicted zombie’s relationship with a teenage girl who promises to save him from the other humans intent on his destruction.

Stephen was born in Germany and currently lives in Australia although he is currently working in Philadelphia. The inspiration for Zed came while watching The Walking Dead. Bored of all the drama and angst on display, he wanted something other than a simple re-tread of the zombie formula. He wondered what it would be like to write a zombie story from the perspective of a zombie. This snowballed into the basis for a story that would be humorous, touching and inspirational; not things that you usually associate with the average zombie story!