Ever read a book, get to the end, and instantly want to know if there’s a sequel?  That’s how I felt about Z by Michael Thomas Ford.

Statistics
Checkouts: Not owned by the library
Typical reader: Zombie-apocalypse fans and gamers

Synopsis: Before Josh was born, humanity faced a zombie epidemic.  Now, zombies are the stuff of history lessons, and virtual-reality hunting games.  Josh is an excellent player as a “Torcher,” fighting against the “z” with a flamethrower in the holographic world.  One day, he gets a message inviting him to meet Charlie, an even higher-ranked player, and become part of an underground live-action zombie-hunting game.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

“OMG!  Is there a sequel?!” were my thoughts as I finished the last sentence of the last page of this novel.  As with the previous zombie novel I reviewed, Rot & Ruin, I read this as fast as life allowed.  This post-apocalyptic tale really held my interest.

The plot is good, with plenty of complexity and a healthy dose of “not all is as it seems.”  The action will capture the interest of teen boys, gamers, zombie-apocalypse fans.  And there’s plenty of it throughout this book!  The gory descriptions will also tantalize those that like zombies for their grotesqueness.

The main characters, Josh and Charlie, are interesting and believable.  Josh has plenty of drama in his family and social lives, and much of it is stuff teens can relate to.  The pacing of his realizations about the “meatbags” he’s fighting in both the VR and live-action games is excellent and realistic.  Maybe you can figure out what all is going on before he does, but the narrative offers an intriguing ride as he gets a clue.

The explanation of the zombie outbreak was something I found to be different and worth pondering.  A flu virus mutation altered the composition of the brains of its victims, rendering them into something akin to primitive beasts running on pure instinct.  It’s a diversion from the pop-culture undead zombie motif.  There is a slight plot hole between the eradication via vaccine explanation, and the fact that (minor spoiler alert!) zombies show up later in the book.  On the other hand, A) the virus could have mutated again, and B) in our own real world smallpox still exists in laboratories and could feasibly be spread again.  (Or maybe there was an explanation and my brain is omitting it while I write this review.  Ha.)

The title of this book stands for two elements of the story: lowercase “z” is the slang for the zombies themselves, while uppercase “Z” is a recreational drug some of the gamers use to feel like they’re one of the monsters.  The use of Z gave me some pause, especially as it is not shown to have lasting negative effects or consequences, but there are plenty of other YA books that have drugs in them.  Just take that into account if you’re thinking about this for the teenager or school library in your life.

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