His Name Was Zach by Peter Martuneac
Synopsis: One day at a time, that is how Zach lives. It has been two years since The Crisis, the day when people contracted a mysterious disease that renders the host a flesh-eating feral. Both Zach and his daughter Abby are doing all they can to survive in this world where most creatures, living or undead, want to kill them. Moving from one oasis of solace to another, they journey in search of a true home. A place where they can finally live together in peace. Along the way they will meet loyal friends, monstrous enemies, and confront their own personal demons. But through it all, they always have each other. So long as they have that bond, they feel ready to take on the world.
My Rating: 2.5/5 stars
My Review: Peter contacted me and asked if I could check out his novel in the hopes that I would leave a review here on the blog. Of course, I was more than happy too! I have a huge amount of respect for all indie and self-published authors. The discipline and courage it takes to pour your whole heart into creating something and then fighting to get it out into the world all on your own is awe-inspiring. If I could give all authors five stars for effort I totally would. But alas, kindergarten is over, and there are no participation trophies in the real world.
His Name Was Zach takes place after “the crisis” and follows Zach and adopted-daughter Abby on a journey across the ravaged, zombie-ridden remains of America. All of your usual zombie tropes are present. Lots of foraging for supplies, reminiscing about the “before times”, roving raiders that are worse than the actual zombies, the occasional cannibalistic farmer… the whole plot unfurls in a fairly steady, predictable pattern.
The characters had potential. Zach is an ex-marine with a chip on his shoulder. Lingering PTSD from his deployments and the fact that he had to shoot and kill his newly-zombified wife should have made him a fairly complex character. Abby, who lost her real family and was “adopted” by Zach after zombie waves hit, also had the potential to be an interesting character study. What would it be like to hit puberty in an apocalyptic wasteland with no one but a grizzly ex-marine at your side? The answer ended up being a weird mixture of saccharine sweet and brutally awful. All of the characters fell just short of feeling full-fledged and three dimensional.
Overall, the story felt very much like a first draft that still needed some love from a red pen. There is potential in the story being told here, but that potential is buried under layers of structural problems too deep to coax out. Narration is consistently a mess. There are sudden POV switches between characters, including random animals, and large intervals of italicized flashbacks that don’t serve the purpose of the story well enough to justify being there.
There is a lot of telling over showing. The character descriptions in the beginning of the book took up several pages more than they needed too, and the story is continually telling us the thoughts and feelings of others rather than using action to express them. There was another weird format thing that might be nitpicky, but the use of exclamation points in non-speaking parts of the story made the writing feel childish. There was a particularly jarring part in the beginning of the story when it kept happening and the juxtaposition between the dark, gruesome things happening and the frequent exclamation points really took me out of the story. It felt like I was watching a bad actor read a screenplay.
In the end, the problem for me came down to structure more than anything. This book suffered from a lack of strenuous editing.
But hey! Books are personal experiences. I will love books that you hate and hate books that you love. I did not particularly enjoy His Name Was Zach, but if you are a superfan of all things zombie and survival horror, you should give it a try and see for yourself. There is a lot of survival knowledge packed into this story that you might find interesting.
You can check it out here!