I enjoyed Jeremy Bishop’s post apocalyptic novel Torment – a book about a world overrun by zombie like creatures after a nuclear war (see my post on this book here,) It was the first book I read this year and when I saw his second novel, The Sentinel, was $2.99 for Nook, I couldn’t resist Honestly, I’ve had the sample for quite a while, but just hadn’t gotten around to buying it. I’m not sure why it took me so long – probably nothing more than there just never seems to be a shortage of books to read.
The Sentinel is another zombie book from Bishop, but like Torment before it, it doesn’t approach zombies in a conventional way. Jane Harper is stationed aboard The Sentinel, which is an anti-whaling ship cruising in the Arctic Ocean north of Greenland. When an explosion sinks both it and the whaler it has been pursuing, Jane Harper and a small group of survivors brave the open ocean and land on an island that is on no maps. What lies there is a very old evil, one that predates all the stories of zombies and vampires. How it manifests is as Viking zombies that relentlessly pursue the survivors of the shipwreck.
It’d be easy to say that this is a “Viking zombie” book, but really, it’s so much more than that. A book like The Sentinel is kind of 75% up my alley. Obviously, there’s the zombie factor in its corner. I have yet to read a zombie book that is really and truly awful. The worst one I’ve read was World War Z (I know, heresy. Sorry, it just didn’t live up to the hype.) I’m also really fond of books about boats and especially shipwrecks. Although the shipwreck and the time at sea take up a pretty small portion of the book, I found it to be just the thing to make me want to read another boat book. What it doesn’t have going for it is James Bond like action and double crossing, etc. As I’ve said before, I always feel like I’m the last person to get it in stories like that. If you add in secondary characters that don’t really flesh out all that much and kind of run together in my mind, there were many times that I wasn’t sure who was succumbing to the zombie plague and exactly why I should care.
I enjoyed the reasoning behind the Viking zombies. I wouldn’t want to spoil it here, but it felt rather capital-A Alien in nature although the true source is never fully explained. Once again, Bishop plays with the the canonical zombie rules just enough to keep me from calling this a “zombie novel” but that’s probably the genre that fits it best. Harper is a good protagonist. She mixes in vulnerability with a take-no-prisoners attitude that fits the narrative well. I also love good zombie animals, and the nonstop pursuit of a particular zombie animal made for a pretty riveting read. What I didn’t care for was the intrigue and politicking and the fighting between the surviving crew members of the two lost ships. I liked that it was there, but I just didn’t care enough about the specifics of it for it to be all that riveting.
I would recommend The Sentinel to zombie lovers and readers of horror fiction only. It’s probably a 3.5 star book for me. It was a quick read but overall, I think I liked Torment better, even though this one had a much better and more satisfying ending.