I had the pleasure of reading Once Upon a Zombie Apocalypse (OUAZA from this point forward) as a beta reader just prior to its release. The story begins in an airport with authors Kylee and Jade traveling home following a convention.
Things start out a tad slow (for this genre anyway) but swiftly pick up steam as the zombie apocalypse strikes while our intrepid heroines are trapped on board an flight full of brave flight attendants and first-stage zombies. The scenario and horror factor were reminiscent of Snakes on a Plane but without quite as much cheese. (If SoaP is Velveeta, then OUAZA is at least nice sharp cheddar.)
Jennifer Malone Wright is the indie author of popular series, The Vampire Hunter's Daughter, and so she knows how to weave a great tale full of action and suspense. Her portrayal of Jade Warwick is in the first-person perspective, handled right so the reader can enjoy the story without the jarring mishaps of so many authors who attempt and fail with this difficult point of view.
Now, I'm a huge zombie fan and I have been since Romero trotted out his original Night of the Living Dead, which I watched faithfully as a kid, every Halloween. My knowledge of the restless dead is fairly comprehensive, spanning Serpent and the Rainbow, Night of the Comet, 30 Days After (and sequel), Zombieland, Resident Evil (et al), and, of course, The Walking Dead.
Am I a zombie expert? No. But a zombie enthusiastic? Yes, definitely.
Wright hits the right notes for a successful zombie series, bringing credible action sequences and plenty of gore to the table. Her descriptions of carnage were not over the top disgusting, but her series does carry a stern warning that it is intended for than over eighteen-years-old audience. The fight scenes are good--detailed and well executed.
OUZAZ is likewise really well edited with lots of attention given to good grammar and story flow. The story has the sort of professionalism you expect to see from traditional publishing, not always present in Indie works. Overall, the story tone struck me as younger than the apparent age of the protagonists, by perhaps as much as ten years. The language use was hip and modern.
In terms of characterization, I really liked Jade. She was an empathetic character, very likeable, who was easy to relate to while still retaining the whimsical nature of zombie fiction. Wright is by no means unaware of the humor of the genre, and incorporates funny moments seamlessly into the story. As it happened, I found the character of Kylee, Jade's companion, to be an irritant; however, the character did bring a lot to the table as an effective foil for the more serious Jade. Supporting character Cheryl, an orphaned teenager, appealed to me much more. She shared an interesting dynamic with Jade that seemed to have a great deal of potential. I'm curious to see whether the two develop a mother/daughter dynamic as the story progresses and I'd love to see a story part from Cheryl's POV.
If you enjoy fast-paced zombie tales, then this is a five star read all the way! Future episodes will definitely be on my To-Read list.
(reviewed 20 days after purchase)