Zombie, Illinois by Scott Kenemore (2012): 978166088859 (Skyhorse)
When three disparate (and desperate) Chicagoans are thrown together during the first hours of the zombie apocalypse, they are forced to battle not only the undead but good old-fashioned Chicago machine politics in this satirical, yet ultimately optimistic, page-turner by Scott Kenemore (Zombie, Ohio).
Punk-rock drummer Maria Ramirez, political reporter Ben Bennington, and South Shore pastor Leopold Mack find themselves fighting for their lives as they try to find Maria’s mother and sister amidst chaos of a zombie-infested Chicago. The dead are rising, and with them the secrets that various political machines over the years thought would stay buried with the corpses. When the three discover that Maria’s alderman father is the rightful new Mayor of the city–and that a rival political gang is now gunning for him–the three take off on a perilous mission to get to the Mayor first and save Maria’s family.
This well-paced novel is told from the point of view of the three protagonists in alternating chapters. Each character has a unique voice and is highly sympathetic. The action is exciting and the gore is set at “just enough”. All in all, this is a well-written, able follow-up to Kenemore’s previous novel Zombie, Ohio.
And like that previous work, what sets this one apart is that the zombies are not the real bad guys here. They are a catalyst to the plot, but at its heart, Zombie, Illinois is about people and what sort of behavior they are willing to put up with in order to live together–and when they become willing to take a stand. Further, there is a reason that Chicago is one of the iconic cities of the world and Kenemore takes full advantage of that fact by allowing the city to emerge as a character of its own. Finally, as cliched as it sounds, this book is about redemption–not only of the characters but of the city itself. Even when the dead are rising and knocking down your doors, it’s not too late to save yourself and your soul.
Zombie, Illinois is a fast-paced, action-packed, zombie apocalypse novel with a live beating heart at its core.
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