Mutation (Twenty-Five Percent Book 1) - Nerys Wheatley

Last week, one hour after scheduling a post where I complained about Zombie stories, I loaded the next novel on my list onto my Kindle, and, of course, it's a Zombie novel. How I agreed to read two of them in a month, I'll never understand. I did say that there are exceptions to my "no Zombie" taste, thankfully, this turned out to be one of them.


So, in this particular version of the Zombie plague -- humanity comes up with a cure before the pandemic becomes so widespread that there's no hope for the human race. It's not perfect, it works about 25% of the time (see the name of the series), but that's better than nothing, right? Survivors deal with a few after-effects -- enhanced strength, enhanced sense of smell, immunity to the plague, and opaque eye-coloring. Oh, and a prejudice from a significant amount of the non-infected population.


Honestly, part of that prejudice makes sense -- a mysterious disease leaves some standing -- after eating human flesh -- who are stronger than everyone else. I can understand why it'd take a few years to get comfortable with the idea. I'm not saying I'd endorse the treatment Survivors get, but I understand the root of it.


Our protagonist is Alex -- he's a Survivor, and a police detective. Mostly he deals with paperwork and zombies, because the general populace isn't so crazy about him doing much else. But it's a start -- he's slowly building some credibility inside the department, too -- who knows where that might lead? He lives in a part of town that's predominantly Survivors and their families, and I enjoyed seeing the camaraderie/community there.


So, a new strain of the Zombie plague hits their town -- it's faster acting and soon the police force is overwhelmed. Before long, Alex is the only one standing (although some have just run off to be with their families), and it's just an anti-Survivor activist and him left in the police station. Micah and Alex aren't off to the best start -- they'd been in a fist fight the night before, during a protest/riot near Alex's home, and Alex had arrested him. Still, Alex felt compelled to rescue him from the new Zombies and the two make their way to safer parts of town, to their homes and friends -- battling Zombies and saving each other's lives.


At some point, the two become determined to see fi they can find out what caused this new versions of the plague to hit their city and to see if they can stop it.


The duo display this great mis-matched buddy-cop feel, if not for the near-apocalyptic nature of what's going on in their city, they'd be a lot of fun to hang out with. Neither are all that interesting on their own (they might be, in the right circumstance), but together, they're a whole lot of fun. They have to learn to trust on each other and depend on each other, just to have a fighting chance - they also have to protect each other from their friends/comrades. Neither Alex's fellow Survivors, or Micah's fellow anti-Survivors are all that crazy about the presence of the Other in their midst.


I really enjoyed watching that dynamic, in all its facets, work together. I wasn't terribly interested in the story -- there are only so many things that can be done in that genre, story-wise, it's all about the characters -- that's the only way you can get someone like me to care about this. Wheatley pulls it off well.


Plenty of action, not that much gore (but what's there is pretty well-written), some humor, some nice character interactions, and an interesting twist at the end. All in all, a pretty fun and satisfying read. I didn't love it, but I liked it plenty. Given my own prejudices, that's pretty good.


Disclaimer: I received this novel from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion -- my thanks to her.