Eaters is a post apocalyptic tale of the dead returning to life to feast upon the flesh of the living. Of course, that’s the premise for thousands of zombie stories, so what is it about Eaters that differentiates itself from the rest of the pack?
Not a whole lot, really.
When Eaters begins, Cheryl and her fiance, Mark, are returning from a camping trip when the radio offers news of a possible epidemic. Resuming a normal life is short-lived, however, when they witness firsthand the devastation caused by the outbreak. Mark becomes infected and, to save Cheryl, arms her with a gun and sends her out into the world in the hope that she can find a way to survive among the starving undead. Cheryl eventually bonds with Aidan, another survivor, and they strike out together to locate a safe haven far away from the zombie hordes.
Again, that’s pretty standard stuff and what readers can look forward to for a little more than half the novel. Cheryl gets into a jam and escapes with relative ease. Lather, rinse, repeat. Eaters moves from one generic set piece to the other until the final few chapters takes it to another, more interesting, level as Cheryl and Aidan reach their final destination.
Cheryl could have been a more plausible character overall and there’s a glimmer of hope as Eaters progresses, but her development is erratic at best, especially within the novel’s timeline (which is only about a week). It’s difficult to believe that she would adjust that quickly given her lack of skills and abilities and, as a result, her constant methods of escape truly strain the tale’s credibility. In one particular scene, Cheryl and Aidan almost magically escape through a crowd of eaters, largely thanks to Chery’s efforts of using the barrel of a rifle as a makeshift spear:
“During her sophomore year in high school, she’d been on the flag team, where she’d twirled either a flag on a long pole or a fake wooden rifle painted white along with the band’s music at football games. She prayed that her muscle memory, after so many years, would still be there.”
While this is an unusual method of dispatching an eater, the action would have been better served by seeing her twirling a tent pole or something similar at the beginning of the novel to demonstrate she had this particular ability instead of telling us at the time of the incident. It’s a more efficient way to reveal backstory about a character without making it seem forced to the reader and, therefore, out of the blue.
Another off-putting aspect of Cheryl’s character is the “voice” she hears throughout the course of the novel. Granted, the voice is that of Mark, but it’s somewhat of a distraction as the story progresses and makes her more of a passive character than the active one she needs to be.
Apparently, Eaters is the first installment of a trilogy which might explain the extremely slow start to this particular story. There’s a nugget of an interesting idea here which is hinted at near the beginning and revisited at the end. However, the first 3/4 of the novel is little more than filler which ultimately leaves the reader empty. What would have benefited Eaters is to adhere to the old adage about writing, which is “kill your darlings“. By eliminating the unnecessary fat from the book, you’d be able to get to the real meat and, as a result, a more tasty, polished story.
Eaters grade: C-
*this review originally appeared on The Bookie Monster