Zombie Attack! The Rising Horde by Devan Sagliani opens with our main guy, Xander, holed up at a sizeable Air Force base with a group of other humans as they hide out from zombies. The zombies have horded up and set their sights on Vandenberg, one of the few remaining human strongholds. But Xander is not without resources. His big brother, Moto, trained him in martial arts. The wicked katana Xander carries doesn’t hurt either.
But being trapped in a base school is not where Xander wants to be. He’s determined to get to Hueneme where his brother is stationed. At least, he hopes he’s still there. Communications have gone as dead as a decapitated zombie. With few supplies, Xander sets out along with Benji, a comic geek turned little brother for Xander.
Once on the road, Xander quickly realizes that the walking — or running — dead are the least of their problems. The journey to Hueneme brings them face-to-face with rogue bikers thriving in the post Z anarchy, extremists bent on ultimate survival, cannibals (and not of the zombie variety), and religious nut jobs who straddle the line between occult following and certifiably in-sane! Along the way, Xander also picks up a teen reality princess who might be the best, or worst, thing to ever happen to him.
Now, getting to Hueneme without becoming zombie brunch, or killing each other, remains to be seen.
I’ve seen a couple reviews noting that The Rising Horde was a fast-paced ride. This is absolutely true! The Rising Horde slows down very few times. But when it DOES, you get this tickle on the back of your neck because you KNOW stuff is about to hit the fan…again. It’s like reading a hijinks adventure, but with zombie carnage. Nothing goes according to plan, and our heroes often escape by the skin of their teeth. The tension builds as Xander and his crew run into different obstacles, each one seemingly worse than the previous one.
The characters are also enjoyable. Benji is the perfect little brother ole. Xander takes the comic geek under his wing when Benji’s harassed by base brats. Benji adds a very human quality to the story. He’s just a kid, after all! His family is killed right in front of him so you can’t help but feel bad for this little guy. The odds are against him: he’s young, ill prepared for any fighting of any kind, and he’s not as fast as the others. Because of this, you want him to succeed. You need him to pull through to the end.
The same can be said for Felicity, the teen reality show star. She’s everything you think she’d be in the beginning. Yup, THAT kind of girl. She’s snotty, over privileged, and doesn’t appear to care much about what’s going on. Then we get little tidbits of her story and even Xander begins to see her in a different light. Felicity has a fighting spirit, even if she’s not exactly a warrior type like Xander.
Our main protag, Xander, is also a great guy. All he wants is to get to his brother, to make sure he’s okay. But he’s also committed to keeping Benji safe. Even though Xander may think it would be easier to get where he needs to go without having Benji along as luggage, Xander can’t do it. Benji is his responsibility. Same for Felicity. Sure, she’s super hot and he’s had a thing for her since before the world went Z, but keeping her safe becomes just as important as finding Moto. But Xander is often torn between acting as an adult would after being thrust into a leader role for Benji and Felicity, and acting like a typical teenager with his own set of insecurities and doubts. These things make him a wonderfully relatable character. He has this tremendous duty in keeping those he cares about safe, but he’s also just a kid trying to do the best he can with a horrible situation. And his snort-inducing smart mouth gives me warm fuzzies deep in my heart.
The only thing that lacked for me, and this is just personal taste, is the first chapter being mostly flashback. I get that we need to know HOW everything ended up all zombified, but as a reader, I’d rather have this info included in the story rather than an info dump in the first chapter. Also, the inclusion of pop culture got a bit old for me. Sure, it’s great to have a character into video games, comics, 80s rock bands, etc, but I don’t need that stuff hanging out all over the place. A little bit makes it relatable because a reader might be into the same things, but TOO much and it feels forced. Again, this is just personal taste.
In the end, Zombie Attack: The Riding Horde WAS the thrill ride I expected it to be. It actually reminded me a bit of World War Z, but the YA version. Zombies are scary. Fast hordes of zombies are downright terrifying! Add all out societal anarchy and you get a fresh-feeling take on zombie books. There’s a healthy dose of thrill, a bit of horror, a dash of romance, and a wallop of a serving of adventure. But hold on to your hats, folks. This puppy ends in one heck of a cliffhanger. Be sure to prep your buy button fingers, because you’ll need it.