Book Review – DEAD WEST: OMNIBUS by Marquitz, Martin and Soward

Dead WestDead West Omnibus is the collected edition of two novels by Tim Marquitz, J.M. Martin and Kenny Soward: Those Poor, Poor Bastards, and The Ten Thousand Things, published by Ragnarok Publications. As I wrote in my review of the Those Poor, Poor Bastards, this zombie romp through the wild west is unique, fast paced and well written. The Ten Thousand Things amps up the excitement in every way.

Dead West is the story of many conflicting characters, but centers on Nina, a young adult with mixed White and Native American heritage. Her father is her only parent alive, and as she strives to keep him that way when the zombie apocalypse happens, she also must embrace a supernatural power blessed upon her by her Native American side.

I’ve read quite a bit of zombie fiction, but this is where Dead West is most unique: the powers that Nina must embrace in order to become an Old West kind of super hero are some I’ve never seen. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but they are pretty awesome, and chilling in exactly the kind of Old West Horror tone that I wanted.

I had Tim and J.M. on the AISFP Podcast to discuss grimdark characters and supernatural warfare, and in that show I asked them how they balanced supernatural powers with weaknesses so that every time the characters get in trouble it isn’t as easy as pray and win. I kept my eye on this element throughout Dead West and I’m happy to say that when the powers were used it was some of the best parts of the story and yet when it failed, it was some of the best tension. I’d say they did a great job.

When I read zombie fiction, I am really hoping for something that balances fear, post-apocalyptic survival, and character conflict. Dead West is best in that order. The zombie encounters are written in ways that experienced readers will enjoy as fresh, polished descriptions. The action is full of suspense and unafraid to kill off anyone in the blink of an eye. The survival aspect became more exciting as both books moved on. The train ride at the beginning of The Ten Thousand Things was entertaining, but at the time I wanted more interest through character conflict. My favorite part was probably the cabin in the woods they find soon after.

The survival aspect of Dead West is based on relics and an evil entity that supernatural powers from Nina and a priest must use to win, probably before the whole world becomes undead and the entity grows too powerful to stop. The setting is about everything I could hope for in a Dead West story, from a defending an old Army fort to a train race across bridges and down a mountain to a lonely cabin and on to a barren field void of natural protection. I wonder what they’ll come up with next. A “ghost” town? Oh yeah, they already kind of had that.

I like the main character, Nina. She has a good heart to want to save her father and new friends, but can also get nasty if the battle demands it. I am enjoying the subtle ways in which she must learn to embrace her spirit people’s world and responsibilities. As friendly as she is, she has trouble letting people inside her emotional wall. There is a romance with a gentleman who is kind of tightlipped about himself. Adult content when it comes to that, by the way.

I would still like to feel more about the characters. While I was impressed with how they described side characters in ways that kept them distinct and if they died, left an emotional impact, I was not always as engaged as I’d like to be. The interpersonal conflict was pretty much race or societal prejudice based between ex-Confederate soldiers and womanizers and non-white heroes and the prostitute. I’m not sure how this will improve in the next book because this is pretty much the cast. We can always meet new people, but it’s just lacking the kind of deep relationship tension that we saw work so well in Walking Dead between Rick, Shane and his wife. Rick and Shane were best friends and *spoiler alert* Shane kind of stabbed him in the back. As much as Season One of Walking Dead was cool because of the zombies, that tri-part relationship tension was what made it so engaging. I just don’t see that level of tension between Dead West‘s cast. Nina’s hatred of the railroad tycoon Strobridge is as simple as him being a greedy jerk and her being a do-right kind of girl. With Rick and Shane and Rick’s wife, you can see how all three are doing what you might do in the same situation. You want all three to be happy, but someone must suffer (and likely all will suffer in the end). With Dead West, I don’t empathize with the tycoon or the racist soldiers. I just don’t like them. I don’t see any big problems between Nina and her lover and while there is a surprise at the end that helps add future conflict, I don’t know that it will be enough considering how it might affect the rest of the cast.

I will still hop on board for the next installment, but I’m a little concerned about the potential for the cast to surpass the level of tension I’ve seen so far. These three are all talented authors whom I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt, I just don’t know how they’ll up the character tension enough in the next book to make it a five star. Regardless, Dead West gets a strong recommendation because of the professional quality of action and creative zombie fighting adventure.
Timothy C. Ward

ScavengerTimothy C. Ward has been podcasting since 2010, first as AudioTim, and now with AISFP. His newest story, Scavenger: Red Sands (Scavenger #1), is available on Kindle for $.99. His novel in progress, Order After Dark, is a Post-apocalyptic Fantasy set in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former Executive Producer for AISFP. His debut novel, Scavenger: Evolution, blends Dune with Alien in a thriller where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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