The Colony: Renegades. A zombie apocalypse horror novel by Michaelbrent Collings.
I jumped in on The Colony: Renegades without having touched the first book. I have the first book in paperback, sitting on a shelf in my room. (I take this somewhat as a sign that I’m becoming partial to ebooks now that I have an iPhone). I opened up my Kindle just to take a “peek” at Renegades the night before last. Less than twenty-four hours later, I was still on the edge of my seat, anxious to read both the first and next installments (when the next one comes out). While it’s clear that the characters began their journey and came together prior to where we pick up in Renegades, I connected with the characters right away and found myself rooting (squirming?) for them at every twist and turn.
I’m still a little new to the horror genre, and I’ve never really read a zombie apocalypse book before this. Even so, Collings has created a fascinating breed of zombies in this world–zombies that swarm and think and move much like a hive of insects, or perhaps more like a sponge that keeps reconstituting despite being sent through the meat grinder again and again. It gives a really creative twist on an old-fashioned monster that piques my curiosity about everything driving them to do what they do and become what they become. If those mechanics are ever fully revealed in future installments, I will be ecstatic. (It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t a character in the story (as a scientist) because I probably would’ve gotten everyone killed trying to take tissue/saliva/belched chemical samples, and staring in awe at the really bizarre swarming behavior of these things). They’re pretty cool.
Though these zombies and their habits are gory, bizarre, and relentlessly sinister, there is a beauty to Collings’ descriptions of these creatures that makes them feel more fascinating than gross or off-putting in any offensive sort of way. Profanity came up sparingly and where it would naturally rather than being thrown all over the place, which I appreciated. The characters in this particular story are, save for maybe one exception, noble, constantly working to balance their own survival with safeguarding, not only the lives but the humanity (literally) of the other members of their group. While each character is flawed–and who knows, maybe some have dark secrets from their past that could come back to haunt them–the majority seemed to genuinely care about each other and worked together as a wonderfully dynamic and effective team to stay alive. I prefer stories with noble protagonists over stories about comeuppance or stories with anti-heros, so this really hit the spot for me. I also think giving the characters noble interest in each other rather than using manipulative cooperation as a means to avoid their terrible ends made their struggles for survival as well as their losses along the way that much more bitter-sweet.
While the zombies were fascinating and the suspense was intense, I think what really made this particular story gripping for me was the family–Ken, Maggie, and their kids–put through peril. Ken is a man pushed to his physical, emotional, and morally obligatory limits again and again. There are even moments where he stares into the impossibly endless nightmare of these hive-minded monsters coming for them all, trying simply not to lose hope, to lose his a purpose in living, when he brushes up against the very limits of what he thinks he can and can’t do to protect his family and stay sane. The moments of vulnerability in Ken’s experiences, in his internalizations were remarkable and heart-wrenching.
Really great stuff. If I was only a casual reader of Michaelbrent Collings’ stories before, I’m definitely a committed fan now. Read The Colony: Renegades. Don’t even wait to read Genesis first. It’s that awesome!
You can find this book here on Amazon.