According to anecdotes, the Inuit have fifty words for snow. Jack Flacco has a similar number of words for zombies. You’ll find them all in Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise: chewers, gut grinders, belly rippers, rot suckers…
The third and final instalment in the series throws Ranger into another bout of munchers’ mayhem and maggoty misadventure. Followed by a gaggle of kids and teenagers who would normally be doing their homework if it weren’t for the inconvenient fact that society has collapsed.
The Paradise in the title isn’t the old theatre in Chicago, but a place on the map out San Francisco way. When the route passes through Las Vegas and Yosemite you just know Ranger isn’t going on a coach holiday. Cue the stabbings and shootings and a hundred and one uses for enormous gas canisters. If this book were a real paperback the pages would be soaked in gore and rendered unreadable.
Which would be a pity because then you’ll never know what becomes of Matty (the ultimate bolshy daughter from hell), lovestruck Randy and little Jon. The teenagers rampage across America with all the subtlety of a Motley Crue tour itinerary. Along the way they pick up Silver and Mark and Sunglow and Abigail, more violence mixing with raging teenage hormones, and the body count rises off the scale.
To describe the Ranger Martin trilogy as a parable of our times would be confusing Jesus with John Wayne, but there are times when you wonder if the story is somehow apocryphal: the grizzled adult leading the future generation towards a promised land and salvation. But most of the time the young ones are telling the old one what to do and Ranger Martin starts to look more like the put-upon dad than God the Father.
No, Jack Flacco has one thing in mind: to kill as many zombies in a finite number of pages and let his readers draw their own conclusions. This reader is glad that when the zombie apocalypse does come it’ll centre on Las Vegas and various shopping malls of the US. If it happens to you there are a couple of details to give you hope: avoid the Brittle Donut Shop, and zombies sink in swimming pools.
Ranger Martin and the Search for Paradise is available from the 20th October:
Jack Flacco’s blog is here