The Visitors part 10

The disappearances didn’t cause the electricity system to fail. That happened about two years after. Plenty of other bits of what they thought of as civilization had started to disintegrate years before. The disappearances just furthered things along.

So many people had gone off the grid by homesteading that it all finally fell apart, like a gyroscope wobbling to a stop. Without enough people paying for electricity, there simply wasn’t enough money coming in to repair the substations.

The upper management did what upper management has done since there were managers. They laid off all the actual workers, and then stayed on until the bitter end, collecting a paycheck but not doing anything. They didn’t know how.

The end came faster that way, because the people who knew how to do the work were gone. What is the point of managers if they can’t manage to figure out how to do anything themselves? Being able to write up schedules and delegate is a pointless exercise when you don’t have any warm bodies to do the dirty work.

Homesteaders were motivated by fear that the authorities were going to take everything away from them. They figured they can’t take away what they don’t have. Perhaps people also just longed for the good old days, forgetting that if the good old days were so good they would’ve kept them.

There wasn’t a central education system anymore, either. Pretty much the same amount of people who had been homesteading had also been homeschooling. They felt like they could do things better themselves. They didn’t want to give away their power to someone they didn’t know.

This feeling of mistrust of authority had gone on for a long time, in part fueled by repeated warnings of an impending apocalypse. Whether it was brought on by zombies or Jesus or the final battle of the Vikings, people were worried. They turtled in, stocking up supplies and shoring up their defenses.

The times to stretch out and trust were over.

It didn’t make sense how a six-month supply of canned vegetables and tuna was going to help if the world fell apart. It seemed like it would simply delay the inevitable impending slow death. Plus, it might attract unwanted visitors. You know, the ones who didn’t get sucked up in the rapture, or had saved up any food.

One thing it meant was that people who weren’t experts were now in charge of their own lives. Simply being a parent did not qualify them to teach their children. Why they thought that they could do better than someone with a Master’s degree in education made no sense. But they were allowed to do it.

The government thought of it as self selection. They thought of it like this – if you give them enough rope, they will hang themselves. All the educated people will be able to rule over the home-schooled, or the newest fad, “un-schooling”, where the child directs his learning. Who ever thought up that idea? Like a child is going to want to learn how to do anything other than play. They’ll never learn how to read or do math because they won’t know they need it.

The city-zens still paid taxes, so their money still went to the education system their children didn’t participate in it. The government made more money and spent less. It was genius. The city-zens thought they’d gotten out, but in reality they were still buying in.

Similarly, what makes an accountant or a mechanic think he’s suddenly a farmer? Sure, with homesteading he’ll know exactly what goes into his food. He’ll know whether there are pesticides or not. But when his crop fails because he didn’t rotate his crops or add enough phosphorus he’ll be starving and just as clueless.

It was a perfect mess, a confluence of confusion.

Those who were left, who’d survived the crumbling of civilization, were those who knew enough to band together. The lone wolves, the dread pirates of the times faded out, forgotten and forlorn. Those who learned how to share what they had, be it cucumbers or Calculus, they made it.

Of course, they couldn’t be obvious about it. Banding together was forbidden for any group larger than 20 was seen as a threat. The mass protests of the early 21st century had taught the government that. People would suddenly appear in the city streets, banners and drums at the ready, faces obscured and mouths open, shouting slogans in unison. They were flash mobs, no doubt, but they weren’t dancing to a pop tune. They were marching, and marching against austerity, against, authority, or just against.

Sometimes they didn’t even know what they were marching or drumming or shouting against. They just did it, and their numbers stopped traffic and started the government thinking. Any group that was larger than 20 got shut down, no debating, no questions asked. Shut down with water cannon or tear gas or drones. Shut down, shut out, shut off.

The Visitors had to be subtle when they got together, but get together they must, and did. With no social media to communicate their meetings in advance, they hid messages in magazine ads, scrawled slogans in graffiti. Those who knew the code knew it all.

It was time to meet. Now, to find the place.

Zombie fiction list

I read zombie fiction because I like to be surprised. There is so much really good writing out there that happens to be in this genre.

“Monster Island”, “Monster Nation”, “Monster Planet” by David Wellington

A great trilogy. So great I bought the series and gave it to my brother-in-law for Christmas, because you know that nothing says “Happy birth of the Messiah” like zombie fiction. This is zombie fiction from the zombies’ and the survivor’s points of view. In this take on zombies, the zombies can retain their mental capacities if oxygen continues to get to the brain during the death period. Most zombies are the average insentient zombie – they are in the front lines of the zombie attack. A few – either accidentally or intentionally, are sentient, and they can control the others telepathically. The action in the book starts off in New York, and then travels over the entire world, in a quest to find the source of the zombie epidemic. In this series, animals can become zombies too. Zombie pigeons and cats are actually quite terrifying. The second book is a little slow (the writer was experiencing a lot of heavy stuff in his life at the time) but slog through it – it is worth it to get to the third book. This series is excellently written, with very good pacing of the action and some surprising and thought-provoking twists about the zombie myth.

“I, Zombie” by Al Ewing (Tomes of the Dead series)

From the Abaddon Books “Tomes of the Dead” series comes “I, Zombie”. Set in London, it starts out with our narrator the zombie, named “John Doe”. He has forgotten his real name, and also does not know how long he has been a zombie. He is a hired hitman. He goes and kills bad guys for money. He is a civilized zombie, and tries desperately to not let his zombie nature take over. He is hunted by an elite force that has set up shop in the Tower of London. This group, this secret British military unit, has been tasked with the responsibility of eliminating all zombies in England. They breed werewolves to track him. He is the last of his kind, and they want to study him to learn how he works. They take him apart, and all of his organs try to re-form into more zombies. He also has the ability to slow time. There is a lot more to this, and it isn’t the average zombie story (there are aliens, Earth colonization). It was excellently written and came together very nicely in the end. Creepy good.

“Tide of Souls” by Simon Bestwick (Tomes of the Dead series)

The world has flooded. Zombies are called “Nightmares”. Killing a person by shooting him in the head does not ensure that he will not come back as a zombie. The zombie’s eyes glow green. It is divided up into sections, with each section having a differerent narrator.

“The Way of the Barefoot Zombie” by Jasper Bark (Tomes of the Dead series)

The zombies are the draw for a special educational vacation retreat. Rich people from all around the world come to a secluded Caribbean island to learn about life and business by studying and imitating zombies that are in a captive colony. The party goes awry when operatives from the Zombie Liberation Front step in.

“The Devil’s Plague” by Mark Beynon (Tomes of the Dead series)

Set in England during the time of Oliver Cromwell – who has enlisted an army of the undead to win his war against the Royalists. The zombies are “The Kryfangan” – who are said to be an army created by the Devil himself, and had been used by Ghengis Khan.

“The Words of Their Roaring” by Matthew Smith (Tomes of the Dead series)

Set in London, where zombies have free reign. The civilization is non existant. However, a former mob boss thinks this is great – he now has a chance to get control of the city the way he likes. He figures out how to use the zombies to be his troops. One zombie is sentient, and helps out the resistance. The reason for the zombie outbreak is a virus that was being developed to create an army of zombies. The plan was to send expendible zombies to war instead of live soldiers.

“Death Hulk” by Matthew Sprange (Tomes of the Dead series)

A historical naval zombie fiction. You can’t escape zombies when you are out to sea or on a deserted island. I agree with the reviews that the historical accuracy and the nautical descriptions appear spot on – but it takes way too long to get to the zombie part of the story. Once you get there, it is pretty scary.

“Breathers, A Zombie’s Lament” by S.G. Browne

Advertised as a “Zombie Romantic Comedy” – or a zom-rom-com. An enjoyable light read, and most likely the only romantic comedy I’ll every bother with. The main character, Andy Warner, was in an automobile accident yet walked away from his funeral. Not all the dead reanimate in this book – and it is unknown what the cause is for the reanimation. But when they do reanimate, they find they have no civil rights. Their identities die with them – no name, no driver’s license, no bank account. If a zombie is lucky, he has relatives who are willing to claim him and give him a place to stay. If he isn’t, he is sold for dog food or medical research. Andy lives in his parent’s wine cellar. He attends a support group called “Undead Anonymous” where he meets Rita, a sexy suicide with a taste for lipstick. The formaldehyde in everyday products like lipstick and nail polish help the recent zombies to look more natural. A very funny tale about who is human and who has rights as a human.

“Death Troopers” by Joe Schreiber

Star Wars plus zombies. Really, who could want more? Well, I want a better ending, but other than that it is a great read.

“Viking Dead” by Toby Venables (Tomes of the Dead series)

Really fabulous. Zombies and Vikings. Another winner from the Tomes of the Dead series.

“Empire of Salt” by Weston Ochse (Tomes of the Dead series)

A little slow paced at times. This was advertised as being really good horror, but it isn’t that scary. Good suspense, but the characters are a little off.

“Festival of Death” by Jonathan Morris

A Doctor Who zombie book – no, the Doctor isn’t a zombie, even though he never seems able to die. This has interesting characters and a good plot, but it gets a little confusing because of all the time-travel. It is a little hard to keep up with.

“Alice in Zombieland” by Gena Showalter

Young-Adult level, butt-kicking romance with zombies. Think “Twilight” but not annoying. This is really good.

“Brown Girl in the Ring” by Nalo Hopkinson

The zombie myth goes back to the source. Voodoo magic fiction. Very good.

“Double Dead” by Chuck Wendig (Tomes of the Dead series)

What happens if you are a vampire and you wake up and the world has been taken over by zombies? You suddenly have to protect the humans, because otherwise you’ll starve to death. This is a refreshing take on the zombie myth.