When Jim’s love life fell apart, the last thing he expected to deal with afterwards was the apocalyptic rising of the dead, lucky for him, his brother Phillip has been preparing for a while.
If zombiekind wanted to take over the world, we should have done it thirty years ago because if we make the attempt these days, it’s just going to be more of a hassle than it’s worth. Thirty years ago you didn’t have as many meatsacks running around trying to prepare for the rising of the dead like it was scheduled on some community calendar only Zombie Squad members had access to, but nowadays it seems like everyone and their grandmother (80 being the new 60 and all that) are out and about picking up anti-zombie weapons and taking some form of anti-zombie training (they offer classes at the Y now). I’m thinking the timeframe in which zombies might have taken over the world came and went while the undead squabbled over whether they should include the 28 Days Later infected among our number. Truth be told, I could care less about a zombie apocalypse, seems like a lot of work ruling the world with an iron, undead fist, and I just don’t feel like putting in all that much effort for world domination. No, I prefer things as they are, sure, it might make catching a meal a little more difficult than it would otherwise be, but ruling a world would be far more difficult. I’m a lazy zombie, much like most of my kind, I don’t want the burden of undead tyranny, not when I have Netflix and a DVR full of superhero television shows I still need to watch. Maybe when Flash wraps up I might feel more motivated, probably not, but maybe. In fact, if you humans really want to prevent a zombie apocalypse, it’s not training that’s going to help you, it’s getting Constantine back on the air. That’ll help you way more than a dozen trench spikes, shaolin spades, or sawed off shotguns. You might not have loved the show, but you’ll like it a whole lot more than a bite to the face…just saying.
Our story begins with an ending, the ending of a relationship when a man named Jim is unceremoniously and unexpectedly dumped by his girlfriend Sofia. Poor Jim has been so focused on getting ahead at work that he’s neglected Sofia, to the point she feels her only option now is to end things and start anew. The broken hearted man responds in a fashion recognizable to many of us, the ancient and time honored tradition of getting as drunk as possible after a bad breakup, calling his brother Phillip for a ride once the alcoholic goodness starts to make its way through his system. Where Jim is a more reserved person, his brother Phillip is an obnoxious loudmouth with a penchant for saying the first thing that pops out of his mouth. Though the pair go together about as well as water and vinegar, brothers are brothers, and Phillip is more than happy to help his lovelorn sibling, once he gets over the minor annoyance of having his video game session interrupted anyways. The next day, nursing a hangover and late for work, Jim bolts out the door to start his morning. He expects to hear a reprimand or two, maybe a threat of lost potential, what he doesn’t expect is to walk out into a world that is in the midst of something akin to an early Romero film. Yes, overnight the dead began to rise from their graves with a ravenous hunger for the living, and after a few close calls, including being saved by a hulking security guard with the misleading name Francis, Jim realizes that he’s entirely unprepared for what’s happening. Thankfully his brother isn’t. Phillip has been a fan of zombies for quite some time, and he’s been prepping for their eventual shift from fantasy to reality. The pair will have to work together if they hope to survive, but with an ever increasing number of zombies, survival has never been more difficult…or entertaining, and while the brothers make their way to Jim’s girlfriend and a possible safe zone, a shadowy group of religious fanatics work behind the scenes to spread the infection for their god.
There are many factors that make up a zombie apocalypse, most of them fear based, fear of death, fear of a loss of one’s humanity, the very primal fear of being eaten alive, but one thing that is often left out is the fun. Duncan Bradshaw is here to change that with Class Three, a novel that puts the fun back in zombie, or it would if the word zombie had fun in it somewhere, but you get my point. Class Three has its more serious moments, and there’s enough gore to make any zombie fan happy, but it’s above all a fun, enjoyable read that asks the question “What might happen if someone who was looking forward to the rising of the dead got their chance to shine.” The book had an almost video game like feel to it as sensible Jim and overzealous Phillip went about, not only surviving the zombie apocalypse, but having a bit of fun in their survival as well. Killing zombies, figuring out which weapons are best to use, learning the mannerisms of the undead, and having a blast doing it, all things we love about playing our favorite zombie slaughtering video games, and now we get to ride along as a person, or two, lives out the fun in real life.
Jim and Phillip’s interactions are part of what makes Class Three so enjoyable, their personalities go together about as well as ketchup and mac’n’cheese, which, despite what some people say, is the grossest concoction since humanity stopped using urine as a key ingredient in our recipes, and yet they go together perfectly. Jim is a more sensible, down to earth character, a level headed guy who likes to think through his actions, while Philip is more impulsive and emotional. Where Jim would like to think things through before coming to a decision, Phillip is likely to simply react, being quick to both act and speak (this getting his mouth into more than a bit of trouble). They might be two completely different people, but that’s what makes them work together so well, each complimenting the other’s weaknesses to the point where they make an excellent team, Jim keeping Phillip from going overboard and Phillip keeping Jim from being too restrained. What’s really interesting is in how much you end up liking the characters despite their flaws, Phillip in particular being a difficult guy to like. Jim’s dislikable qualities are easier to ignore, his dislikable qualities being mainly focused on his lack of passion, but Phillip is an obnoxious asshole, that one friend we all had who always had to try and throw in a quip at every opportunity, when said friend wasn’t just being antagonistic for antagonism’s sake. He always thinks he’s right, will argue just to argue, thinks he’s funnier than he is, and spends much of his time being a complete asshat, and yet by the end of the book he was my favorite character. Part of this is Phillip’s unbridled glee in zombie killing, he’s waited a long time for this, spent much of his life as a huge fan of all things zombies, and prepped himself for the living dead’s arrival, you can’t help but enjoy his character, but part of it comes from the balance his brother Jim provides. Each one by themselves might not be enough, but together they make for one of the most enjoyable teams this side of Tucker and Dale.
Phillip and Jim aren’t the only characters you’ll find in Class Three though. There’s a whole host of people that come and go as the brothers take their journey, each one adding a bit more to the overall story. What was interesting was how some of the minor characters, people who only came up for a paragraph or two even, would later make an appearance, if only for one more short sentence. People coming and going in a story are nothing new, but seeing minor characters, some almost just extras more than full characters, come back after they’d already finished the go part of coming and going was different. They weren’t given much space because they didn’t need it, just enough so that the reader was given a more complete world. One of the more fascinating characters was a man named Colin. Colin is a character introduced in the beginning, his introduction also being his death, but the man doesn’t stay dead very long. He comes back as a zombie, shambling along with the horde to find more to eat, and his chapters are presented from his point of view. We also get a glimpse in his head as he tries to process data with a brain that’s mostly shut off.
Class Three is a gory good time, a book that has both heart and humor, and one I whole heartedly recommend. If you’re looking for a great zombie novel that pays homage to zombie books and films that came before it and delivers on both the gore and the laughter, then look no further, Class Three is the book for you.
The Undead Review
Published By: The Sinister Horror Company
Written By: Duncan P. Bradshaw
Publish Year: 2014
Rotten Heads: Four Heads Out of Five