The world has been overrun by the living dead, but small pockets of survivors have banded together, some for mutual protection, some for a hope of rebuilding the world they lost, but there are others who’ve come together for a much darker purpose.
I imagine there will come a time when some zombified Alexander the Great wannabe unites the undead for the purpose of deposing the living as this planet’s dominant lifeform. Personally, I’m not really looking forward to it. I’ve mentioned a time or two that the undead, for the most part, aren’t all that interested in world domination, just way too much work, but I really, really don’t want to have to deal with a world where the dead reign supreme. While there are a lot of great reasons for a zombie apocalypse, less care about being seen while out and about, a feast the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the days of the old Roman Emperors, an abundance of the color green, there is a big reason to be against such an event, and it has nothing to do with the scarce commodity that would eventually be human flesh. No, it’s television. Zombies are just not a creative bunch, we’re far too literal, bring up Schrodinger’s Cat around a zombie if you don’t believe me (it’s obviously either dead or alive, not both), so imagine what our television would be like. Actually, I don’t have to imagine it, we have a TV station, and while I’m sure the living would get a kick out of it, it’s pretty boring after a while. Since I can only watch Futurama reruns so many times, I prefer the living keep control of what comes on the idiot box for the time being. Plus, I don’t feel like having to deal with survivors like Francis. Who’s Francis, well…
Francis is a character we’ve briefly met before in Class Four’s predecessor Class Three, a burly security guard that previous heroes Phillip and Jim met on the day the world went to hell. If you haven’t yet had a chance to read Class Three, it wrapped up with Francis and a young boy entering a cabin and scrounging for supplies. This is where our story picks up when we learn that the young boy, Nathan, became Francis’ ward when his mother became a member of the living dead. Francis promised the woman he would take care of her son and the two of them have been on the move ever since. While the pair search the world for some semblance of safety, a difficult thing to find now that the world has fallen to the dead, a group of survivors are doing their best to make a life for themselves in an abandoned factory that’s been converted into a miniature town of sorts. Here people are forced to live and work in close conditions that don’t allow for many mistakes, which is why a few of the less stable ones have been asked to work through their issues in therapy sessions with session leader Steve. Since their issues namely stem from terrible events that transpired during the fall of humanity, their best way forward is talking through said events, regardless of how traumatic they might have been. Though the life they share at the former Netzach’s factory isn’t ideal, it’s better than trying to survive alone, but a religious cult who believes that zombies are the will of their goddess has other ideas, and they’ll do whatever they find necessary in order to swell the ranks of their goddess’ followers.
While Class Three focused on two characters dealing with the fall of humanity and the rise of the dead, Class Four picks up after the fall with the dead having overrun the world and humanity holing up in small communities in an attempt to survive. It’s a nice change up that keeps things fresh by giving us a new perspective, but don’t start fretting Class Three fan, Duncan Bradshaw’s ability to switch between horror and humor seamlessly is still on full display for the sequel. You have to hand it to an author that can make you cringe one minute only to have you laughing the next. This is mainly due to Bradshaw’s excellent way with words. He’s able to describe some truly horrific things, the major disfigurement of a character, a zombie eating his own eye, the grotesqueries at the circus of my dreams, in such a way that you’re able to visualize exactly what you’re reading (so be warned, that eye eating scene was stuck in my head for a while). At the same time, he’s able to pepper his horror filled tale with well written humor that is neither distracting from the story nor comes across as silly so that Class 4 remains a horror story with some humor to it instead of becoming another zombidy or whatever clever word has been invented for comedy tales involving the walking dead (I’m too crotchety and old to learn new words at this point, I still get a little sick every time I hear someone refer to their lover as “bae,” well, first I look for a nearby sheep, but when that doesn’t pan out, I get kind of sick).
Bradshaw’s prowess with the written word is obvious when you take in the fact that Class Four isn’t just one story, it’s several different tales that all play out within the confines of the novel’s overall story. I say his prowess is obvious because even though you have all these different stories coming together, I never felt lost. Even more impressive, the switches never pulled me out of the overall story, in fact they added to it. There are three major tales, Francis trying to get his young ward somewhere safe (this interspersed with flashbacks of Francis and his wife), the people of Netzach’s making a life for themselves, and the cult desperate to destroy everything for the sake of their goddess, as well as a set of shorter tales that deal directly with the individuals at Netzach participating in group therapy. Each one is in therapy because they had some issues adjusting to life after the world fell and are in need of therapy if they hope to become useful members of Netzach’s society. Part of what made these stories so interesting, besides them being introduced with book covers reminiscent of old Goosebumps or Hardy Boys novels, is that they are presented in a way that forces you to focus on them more then you might have otherwise thanks to feeling like you’re in the room with them. Other characters might ask questions during these stories, but you’ll only hear the response of the speaker, not the questions themselves. I loved these little bits and looked forward to them when they popped up (they are interspersed throughout the novel instead of being dumped on the reader all at once). I’d say that was my favorite part of Class Four, but that goes to a scene later in the book involving a freak show I would have been right at home at. I’d love to go into detail, but I don’t want to spoil anything for future readers. The only things I’ll mention are how this interlude during Francis’ part of the novel reminded me of watching an old B movie (one someone seriously needs to make if they haven’t already) and was presented in a very interesting way. The artwork didn’t hurt how enjoyable the section was either.
Class Four: Those Who Survive was a fun, interesting, and engrossing tale that perfectly mixes horror and humor. The characters are great, the story manages to stay completely coherent despite so many switches, and I adored each moment of my reading. This one comes in high in my list of zombie novels I’d recommend.
You Can Purchase It Here:
The Undead Review
Written By: Duncan P. Bradshaw
Published By: Sinister Horror Company