FERAL by James DeMonaco (writer/director of THE PURGE movies) and B.K. Evenson (aka “Brian Evenson,” IMMOBILITY, THE WARREN) avoids the mistakes of a lot of post-apocalyptic, zombie-esque plague stories:
It gives you a little bit of set-up, then immediately jumps to the post-plague scenario. Because really, that’s what the reader wants. Not page after page of characters wandering around pontificating about “What’s happening?” No, we want to jump ahead to the action. We want characters struggling to survive in a new, harsh, and violent world. Screw the “whats” and “whys.” But I’m getting ahead of myself…
FERAL offers an intriguing twist on the whole zombie/killer virus, end-of-the-world scenarios: What if a virus turns every man into a freakishly strong, incredibly fast, rage-filled killer who wants to brutally murder every woman he comes across? Every woman is instantly in danger as the virus takes hold frighteningly quickly and turns every man, including loved ones and family members, into mutant murder machines. No man is spared, and no woman is safe.
The story opens with a typical day for teenager Allie, who is navigating the social and sexual politics of high school, when the airborne virus hits and all of the boys in her school begin to act strangely. The authors don’t waste much time with this, however, as the action kicks in pretty quickly and the males become murderous. Allie barely escapes and manages to rescue her younger sister, Kim. Then mercifully, the authors skip all of the boring parts about the young women coming to terms with their new world and scrambling to survive in their transformed environment.
The book fast forwards three years. Allie and Kim live in a fenced and guarded compound with other women who have managed to survive, either through luck or pluck. Allie is the compound’s star scavenger, who leaves to find supplies and keep track of the “Ferals” (as the mutated men are now called). Growing up, Allie was taught survival tactics by her father and she’s taken to her new role as tracker/scavenger/compound firearm instructor with the same ease and aplomb as Sarah Connor in TERMINATOR 2 (post-escape from the mental ward).
Little sister Kim is still struggling to adjust, as she just wants to be a kid and, you know, maybe have a little sisterly affection once in a while. But Allie is in constant Drill Instructor mode, all “You need to be ready at all times” and “There’s no place for fun and frivolity in this nightmarish world” (dialogue was made up for the purpose of this review, by the way, and should not be considered direct quotes).
Things are going along this way for a while until Allie notices the Ferals are acting differently. Instead of traveling alone or in small packs of five or six, they’re beginning to amass in a much larger group. Even more strange, they appear to be following a leader.
Is it an anomaly? Or are the Ferals adapting and evolving into something even more dangerous? And then there’s the mysterious stranger that saves Allie from being captured…
FERAL is a novel of hard left turns. Just when you think the story is heading one way, authors DeMonaco and Evenson twist the wheel and the reader finds him/herself barreling down another twisty path. It’s fast-paced, action-packed, and screams for a movie adaptation.
So let’s do the math:
(BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER – vampires) + (THE WALKING DEAD – zombies) + (ROMEO AND JULIET – family feuds and suicide pacts) = FERAL.
It adds up. FERAL is recommended. —Slade Grayson