PJV Quickie: Red Hill by Jamie McGuire was your typical zombie novel with an emphasis on the characters and the character relationships in the end-of-the-world setting. McGuire’s writing was spot on and her character creation was a great addition to the normally horrific portrayal in zombie novels, but with her emphasis on character relationships it lost a lot of the momentum and gore that you find within a really good zombie apocalypse.
Review: The novel, Red Hill is from three different point of views. We begin the novel with Scarlet, with some poignant foreshadowing as she drops her kids off at school. This set the emotional tone of the novel, focusing on Scarlet and the obvious loss of her children, which is the unknown situation, because her ex-husband was the one to pick them up from school as the zombie apocalypse unfolded while she was at work.
The second narrator was Nathan, who I connected with immediately. Nathan is in a very loveless marriage, but centers all of his emotions on his seven year old daughter, Zoey. We open with Nathan figuring out something is really wrong in the world and rushing to Zoey’s school to grab her. He goes to fetch his wife, before he heads to the more rural areas, when he finds that his wife has left him, with a “Dear John” letter.
The final narrator is Miranda, at first introduction, Miranda seems quite materialistic and self-centered, focusing on her new car, instead of the crisis that is unfolding around her. She has her sister Ashley and her boyfriend Cooper in the car with her, along with her long-term boyfriend Bryce. They were heading out to their father’s ranch when the zombie apocalypse exploded around them. Miranda’s narrative has some of my favorite dialogue and while her character might have been my least favorite because of her childish and selfish actions, and a 2D quality to her ruminations, I did like her.
“…I knew I wasn’t dying on Day 1 of the fucking zombie apocalypse.” – Miranda, Red Hill
Like I mentioned earlier, Red Hill embraces the usual zombie narrative, survivors looking for a place to bug in and wait out the zombies. All of the survivors focus on Red Hill, Miranda’s Father’s ranch. Scarlet because she had cleaned it for him while she was in radiation tech school and Nathan because he runs into Miranda and her crew, offering to help them if they helps his little girl.
The thing about Red Hill though, is that it is a rather naive zombie experience. On one hand we have soldiers killing motorist that are trying to force their way into the town of Anderson. Mowing down citizens that are just standing on their front porch. Which yes, it was a horrific plot sequence. But, on the other hand you have coincidence after coincidence of the survivors seeing each other, or running into each other over a span of a few cities. There is no one else left alive in a town of thousands – but a guy they know. That sort of thing, which I thought was a bit off – leading to the ending of the novel which again was unbelievable, because of the low probability of it. Not to mention the hurried pace of the ending with a lot of plot-twists that seemed to be added just for emotional-fall-out. I had the feeling that it was structured because it is a zombie novel so the author had to do it this and this kind of way. I will discuss it in a spoiler section below.
There was also very little gore, compared to the usual zombie fest. The zombies aren’t really described, there are some horrific scenes, but nothing that would have me leaving the lights on at night. Again, McGuire focused on the relationships of the survivors. She literally had relationships forming with every single survivor, love-triangles popping up and fizzling out…so if you are looking for a little less gore and a little more lust in your zombie apocalypse, Red Hill is the book for you.
Other then the lack of gore and some of the plot improbability, McGuire can write a damn good novel. Her writing is compelling and evokes a very intense emotional response. I was on the edge of my seat for the first part of the novel as the apocalypse unfolded, it wasn’t until the survivors settled down that things began to slow down and become rather mundane. But, then the character interaction began and McGuire’s character creation shined.
Narration: Three narrators took on this tale, Emma Galvin, January LaVoy, Zachary Webber, which rocked. I love multi-narrators. Emma Galvin was previously introduced to me with her narration of Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles, which she did a great job with. She’s a talented Young Adult voice. January and Zachary were new listens and I was impressed, January was great as Scarlet and Zachary as Nathan’s POV was fantastic, for a newbie narrator. The audiobook edition = great!
Recommendations: Red Hill isn’t one of the best zombie novels I’ve read/listened to, but it was a great addition to the genre. I recommend anyone who likes zombie novels to snatch this one up, even though it really has very little bite. When you are used to The Walking Dead, this one is definitely more cuddly. I wouldn’t be too scared, fans of McGuire…you’ll get your romance, but beware, there are dead people that eat characters in the novel. Prepare to be emotionally rolled. For adults only, there are a lot of mature themes.
Spoiler Discussion Area
There has been a lot of mixed reactions with the novel and my thoughts are also a bit mixed. On one hand I really like the novel and the beginning pace. I liked everything about this novel until everyone got to Red Hill. Because once they got to Red Hill I didn’t like a lot of the things that happened. For one, I immediately connected with Nathan, but lost that connection when he hooked up with Scarlet. It was like he was so focused on his daughter in the beginning of the novel, Zoe was his world. But the moment Scarlet came into the picture – Nathan was like a teenager with a crush. And again, the woman in his life treated him with little respect. Scarlet was this bad-ass and Nathan was like the little woman, staying home, while Scarlet ran the show. I had enjoyed Scarlet’s POV at the beginning of the novel, she was this focused woman, on a mission to find her children, but again when she reached Red Hill she became this one-trick horse. Sacrificing everything on a hope that her children were still alive.
Then there was the Miranda crew with the love-triangle between Miranda, Joey and Bryce. I do believe this group of characters were written into the novel just to die and have a love-triangle. I really wasn’t big on Miranda. I didn’t feel any love between her and Joey, I actually liked Joey the best out of the group, but really because he was out for the protection of the group, while the others were just being selfish. Bryce could have died on day one and he wouldn’t have been missed. His character was just there to keep Miranda and Joey apart, so it wouldn’t be too much of a Romance instead of a zombie novel. And it was obvious the author didn’t even really like them, because she couldn’t even give them good deaths. Cooper’s death was epic, self-sacrificing and in detail. But, Joey couldn’t even have his death immortalized in his own scene? It was recounted in a playback when Scarlet came back? What was that?
When Miranda finally got some balls and told off Scarlet, suddenly the kids are walking up, showing no resilience to evading zombies – even though they had been on their own for 1 week – and the group runs out and dies to save the children from the horde behind them. I was underwhelmed by the ending.
Nathan should have dumped all their asses and taken a trip to the outpost and found a woman that treated him with respect and worshiped him like the dedicated father he was. And that is my two cents. The book was good enough to invoke a ton of emotional responses in myself, but obviously some of those emotions were not positive.