I finished Joe McKinney's The Crossing: A Zombie Novella a day or so before going to see the new Liam Neeson movie The Grey. (Not exactly a feel-good combo, I know.) I was completely absorbed in the movie at the time, but as I sat down to review my notes in preparation for writing this review, I began to realize there are a couple of striking similarities between the two. Both are examinations of how people react in hopeless situations, and both conclude that we don't always confront such situations in ways that are noble and heroic. Sometimes we just get scared – and fear can be a paralyzing emotion.
In The Crossing we meet Samantha, a young reporter who embeds herself in a walled-off portion of America that's been overrun by zombies. She plans to spend a few weeks inside the quarantine, gathering information on life inside the wall, and then cross back over, write her story and collect a Pulitzer.
Samantha hooks up with a girl named Jessica who so far has managed to stay a step ahead of the undead. She's fared better at this than most of her friends, so Samantha figures she'd be a good ally to travel with. The two plan to travel to an area of the wall that Jessica has heard is easy to cross, provided you find the right guide to help you once you get there.
This novella is part of the Print Is Dead line from Creeping Hemlock Press, which has published several books that play fast and loose with the traditional zombie "rules." This book, more than any of the other Print Is Dead releases thus far, keeps the zombies largely in the background, where they nonetheless remain a consistent and terrifying threat that informs the characters' decisions without being the actual focus of the book.
McKinney is examining the familiar refrain that the plague of the undead has transformed many of the survivors just as thoroughly as it has the world's corpses. Many of the living have, in their own way, become monsters with no morals, no remorse, and no compassion, making the world even more dangerous for those who have retained some semblance of humanity. The human monsters act in many ways like the undead, shambling through the world, waiting for something weaker to stumble into their path. McKinney seems to be asking if reverting to savagery and self-centeredness is really a way to survive, or is it instead a path that carries the survivors too close to an edge that they can't come back from? Like The Grey film, this novella proves that this is a question with answers we may not particularly enjoy.
The Crossing is a powerful tale with an abrupt and heart-breaking ending. It's currently available in a variety of digital formats via Amazon and Smashwords, and as an added bonus the digital version contains previews of several other Print Is Dead releases. Once again, Creeping Hemlock Press showcases the versatility of the zombie subgenre with a story that's well worth your time.
Creeping Hemlock Press: http://www.creepinghemlock.com
Print Is Dead: http://www.printisdead.com
Joe McKinney: http:// joemckinney.wordpress.com/
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.