Half the battle as a writer seems to be finding a way to hook your reader and keep them engaged - especially when writing in a sub-genre as saturated as zombie apocalyptic fiction.
To his credit, Ray Wallace has found his hook. And it's generally a good one. Short, sharp chapters, each representing the POV of a different key character, edited of anything superfluous, and limited to the events of one day. Year of the Dead charts what seems to be the end of the world through some 92 days, beginning with small meteors falling from space that cause people at the impact sites to get sick, die and reanimate, and culminating in events that take place after the dead have over-run much of North America.
Told in this way, it takes awhile to get a feel for all of the characters (as I had to flick back five to ten chapters on several occasions to remind myself which character I was currently following), but once I did, I found myself fully immersed in their struggle for survival. As the book enters its second half, the characters begin to meet, often in unforeseen ways, with many of their arcs strengthening for these associations. Some of the characters hide or take refuge, others take the battle to the demons, while still others are left to make decisions that could affect all of the dwindling survivors.
But the most intriguing chapters are those that give an insight to what happens to one character who dies and reanimates very early in the book. Getting a glimpse of what drives him to eat, and the intelligence that coordinates its movement along with those of the other zombies, sets up an intriguing implication that I hope will pay off in later books. Because, yes, I assume (and very sincerely hope) this is not the last book in the YEAR of the Dead saga, since it ends without any kind of resolution, but basically at the quarter-mark of the titular year. This does work against the book, as it would have been nice to have some sense of completion for at least some of the characters.
All in all, Wallace delivers another quality novel that, complete with his strong prose and brisk plotting, should have zombie and apocalyptic fans clamouring for more.
4 God-Delivered Reasons to Smite Thine Enemy for Year of the Dead.