After enjoying the hell out of the first book in this series, Domain of the Dead - so much so that it made my top 10 horror reads of 2013 - I'd long been looking forward to reading this sequel. Weirdly, I sometimes like to delay gratification, so Remains of the Dead kept slipping down to #10-15 on my TBR pile as I waited for what felt like the right time.
Well that time was this week, and though Remains of the Dead is again technically very well-written, it is unfortunately not as arresting or as unique as Domain. Instead, McKinnon presents the story of the side characters whom the reader was briefly introduced to at the beginning of Domain. These six people are left on the ground while the others were helicoptered back to base, which was actually a ship far enough out to sea to not be at any threat to the zombies (hence the unique spin mentioned above). The six left behind therefore have to survive long enough for the chopper to refuel and return for them, and that means finding a secure place to defend. In other words, it's fairly typical zombie apocalyptic stuff, even if McKinnon's writing is far better than what is usually found within this genre.
For me, part of what makes this feel like a longer read is almost half the book is dedicated to one character's efforts to survive. You see, Ali never joins up with the other five characters left behind, so it becomes him versus the horde of zombies chasing him with absolutely no dialogue. By half way through the novel, I was growing restless with his arc, and wanted to go back to the other survivors whose interactions comprised the best parts of this sequel.
Fans of the original should also be warned that McKinnon spends the first 30 pages covering the exact same ground written about at the start of Domain, just from the different characters' perspectives. Does this Rashomon type structure work? That's likely a matter of personal taste, but for mine, it felt a bit unnecessary as it did little more than pad out the page count.
It might sound like I did not like Remains of the Dead, but I definitely did. So I was frustrated to learn that like its predecessor, this one also ends on a massive cliffhanger, and though published four years ago, there has been no direct sequel yet written. The third book in the series, Demise of the Living is a prequel rather than a sequel. And though I'm interested in how McKinnon opts to depict the fall of the world in the first place, I'm not as keen on that as having some resolution to the two cliffhangers I now have bubbling through my head!
3 Very Long Waits on a Rooftop for Remains of the Dead.