As far as I can tell, Everyone Dies at the End is not available to buy through Amazon. I've searched there high and low and, though I've found other works by the Westbrooks, this particular tale of the zombie apocalypse is not one of them. Which tells you straight off the bat that this independent little work is unlikely to compare favourably with the books that have gone through a publisher, or at least passed through many sets of eyes, before they are made available to the general public. After I completed Everyone Dies at the End, I managed to track the book down to a website, where it appears to have been presented as a serialised audiobook - which would go some way toward explaining why it was comprised of twelve "episodes" - and realised that the authors wrote themselves into the novella as two of the major characters.
Perhaps had I known all this before I read Everyone Dies at the End, I might have liked it more.
As it stands, this one is a not overly original take on the end of the world via a mould which kills when it enters its host, turns them the ambulating dead who vomit spores of the mould over anyone they come into contact with while, of course, trying to eat them. Often the dead wind up with great big mushrooms growing out of their heads. If this sounds familiar, it should: It's an awful lot like the hit Playstation game, The Last of Us, only without the compelling characters and high-tension.
Instead, the Westbrooks give us Earl - a horrendous excuse for a human being who kickstarts the apocalypse when he injects his junkie girlfriend with mould rather than some of the heroin he has managed to procure. Earl maintains his drug habit through the entire novella, and though we get glimpses of a person from time to time, most everything he does is to score or get high. The Westbrooks use the metaphor of a demon only Earl can see to detail his battle with addiction, and as odd as that sounds, it was probably the best aspect of the novella, as I was genuinely unsure at times as to whether said demon existed outside of Earl's head.
The other main story arc depicts Joey, Sara, John and Peter and their various children as they hide out away from civilisation, hoping to avoid the growing apocalypse as it vomits its way toward them. Joey and Sara (aka Gary Stu and Mary Sue) are the most memorable characters of this lot, if only because the reader is repeatedly reminded how fat and unattractive Joey is (yet still very capable across all areas of life), how smoking hot Sara is, and that no-one can understand how Joey manages to keep Sara.
Of course, these storylines interweave and eventually entwine. Unfortunately they then culminate in one of the more painful endings I've ever read. I'm not one to spoil anything for the next unsuspecting reader, so I'll limit myself to saying it completely renders any enjoyable aspect of what came before completely moot. It is astonishingly bad and the type of thing that would have been jettisoned by the first professional editor this story came across.
That aside, the characters and their decision making (or lack thereof) let down Everybody Dies at the End. There are some interesting ideas within the pages, including Earl's demon and the way the mould passes on to animals, but most of them get lost between the many moments of incredulity I had trying to understand the way these people were acting. In some ways, the terrible ending explains some of these issues, but not enough to satisfy me. There was also an incredible amount of more recreational drug use in the non-Earl storyline which to me felt shoe-horned in and unnecessary. Almost as if the Westbrooks were really pushing their perspective on the use of drugs. I'm no prude, but if I wanted to read this kind of thing, I'll hop on a legalisation debate forum; I'd prefer not to see it in my apocalyptic horror fiction - not when it fails to serve the characters or their story.
Others may enjoy Everybody Dies at the End far more than me. Just go in knowing it's a Mary-Sue story and adjust expectations accordingly.
2 Undead Forest Predators for Everybody Diest at the End.