Title: Down the Road: The Fall of Austin
Author: Bowie Ibarra
Publisher: Permuted Press
Officer Mike Runyard of the Austin Police Department and his partner, Derek Tucker, are stuck in the middle of a city overrun by the living dead. With resources and luck running out, Runyard is flung into a fight for survival among the living, the dead, and a wave of criminals released from jail into the streets of central and south Austin.
I’ve been a fan of Bowie Ibarra ever since I read his first two zombie novels, Down the Road and Down the Road: On the Last Day. I like Bowie because his books read at a brisk pace, his characters are well developed and believable, and his zombie carnage is first rate. One reason his novels stand out is that the zombie outbreak not only signifies the end of civilization as we know it, but also the collapse of the social norms that bind us together. When I read a Bowie Ibarra novel, I’m fascinated by characters who are not only scanning the path ahead for zombies, but are constantly looking over their shoulder to make certain they’re not about to be stabbed in the back.
With Down the Road: The Fall of Austin, Bowie again drops his readers right into the middle of a nightmare.
The novel centers around five groups of characters, most of whom range from barely likable to “I can’t wait to see that bastard get eaten alive.” (NOTE: That is not meant as criticism. The deeply flawed nature of the characters makes them realistic.) Mike Runyard who, thanks to his partner Derek Tucker, is wounded and has to fend for himself in a city crumbling around him. Keri Lawrence, a junior high teacher with a broken heart of gold who is desperately trying to find a way to survive the apocalypse. Hector Arana, the drug kingpin who escapes from prison during the outbreak and mobilizes a Hispanic gang that attempts to restore a perverse order to the streets of Austin. And two groups of soldiers assigned to secure Austin from the living dead, one led by Sergeant Arnold whose team deserts rather than allow themselves to fall under a United Nations command exercising power over U.S. troops, and the other led by Sergeant Nickson whose team of miscreants hunt down their AWOL comrades with a sadistic glee. As the situation rapidly deteriorates, each group winds up on separate paths that eventually cross during the apocalyptic climax.
Bowie delivers the goods in his third book in the series. Not only is there considerable tension and intrigue as the characters try to survive the outbreak, but there is more than enough zombie action to satiate those of us who like gut-munching action.
Down the Road: The Fall of Austin is a zombie apocalypse at its best. This book gets four out of five rotting zombie heads.