Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review of Hissers

Title:  Hissers
Author:  Ryan C. Thomas

Publisher:  Permuted Press

Date: 2011

Pages: 241


In the small town of Castor, it’s the last weekend of summer break.  In just two days four teenage friends will begin their high school careers. Dating, who to sit with at the lunch table, and what to wear seem to be the most important decisions facing them. But as Conner, Seth, Amanita, and Nicole venture to the most popular end-of-summer high school party in town, they soon discover there are even more important decisions to be made. Life and death decisions. Namely, how to outrun the massive wave of muted undead that have suddenly crashed the party. It’s The Breakfast Club meets Resident Evil as the teens of Castor fight to stay alive. 

It is the last Saturday of summer.  From their dilapidated clubhouse on the hill overlooking Castor, Connor and Seth are arguing about whether they should stay inside and play video games or accompany Amanita and Nicole, who dropped by to visit, to the huge pre-school party taking place in town.  The night is shattered by an airliner that roars over their clubhouse and crashes into town.  The four teenagers race to the crash scene to see if they can help, arriving in time to watch the first responders be set upon and torn apart by ferocious mutations emerging from the burning wreckage.  They barely escape these initial attacks and retreat to the relative safety of their neighborhoods, only to watch in despair as the entire town is rapidly overrun by these creatures.  Family, friends, and neighbors die en masse around them, and every avenue of escape is blocked by wrecked cars, trapping them in the devastated town.  As they fight to survive, Connor and the others soon discover that the military has decided to sterilize Castor to contain the outbreak. 

However, the ticking clock to complete annihilation is the least of their concerns, for something is roaming the streets of Castor far more monstrous than the hissers.

I read Hissers while on vacation and couldn’t put it down, for several reasons. First, it’s a good, fast-paced read. The action begins on page forty and doesn’t let up for the next two hundred pages, providing enough blood and intensity to satisfy even the most die-hard zombie enthusiast.  

In addition, Ryan takes the time to develop his main characters. The heroes/heroines are not two-dimensional figures who merely react to their situation, but are protagonists who are easy to identify with (Connor, the popular jock; Seth, the fat and nerdy outcast; Amanita, who uses her body to get the attention from boys she doesn’t get from her parents; and Nicole, the smart one who just wants to be like the other students). Even more important, they think and behave like teenagers, which is something other authors have tried to do but failed, making the characters seem too much like adults to be credible.  Sure, these kids grow up rapidly as their town crumbles around them, but in their lighter moments they still think like high schoolers, for example when Connor and Seth constantly compare the carnage around them to the first-person shooters they play.   

However, where Hissers truly stands out is in Ryan’s willingness to take a chance and breathe new life into the living dead (pun intended). Hissers could easily have been just another novel about average people trying to survive a zombie apocalypse, accept that Ryan reimaged his creatures.  The hissers are faster and more vicious than the most nightmarish zombie, have the ability to hunt in packs, and are biomedical mutations that absorb and regenerate any spare body parts they come into contact with. The result is that Ryan has created an entirely new and terrifying monster, one that captures the imagination. 

Hissers is a must-read for anyone who loves balls-to-the-wall action and hordes of gut-munching/limb-tearing monsters. I give this book four and a half out of five rotting zombie heads.

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