Hot Off the Presses scours the internet for newly published debut books from unknown authors, and saves everyone else the trouble of actually reading books to find out if they’re good or not. New posts every Tuesday. This is meant for entertainment purposes only, not serious consumer advice. And there will be spoilers.
Two things I know for sure: the empty kitchen sink is a myth perpetuated by the patriarchy, and zombies are a dead genre in the world of traditional publishing. You know who didn’t get the memo? Nick Clausen, who wrote a book about a zombie outbreak in Denmark that results in a 10% reduction in the country’s measurable happiness, and I’m glad he did. It’s been too long.
The story opens with a mystery narrator telling us about the first of our perspective characters, Mark (Dan to his friends), sitting in a boring office conference room. Talk about feeling like a zombie, amirite, folks? Dan Mark momentarily loses his hearing, and feels a presence, like someone is standing just behind him. But before he can figure out exactly what’s going on, his boss (Minnie to his friends) disrupts the meeting by staring out the window at nothing. When Mark investigates, it turns out that Minnie Boss has lost his pupils. His pure white eyes are apparently inoperable, but his teeth sure as shit still work as he chews through one intern after another. So, pretty normal corporate work culture. OK, I’ll stop. A few guys go full zombie and start beating up the other guys, as well as a woman named Erika. Then some office guys start fleeing and creating a panic around the building. This isn’t my terminology; Nick Clausen uses the word “guy” to refer to any unnamed character throughout the entire book.
“Being a mom seems to be noncompatible with being a babe.”
Cut to Gina, a young woman walking down the street concerned about her looks, like women be doing. She catches some complicated feelings about getting hit on by skater guys when she experiences the same hearing loss and feeling of being watched that Mark experienced. This is a theme in Blind Rage: we get a lot of the same information from each of the perspective characters, dutifully explained in full detail. Gina’s karate reflexes allow her to fend off the now enzombled skater guys, getting a good look at their eyes in the process. The completely white eyes, with no hint of a pupil or iris, are described as even more disturbing and frightening than an actual blind person’s eyes! The horror! Looking up, she notices what everyone has been staring at: a Doctor Who rip in space-time clear across the sky.
Next Mystery Narrator follows Tommy Teenager, which means we get the hearing loss and presence again, and a glance at the sky crack. Climbing out of his stepfather guy’s car, he is surrounded by panic and chaos. The skin of affected guys appears gray and dead, with black veins showing through the pallor. He runs into Gina, but then gets hit by a Danish bus. I’ve always wondered how many people during a zombie apocalypse just get killed by, like, undercooked chicken or Danish bus collisions, and I’m glad Blind Rage is addressing these prosaic dangers in the midst of the pandemonium.
Meanwhile Mark is still trying to make his way out of the office building. He takes the time to explain the sky rip a third time, then fills us in on the eyeless zombies. They can still hear, and possibly smell, and have some limited consciousness left. In fact, after hearing them make guttural noises to each other like “wrough” and “grruah,” he realizes that the zombies are able to use a rudimentary form of communication called Danish. The Danish language is made up. I will not budge on this belief, so don’t even come for me. In writing it looks like any other language: vowels, consonants, pauses for breath. But hear it spoken and you won’t be able to differentiate one gargled uvula from another. The whole thing sounds like someone yawning through a mouth full of rubber bands.
“Maybe a plane has crashed into a building, just like it happened in New York in 2001.”
Anyway, Gina has managed to push Tommy out of the way quickly enough to save him from certain death, but now she has to drag his injured, unconscious body to the safety of an abandoned department store. Surprisingly, the 911 call goes through just fine and the Danish police are on their way. The action cuts back and forth rapidly between Gina and Mark at this point. Mark saves Useless Erika from Minnie Boss and a zombie guy on his way out the building, while Gina tries to fight off a fat retail worker zombie with her now famous karate reflexes. Tommy regains consciousness, saves Gina from a motorcycle guy, and notices her butt, which is good because she was really worried about the state of her butt, but collapses again from his injuries. The four survivors meet in an alleyway and join forces. After nine chapters and several small plot twists, Act I is only now hitting its stride. The story goes on to hit such highlights as useless cops, a prettiness competition between Girl and Girl, and plenty of wise-cracking teenagers.
Nick Clausen is clearly going for a cinematic style, and on its own that’s not necessarily a problem. In fact, it’s sadly unavoidable. I spend an embarrassing amount of time catching up on publishing news, book tours, and the latest trends, and lately the book-to-visual-media pipeline has taken over with about as much collateral damage and brazen disregard for quality of life as an actual pipeline. It’s gotten to the point that authors are carefully describing every detail of a protagonist’s outfit, and putting them in that outfit in every scene like a video game character, in the hopes that it will be an iconic look on the upcoming Netflix original series. In the case of Blind Rage, the movification is turned up to eleven. I’m not being an old fuddy duddy about this (I mean, I am one of those; my spirit animal is a Boomer asking to talk to the manager of a Culvers). It’s just worth pointing out that even in a book that defies industry trends, they are difficult to avoid entirely. The rapid fire chapters, present tense, and minute physical descriptions go beyond the cinematic. In places it even reads like scene notes, with narration like “he’s coming this way,” and “She’s just standing there.”
Actually, we need to talk about the narrator. At first I didn’t realize there was a definable narrator. I read things like “Mark saw…” and assumed it was just the sort of sloppy writing we all do from time to time. But then it kept happening. We get lots of editorializing like “Obviously…” but Mark’s own thoughts would be written in italics. The narration clearly has its own consistent style and voice distinct from the dialogue of any of the perspective characters. Who is this person? I know I sound crazy right now, but hear me out. Did Nick Clausen write a character telling the story of three people of his or her own creation? How much of it is “real” within the context of the story? Which ones are even Danish?
“The motorbike guy spins around and exclaims: Pourah? The blonde snaps back at him: Kroouh!”
I find the whole idea of a zombie apocalypse pretty weak escapism, mainly because I have spent my entire life preparing for the moment when I die in the first ten minutes after patient zero starts gnawing on people. Even in one of those realistic scenarios where the outbreak is actually contained, I am the person who dies in the opening credits. But for some people, the sort of people who always root for the Ever Given, people who don’t own canned goods but still feel like preppers deep down in their gutty-wuts, find endless entertainment in this sort of story. And that’s one reason why I love the landscape of self-published books. Nick Clausen doesn’t care what trends are dead according to the publishing industry, Dad, and neither do his readers. If you want a cinematic zombie gore fest, Nick is here for you. Blind Rage is three dollars on Kindle, and if Danish zombies and fast paced storytelling are your thing, it’s well worth the price.
I sat through another one of Madeline’s dumb reviews, so now you do too.Tweet