Mark H. Walker,
Everyone Dies in the End
(Lock 'n Load, 2012)

From author Mark Walker comes a post-apocalyptic romp that doesn't slow down for a second. The title of the book is fitting, as we learn early on that death plays a big role. The fast-paced nature of the novel cannot be overstated: one chapter is only two sentences long. But once you get used to it, the frenetic pace works well: there is very little filler. Every sentence is either action-packed or is building suspense to the next big event.

A post-apocalyptic setting filled with desperate and violent survivors is not all that original these days, but Walker gives this one a supernatural twist. Vampires stalk hapless prey. Witches work their spells for good or evil purposes. Ghosts refuse to leave the mortal plane. One character even seems to have actual superpowers, bending space and time. All of these different elements make a dangerous world even more unpredictable.

The story is packed with characters, and every chapter is told from a different point of view, often giving us multiple angles on the same event. Dusty is one of the main protagonists, a tough young lady who discovers she has hidden powers. And she needs them, as she is relentlessly hunted by a powerful and cunning vampire named Ramzke. Artemis and Tarah are two college students forced to flee the local gang, who are helped by a shotgun-wielding man named Todd. In a story full of villains and anti-heroes, the most power-hungry and influential bad guy is Vader, a warlord of sorts who controls the relatively unscathed city of Philadelphia.

Some of the characters work very well for the story and are the highlights of the story. Ramzke is at once selfish and selfless, and he exudes danger. Dusty's inner struggle against her dark side is as exciting as the constant battles she finds herself in. Some of the minor characters, such as Zak the stalwart soldier, Dan the pot-bellied guard and Mbande the mystic warrior, are very interesting. The mysterious and deadly Katarina is also a highlight. Despite her not being a nice person at all, you root for her nonetheless.

Other characters didn't seem to connect, however. I never got a sense of who Todd really was, and Tarah only slightly more so. Artemis's obsession with video games came off as very unrealistic to me -- which in a story filled with vampires and magic, says something. I love games, and I have friends who love them even more, but I can't see any of us being willing to give up our lives for them. Finally, Vader, the main villain, never comes off as dangerous and charismatic as he was described to be. Whether these characters suffered because of the fast pace, or it was simply character overload, I'm not sure.

The writing is well done for the most part, although a few lines like "Hack writers tend to draw these things out, but reality doesn't" tended to pull me out of the experience of the story and think about it as a written book. The dialogue is engaging and realistic, with character voices coming through pretty well. Some of the scenes are great ideas, like the cathedral being turned into a fortified kangaroo court, and the UPS van filled with a horrifying cargo. My favorite part is when some of the characters find a well-manicured yard with a little girl playing outside -- in the middle of an abandoned wasteland. The eeriness of the situation is pulled off very nicely.

Those who like stories filled with action and supernatural characters, and aren't afraid of a gory violent scene or 10, will enjoy this novel immensely. Although some characters could have been given a bit more personality and time to develop, there are others you should not pass up the opportunity to meet and to see if they actually do die in the end or not.

book review by
Patrick Derksen

4 August 2012

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