I’ve now read two very different zombie stories written in the last two decades. First was David Moody’s “Autumn”, a highly acclaimed zombie author; and Joan Frances Turner’s “Dust”, a first novel for this burgeoning author. Here is my review for Moody, Turner deserves a separate post.

First David Moody.

Highly excited by the hype behind this six book series and the movies spawned by his novels, I confess myself disappointed.

The hype of Moody’s novels I can only assume come from his “pull yourself up from your bootstraps” appeal. Moody first released his books in free ebook form for all his pre-publication followers days. Looking at Moody this way there are two things to compliment. First, kudos for giving your readers what they want. Many of today’s authors will hold on to their material like it’s pure gold. Now, I’m not one to suggest all writers should put their books out there for free as we all go read our free book at the coffee shop where we buy our $4 latte. NO! I’m say, if you’re a struggling author, he knows how to sell himself.

Which leads to the second compliment: Moody knows the marketing. Few artists realize that art comes with two parts: the art and the marketing. You can say all you want that you’re an artist and that others need to do the marketing part. Them’s the words of the unpublished and jealous. Making money in any field, including fiction writing requires tons of selling your soul to the Devil incarnate.

Now, that’s pretty much where my compliments of Moody dies an untimely death.

Moody’s actual writing is subpar. I wish  couldn’t say this. But it’s true. And I’ll use two specific complaints to drill my point home. First, all his characters have the exact same voice. If you don’t know how bad this can tear apart a story and dislocate the reader from the text, read this book. You’ll constantly wonder, who the hell is talking? Autumn is not his first novel either, so this book shows the lack of editing on the part of a trained writer (And I realize the irony of my writing this in an unedited blog…which is where Moody also got his start).

Second, Moody’s story does nothing but tell a story. Wait! What? That’s right. It does nothing but tell a simple story. Why is this a complaint? Because, no great story is JUST A story. Even the most basic and most juvenile stories come with lessons learned or subjects contemplated.

An example I commonly give is Harry Potter. A great children’s story through and through. It is a story FIRST! But it comes with ethnic conflict, good versus evil (and the gray area in between), race relations, gender roles, and basic child angst.

Give me something more!

Every great story ever told comes with more than JUST A story. “Just a” stories are the sign of a truly amateur storyteller. Matheson’s horror stories had reasons for their existence BEYOND scaring the reader. Ellis wrote about a narcissistic A-hole in “American Psycho” because he saw that that was what the American elite culture was breeding. Some feminists misinterpreted this as male hatred of women. Many feminists saw Ellis for what he truly wrote, which is why a female director turned that book into a movie. Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series is more than a creepy serial killer who kills serial killers. His character understands the human condition even better than the humans he claims he does not relate to.

Writing a “just a” story separates the writers from the authors. Sadly, I find myself among the former struggling to make it into the latter.