Reign of the Dead: Apocalypse End is the sequel to Len Barnhart’s 1st Reign of the Dead. While starting out slow, the plot thickens and does bring an amount of suspense at minor climactic moments. There are three story lines going on, but is easy to follow as the book progresses and the stories intertwine. The opening chapter begins on Tangier Island, an island inhabited by survivors trying to thrive in their isolated community. Three characters are preparing for a helicopter ride to the mainland to search for survivors. I refer to them as “characters” as opposed to their names because the helicopter soon crashes and the names of the two that perish are never mentioned in the book again. I have to admit, after the first chapter, I had to dig out Barnhart’s first book to refresh my memory because nothing so far sounded familiar, but I AM a bit impatient! Leading further into the book, familiar names appeared from the first book and it seems that the small band of survivors at the end of book one are still alive and well, living in an underground facility. Among the survivors is a doctor that is experimenting on the walking dead, trying to find a cure/cause/vaccine, (“insert cliché here”…why does every zombie book or movie seem to have a doctor among their ranks?), and Jim Workman, the resident “hero/ leader” and a few other names I will mention later. Speeding up a bit, Jim hears a year old transmission from Tangier Island and decides to go on a trek to locate the other band of survivors. Running into a group of extremist militia (story line three enters), his traveling companion is killed and Jim is captured. The militia find his map to the Island and devise a plan to take over the island (or at least my interpretation, as it’s never directly stated exactly what they plan to do once there). Jim meets up with Leon (see story line one – the sole survivor of the helicopter crash), and the two groups band together to destroy the militia and preserve Tangier Island.
If you’re looking for gore and hunger crazed zombie action, there is not much of it. Being two years into the apocalypse, many of the zombies are not as active as they once were and attack with less fervor than they once did. On a positive note, I enjoy Barnhart’s style of writing. It’s simplistic, but not juvenile. He has a clear way of describing situations as they are happening without going into an overly winded explanation. I think he relates the thoughts and feelings of how real survivors would react. That being said, if you haven’t read book one, there are a lot of holes. Barnhart did not spend much time with character development as he did in his previous book. Felicia and Izzy, two survivors that share a “psychic” bond and can feel a foreboding of what’s to come, are only mentioned in passing – leaving you slightly confused reading their dialogue. Even the main characters are not expanded on – there is no history, no heroic or highlighting moments, which in my opinion, makes them forgettable. There is no love lost when a character doesn’t reappear, because you really don’t know much about them.
The ending was a little anticlimactic. Even as the author was unfolding the plan to destroy the militia, I found it hard to follow and really immerse myself into the plan. Although I got the gist, I had difficulty visualizing it. The bad guys are destroyed, the zombies rot and die, and everyone lives happily ever after on the island. I was left wondering “are there pages missing?” it ends abruptly and was hoping for more.
Overall, Reign of the Dead 2: Apocalypse End was not a terrible book. It’s definitely worth the read if you’ve read the 1st installment, if for any reason, then to finish off the story line. Not Len Barnhart’s best work, but still worth the quick read.
Available on Amazon.