Reviewed by Elizabetta
TITLE: The Dead Will Rise First
AUTHOR: Logan Kain
LENGTH: 120 pages
BLURB: The Christian rapture occurs and the now soulless bodies of Christians are left to terrorize all those left behind. TJ flees across Texas with his best friend, Ryan, and the remnants of his family, hoping for happiness, struggling just to survive. As they trek farther and farther South toward the coast, TJ and Ryan find comfort and love with one another. Their relationship is tested and they labor to stay alive and stay together in a world that God has unfortunately started to pay attention to.
“Maybe religion is only comfortable if you think that God is good.”
It’s TJ’s seventeen birthday. The presents have been unwrapped and it’s a day of hanging out, playing video games, and watching old zombie movies. And then his world is suddenly set on end. What starts as a beautiful, clear, sunny day becomes a waking-nightmare. Suddenly, parents and friends turn against you, and neighbors become Neighbors– marauding Id’s, soulless bodies with only one goal: to wreak havoc and spread the madness.
So starts a chilling, gripping ride unlike anything I’ve read recently. There are two stories running parallel, really: one, a relentless, hellacious, zombie chase; the other, a look at how exclusionist interpretation of biblical doctrine condemns and alienates our young protagonist. TJ’s transgression is that he is gay, and has turned away from the fundamentalism he’s been raised to follow. His soul is set apart and in this cataclysmic zombie apocalypse, this ‘rapture’, he sees himself as abandoned by the God represented in that exclusionist doctrine.
Much of TJ’s story is about his battle with self acceptance. Why shouldn’t he be worthy of salvation? It’s here that the story grabs– that TJ is left behind, that in his world, he is ultimately left on the outside. But he fights back– in his flight from the monsters, he struggles against becoming one of ‘them’ (and in his inner musings, he imagines a history-changing, super-hero, alter ego), and he falls in love. What TJ wants is what we all want– to belong and find community. But the reader senses that fate has never been on TJ’s side. So, what are we left with? What I take away is that his story is the expression of abandonment and alienation felt by anyone who’s been disenfranchised and discriminated against. The ray of light is that amidst the madness, TJ redefines himself, loves himself, and sees his worth.
Books with religious subtext are hard for me to read, let alone review. It’s a loaded subject. But this one… this is powerful, clever stuff, this zombie apocalypse-meets-religion-meets-nightmare road trip. It pits compassion and social justice against bigotry, and reminds of the directive to ‘love one’s neighbor as one’s self’. It still manages to entertain as it sucks you in, then lingers and eats at you… zommmbies…
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