I was a bit surprised to see that Chris Philbrook’s Adrian’s Undead Diary series continued past the eighth instalment Cassie. That book saw Adrian, our foul mouthed hero get closure, fulfil his role as a major player in a cosmic game and seemingly stop the legions of the undead. Where does the story go from there?
Well, with the dead no longer a problem, Adrian and his allies have to deal with the living. Adrian’s small group have to deal with returning survivors competing for resources as well as a militarily superior force with a bad reputation. Can Adrian’s group remain independent and resist the encroachment into their territory?
And other survivors arrive looking for Adrian, viewing him as an almost divine figure. This leaves him feeling uncomfortable and he struggles with being regarded as a hero and role model, two things he doesn’t see himself as being. Can he deal with the attention? Is it safe for these people to be travelling miles to see him given the chaos and disorder of the world?
Philbrook uses Adrian’s diary entries well, to show our hero struggling with the responsibilities of leadership and the practical aspects of his new society. While I feared that the series might lose some of it’s edge without the zombies, Philbrook does a good job of introducing fresh challenges. The enemy group, who have been mentioned briefly in previous books were bound to arrive at some point, and they way they are introduced is cleverly done. Philbrook injects fresh ambiguity into their actions and personnel, avoiding a simple good vs evil vibe.
There are also hints of other players on the board, who remain even more mysterious than this larger force. It keeps you guessing as to what’s actually going on and what is going to happen next. There’s a building sense of coming conflict, but rather disappointingly the book ends abruptly, not even with a cliffhanger. There are plenty of questions left unanswered, which is a good idea for an ongoing series, but it just feels like an odd place for this portion to end.
I also like that Philbrook continues to use alternative perspectives within interludes between the diary format. Some of these clarify events which Adrian isn’t party to, while some jump back to the start of the zombie apocalypse with Adrian’s brother Thomas battling the undead in Afghanistan and trying to fight his way to safety.
This provides the book with some action sequences, and the third person narration makes it more immediate than the diary entries, but I worry about the conclusion Philbrook is building for. It seems too much of a stretch for Thomas to make his way to Adrian, but unless there is a link up with his brother, what’s the point of it all? Other than to keep the zombie aspect.
It’s an interesting read, and Philbrook does well to continue the story and build a world where everything doesn’t magically get fixed with the demise of the living dead. But with the zombies gone and the mystic aspect of the story seemingly finished this is weaker than previous books. The zombies were a key part to the story, and the mystical aspect meant it was fresh and different from a lot of the genre, with two such large parts of the story gone, it may take a while for Philbrook to find his footing for the continuing story.
I’m still engaged with the characters, thanks to the way Philbrook writes Adrian as a funny, likeable and flawed character. He’s built a solid character, and Adrian has a unique voice with recurring themes, running in jokes and a certain way of wording things which make him feel like a rounded and real character.
I’m keeping going with the series because Philbrook writes well and I’m invested and want to see where it all goes, but there’s definitely a nagging doubt that it may not finish strongly and that he should have called time on it after part 8.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.