I’ve mentioned more than once that I’m not a fan of zombies for the sake of zombies. There are only so many ways the dead can rise before the usual zombie apocalypse stories begin to get repetitive. But I’ve also mentioned that I’m interested in other cultures’ takes on the end of the world, and I’m always on the lookout for post-apocalyptic books written in other languages. So, when the folks at Permuted Press offered me a copy of The Wanderers by Carlos Sisi for review, I was anxious to read it.
Originally published as Los Caminantes in 2009, The Wanderers is one of Spain’s top selling apocalyptic novels, and is now available for the first time in an English translation.
It starts out with a dead body washing up on the beach, a body that proceeds to do its best to eat the police who come to investigate. We then follow a few different groups of survivors through the early stages of a standard zombie apocalypse as they watch their city fall apart around them.
At first I had some trouble keeping track of the characters, in part because I wasn’t used to their names or the place names, but after I got used to them, I found the characters likeable, and believable. They really felt like regular people, mostly young, who were caught in a desperate situation. But luckily I didn’t have to try to remember all of them for very long, because, spoiler alert, people die in this book, usually with spurting, gushing, or even fountaining of certain vital bodily fluids.
The story progresses with the survivors slowly consolidating into larger groups while they hole up in various buildings around the city, watching their reserves dwindle, wondering if there is anyone out there who can help them.
But as it turns out, there is another survivor out there, one who helps to set The Wanderers apart from the usual zombie fare. He is Father Isidro, priest of La Victoria Church, and it is his fervent belief that the rising of the dead signals the judgement of God upon Man, a judgement that must fall on everyone, even if it means that he has to be the one to lead the dead to the living.
In most zombie stories, the zombies themselves are the primary threat, or maybe there are agressive groups of survivors competing for the same resources, but I can’t think of another one where the shambling hordes are actively prodded toward the living, particularly by someone with such a religious zeal. And it surprised me that a novel written and set in Spain, which Wikipedia tells me is 75% Catholic, would feature a Catholic priest as it’s primary villain, but that may have added some of the shock value that made the book so popular over there.
The character of Father Isidro, and his raving lunacy, definitely adds something to the story, and that combined with believable characters, interesting locations, and plenty of gory action makes The Wanderers a book worth reading.
My official rating for the Wanderers is 7 Megatons.
PS Just a quick note on the translation. Generally, it’s very good, but I would guess that whoever did it is not a native English speaker. Some of the language or vocabulary used isn’t what I would have expected; for example a phrase like “The scene was splattered with blood and screams” which isn’t exactly correct. But at the same time there was never a case where the language was jarring, or failed to get the point across, and most of the time it read as any other English novel would, while giving the book a bit of a unique feel.