Book Review: Contagious by Emily Goodwin

Review of Contagious

by Michele Roger

13416617“I wasn’t afraid of death. If I died, it would be over. My worst fear wasn’t of dying, it was of living. Living, while everyone around me had their flesh savagely torn from their bodies to be shoved into the festering and ever-hungry mouths of zombies. It terrified me, right down to my very core, to be alive while the rest of the world was dead.”

In the midst of the Second Great Depression, twenty-five year old Orissa Penwell doesn’t think things can get any worse. She couldn’t be more wrong. A virus breaks out across the country, leaving the infected crazed, aggressive and very hungry.

Orissa will do anything-no matter if it’s right or wrong- to save the ones she loves. But when she discovers that most of the world is infected or dead, she must decided if those lives are worth saving at all.

In her narrative story telling, Emily Goodwin presents a refreshingly strong female hero in her zombie-infested, survival tale, “Contagious“.  Orissa, the lead character is one part hard-drinking, drug looking party girl but one hundred percent butt kicking strategist and survivalist.  Upon reading it, I likened Orissa to Ellen Ripley in Alien.
Through Orissa, Goodwin thrusts the reader into new literary territory.  While Ripley grappled with her softer maternal instincts, Orissa juggles her command and leadership role against a sharp personal contrasting desire. While saving trapped hospital patients during a zombie plague, her heart wishes to be rescued by the handsome, Irish doctor, Padraic.
A corner-stone to a great zombie story is the element of gore and Goodwin delivers in spades.  From intestine chomping little girls found feasting on the newly dead in the hospital basement to lead pipes through zombie skull death blows at the grocery store, there is plenty for the reader to, errr, feast upon.  While the male characters do their fair share of “fending off the monsters”, it is the focus on blue jeans and leather jacket clad Orissa and her lead pipe weapon of choice that shines.
Contagious is fast-paced, smart and well written.  It’s above-board appeal is its fresh perspective and its gritty narrative.  Goodwin has shown that female writers can make flesh crawl, both living and undead just as well as her male peers.

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