The Forest Of Hands & Teeth

Carrie Ryan



July 2009

I feel very ambivalent about this debut novel. And I think that is largely because it is ambivalent about itself. It is essentially, and in its denouement has the honesty to admit it at last, a zombie novel. A village is making its last stand against the infection that surrounds them. A deliberately knowing but misjudged withholding of narrative information concerning the infected ‘Unconsecrated’ keeps the reader in the dark for far too long. The suggestions that the book is some sort of religious allegory are laid on very heavily.
Consequently, as a reader the novel only hooked me in short bursts. When it did so it hooked me good (especially towards the end when the storyline has become a more straightforward fight for survival against the zombie hordes), but that only made the dull and pretentious patches the more disappointing. As a reviewer I found myself frustrated by the narrator’s plaintive tone of voice. The book is written in contemporary fiction’s perniciously pervasive first-person continuous present and it is the worse for that.
On the plus side, there is some very effective writing here, both in terms of describing action and describing the main character’s emotions.
I’d certainly read another book by Ryan. I’m not sure it will be The Dead-Tossed Waves, coming in 2010, and a return to the world of the Unconsecrated.

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