Positive, written by David Wellington and published by Harper Voyager, is a hybrid of horror themes. There are zombies in the novel; murderous road crazies who would feel right at home in a Mad Max movie; death cults; shady government agencies; and even concentration camps factor into the narrative. Wellington pulls the diverse elements of the plot together nicely. The book is separated into sections that divide the adventures of its first person narrator, Finn, as he makes a cross-country odyssey. Finn is a second-generation survivor of “The Crisis,” a zombie plague which swept the nation. His hometown of Manhattan has fared better than most of the surrounding areas in the post-Crisis world, despite a severely altered landscape that includes flooded subways where the residents fish for crabs. Finn is content in his habitat until an upheaval occurs that rocks him from complacency: He is suddenly discovered to be a “Positive,” someone who is possibly infected with the zombie virus.
The contagion has a twenty-year incubation period and it’s determined that 19 year old Finn may have been contaminated by the virus in infancy. To be on the safe — and paranoid — side he’s exiled to a quarantine camp in Ohio for the remaining two years of gestation. If he doesn’t turn into a zombie during that time, he will be able to rejoin society. En route to the camp, his transport is ambushed by ruthless road thugs. Finn manages to escape, but many other dangers lie ahead.
Finn’s odyssey is richly detailed. During his travels he changes from a callow youth, who thought that Ohio was a town near Manhattan, to a savvy survivor. He possesses tenacity despite the harsh realities of the environment, valiantly struggling to retain his sense of humanity against individuals who have abandoned theirs. “Positive” has a double meaning in Wellington’s yarn, referring not only to Finn’s latent condition but also reflecting his deflection of negativity.
Given the amalgam of genre motifs, some readers may enjoy specific segments of the book more than others. Diehard zombie fans, for example, will likely be pleased that zombies are a prevalent presence in the early part of the story. There’s an absolutely terrific and terrifying transformation sequence that takes place in Manhattan. The walking dead later become relegated to the periphery of the plot, which could disappoint those who prefer a zombie emphasis.
Though falling less into the subgenre of The Zombie Apocalypse than into the broader category of Apocalyptical Fiction, Positive is an expertly written and engaging saga. David Wellington has created a chilling futuristic universe and populated it with indelible characters.
Positive is available for pre-order now, and will be officially released tomorrow April 21st.