Book Review: The Killing Floor
Review by Sam Gafford
I don’t like zombies.
That’s probably an unpopular statement to make these days considering that zombies are everywhere today. There are zombie movies, TV shows, comic books. Hell, there’s even zombie rewrites of classic literature. But I still don’t like them.
Part of it always had to do with the fact that I never thought that zombies were all that interesting. The concept of reanimated corpses just shambling about, chewing on the living just didn’t strike me as particularly frightening or worth much attention. I understood that the zombies themselves weren’t all that important but what they represented: breakdown of society, etc. But, in general, most of the zombie movies and comics I’ve seen and read were mostly concerned with dead people eating the living.
So I tended to avoid zombies because I didn’t see any way that they’d be all that interesting to me.
This meant that I approached The Killing Floor by Craig DiLouie with some trepidation. I wasn’t really interested in just reading a novel about zombies running around eating people. Thankfully, The Killing Floor had a lot more going for it than just that.
One of the many publications from Permuted Press, The Killing Floor is actually a sequel to The Infection (also by Craig DiLouie) which was published in 2011. I admit that I was not familiar with either DiLouie or Permuted Press. I have since discovered that Permuted Press has published a number of post-apocalypse novels and appears to be doing very well in filling this unique niche market.
Happily, the ‘zombies’ in this novel are not your typical, garden variety living dead. The world has been overrun by an ‘Infection’ which causes people to scream horribly and then awaken three days later with the sole purpose of infecting more victims. Adding to the carnage are new monsters created by the Infection which randomly stalk the earth looking for victims. This is very reminiscent of the monsters from Stephen King’s “The Mist” and the various RESIDENT EVIL video games. DiLouie uses the destructive appearances of these monsters to great effect including a vigorous climax that possibly sets up yet another novel in the series.
The bulk of The Killing Floor has to do with the appearance of an Infected ‘Messiah’ who discovers their ability to lead the Infected and has to decide what to do with this new-found power. Along the way, the reader experiences the viewpoints of several other characters who are dealing with the Infection in various ways. DiLouie juggles all of these different characters separately, bringing them together at the end for a destructive climax.
In his dedication, DiLouie thanks several people for providing much of the military and technical information he uses throughout the novel. Although they do grant a strong sense of verisimilitude, it also tends to bog down the narrative since, as someone with no knowledge of such things, it was difficult to picture them to the extent DiLouie desired. In addition, the jumping around from character to character gets tedious at times and makes it difficult to recall what has happened to whom previously. It is not easy to juggle all of these different viewpoints and events but DiLouie does it well and brings everything together for a powerful and satisfying ending.
DiLouie’s style is flat but serviceable. He will never be mistaken for a Lovecraft but his prose suited the visual style of the novel. Just as the characters have reduced their lives to the basics in order to survive, the prose is also basic and straight-forward. His style fits the novel well and pushes it forward quickly.
One of the best things that I can say about this novel is that, as a non-zombie fan, I found it interesting and entertaining. An even greater recommendation is that I want to now go back and read the first novel and want to see a third!