Review of State of Infection by Michael J. Frey
By Tim Chamberlain
Zombies, with a side of Civil War
Most zombie apocalypses come with pop culture references aplenty, and Michael J. Frey’s debut, State of Infection, is no different on that front. However, this trip into zombie-land comes with plausible medical explanations and a backstory that goes back to the Civil War, enough to distinguish Frey’s novel from its peers.
If you’re like me, you sometimes have trouble suspending all disbelief for a zombie novel–I always want to know how it was possible. Frey, a New York City physician, uses his medical background as inspiration and gives us a fairly reasonable explanation as to just how something like zombies (“Montoya’s encephalopathy”) might occur.
Our hero is Dr. Mike Calaf, a private practice doctor on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, that is one of relatively few survivors of the zombie outbreak in the city. The beginning of our story is a slow burn that is mostly spent in Mike’s apartment–interesting in that you tend to analyze whether you’d be doing the same as Mike in his place. However, once Mike is out of the building, the story gets to a more satisfying pace worthy of a zombie tale.
Frey’s novel veers into alternate history territory with his story of the Civil War-era origins of the present zombie situation. The backstory of Confederate intrigue that eventually causes the outbreak and the Second Civil War is not just tacked on, either–it figures fairly prominently in how everything ends up going to hell.
The fictional history is an interesting complement to the adventures of Dr. Calaf and his (of course) beautiful chance companion, the improbably-named Avalon Calendar. Avalon was a troubled youth turned successful local news reporter that was dating Calaf’s best friend before the zombies. She is, as described by Frey, nearly without flaw. Unsurprisingly, you get the feeling that Frey has merely inserted himself into the zombie apocalypse (or “ZA” as he terms it), but I’d imagine it’s hard not to put yourself at the center of your zombie fantasy. He does keep it entertaining, though.
State of Infection is a fairly quick read and is surprisingly light given the subject matter. It should be fairly satisfying for those looking for a quick zombie read this summer.