If you are a fan of the zombie horror genre and like your stories with a bit of an edge and on the mysterious side, I think you will find listening to “The Death Doll” worth your time and credit. The book in many ways is similar to others I have listened too in the zombie category, yet the author weaves in some new and different concepts making the book feel fresh and different. This book reminded me of another we have reviewed titled “The Last Zombie Ocean” by Michael John Grist. It appears that this work is Brian P. White’s premiere release on Audible; at the time of this review. Let me say up front, based on his author’s page details, he should not have had time to write a book with all his family duties. Brian, thank you for your service to our country here in the United States by serving in the Army. The audiobook edition is narrated by Becci Martin who appears to be a newer narrator to Audible with only three books listed under her name. Even with a less mature combination of author and narrator, the book resonated with me and I found myself at polar extremes on the emotion scale. There was plenty of surprise, horror, friendship, and even romance all wrapped up in this title.
As with most books in this category, here was are also introduced to your stereotypical characters that fit well into the four classes of brains, brawn, beauty and bad guys. These should not be a surprise to people who frequent the horror or zombie genre. However, this story does add a few twists making the usual band of people come together when it is needed. The book’s characters must come face-to-face with many social issues we experience daily. There are problems with racism, sexism, and alienation because of one’s differences. This band of misfits needs to come together and ignore their differences to fight a bigger issue and ultimately survive. I liked that the author included both some light romance and the importance of friendships no matter one’s circumstances. We are also shown that decisions have consequences that not only affect the individual, but the group as well.
Along with bits of humor such as seeing zombies chase pigs to generate electricity, the author also adds some emotional turns that keep the listener wondering what will happen. We are given a number of action scenes as well as seeing the growth of this band of people as they banter between one another. Is there a traitor in their mists? This is part of the mystery the listener needs to uncover. Although I’m not a seasoned zombie aficionado, I liked some of the different zombie lore the author used to educate us on the subject.
What would I have changed? I felt the character development was overall well done and most of the characters felt dimensional. I would have liked to have had more detailed scenes or locations as the author mainly focused in on the immediate surroundings. I wanted to know more about the place they were living in, more about how things got the way they did, etc. A bit more color and background would have gone a longer way to make the book even better. Secondly, the book had more of a young adult feel to its writing style. Like with the scenes, I wanted a bit more depth and complexity to the writing structure. Knowing this was the author’s premiere Audible work, I look forward to future works as he continues to improve upon his writing skill.
Let me turn my attention to the book’s audio narration. I was not sure what to expect knowing that Becci Martin was a newcomer to Audible’s audiobook narration scene. While listening to the book, I felt the narrator was performed by a seasoned veteran rather than a person relatively new to narration. Her reading pace was consistent, I do not recall any issue around audio artifacts (swallows, page turns, background noise, etc.) while listening and volume level were maintained. I felt her voicing of the numerous characters was dependable and the accents did not bleed over to other characters (no zombie pun intended). If I had one suggestion relating to the book’s audio narration, I would say that her performance was more a literal reading of the text with little expression or emotion given to the words themselves. Narration can often enhance the story, and although it was not monotone, I would have like to have heard more expression in the narration.
For parents and younger readers, be aware this book contains a fair amount of vulgar language. In addition, there is quite a bit of mature and sexual topics covered both during general interactions and during periods of joking. I can say for a zombie book, there was less graphic violence than I would have suspected, yet there is some that may not be appropriate for less mature listeners. I would also say that the book contained a few anti-religious statements along with some poor theology, yet this is not the place one should be learning theology from in the first place.
In summary, the book was well thought out and its characters felt real to the story. The narration was good, but I would have liked the book to have been read with a bit more feeling or emotion, but this is a preference of the reviewer. There are many social areas the book addresses and it portrays the importance of friendship in times of hardship. If you can get past some of mature topics and language, there is a decent and enjoyable story to listen too. I’m sure we will see more released by this author.