Carrie Ryan: The Dead-Tossed Waves

The Dead-Tossed Waves shares some characters and a post-zombie-apocalypse setting with The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but it’s set a generation later.

Ryan’s zombies — which come in both the old-school slow shambling and the newer fast-moving varieties — are certainly horrific, but Ryan treats them almost as an elemental force. The antagonists in the story are predominantly human, and despite some gore and emotional trauma, the central horror of both novels is what happens to humanity as a consequence of the zombie plague. Perhaps it’s reading into it too much to suppose that the zombies and the repressive, fear-ruled societies they engender could metaphorically represent terrorists and reduced civil liberties in response to terrorism — but perhaps not.

Despite my general fondness for Ryan’s world-building (or un-building, if you prefer), it took me a while to warm to The Dead-Tossed Waves. Narrator Gabry spends a lot of energy second-guessing her every move. I’m not so old that I can’t remember how, as a teenager, just about everything seemed like a matter of life and death, and of course, a lot of Gabry’s decisions are literally matters of life and death. But I still found some of Gabry’s “I must! But I can’t! But I must!” vacillations a bit wearying, if not melodramatic nearly to the point of parody. That, coupled with a triangular love situation, reminded me not-in-a-good-way of Meyer’s Twilight books. And even after The Dead-Tossed Waves won me over, there was still some heavy-handed life-lesson-larnin’ to plow through. On the whole, I think The Dead-Tossed Waves would be stronger if it were leaner and a bit more subtle.

But I’m glad I stuck with the book, because it does eventually veer in directions it doesn’t initially telegraph. It’s frequently vivid and consistently creepy. And if it revisits some of the territory of the first novel, it does so with a bit of a spin and some interesting twists.

The Dead-Tossed Waves doesn’t — quite — end with a literal cliffhanger, but it does leave a lot of plot elements unresolved. I’d be disappointed if the story skipped another generation before the third act (or screeched to a halt) and my impatience for the next volume might be the best measure of this novel’s success.

needs more demons? Needs just a smidge less of Gabry’s personal demons, actually.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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