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RABID HEART: A Book Review by Justin Wittenmeier.

Added 01 November 2018, 12:40 PM

Book title: Rabid Heart
Author: Jeremy Wagner
Publisher:  Riverdale Avenue Books
Reviewed by: Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier from Metal Temple

Being a fan of Death Metal titans Broken Hope, and metal in general, I jumped at the chance to review their guitarist's, Jeremy Wagner, new book "Rabid Heart."  I quickly learned this is actually his second full length novel, among numerous other stories he has done in the past.  After reading this book, I've no doubt that he will go on to write many more stories and novels.

"Rabid Heart," is in essence, a love story.  Wait, what?  Don't roll your eyes at that; love exist all around us, if we are willing to see it and believe…even in the midst of a total zombie apocalypse. That's right: zombie apocalypse; this isn't some cheesy dime store love opera.  Nor is it really a cheesy dime story zombie novel.  I'm going to be honest—zombies, at this point in human media history, are pretty played out.  Between countless movies, video games, and a certain zombie soap opera, I'm about sick of them.  However, and I've said this before, it isn't really what you do but how you do it that matters.  And Wagner does zombies really good, so much in fact, that I now have come full circle and care about them again.   The main protagonist became a character I actually cared about, and rooted for, and the writing was just so fast paced that I was sucked in within just a few pages.   But still, love.  Love lost, gained, renewed; even in the midst of a tragedy, human beings can use this emotion to push through and prevail.  Don't misunderstand, however.  This book is indeed filled with a ton of mind numbing, gory violence that often times wouldn't be out of place in a Death Metal album.  However, the book rises above its own horror confines to become a tale of the human condition, albeit a violent and horror soaked tale.

Before I continue, this review will contain some spoilers.  So if you are reading this just to find out if it is a good book then just read the following sentence:  It is a very good book and if horror themed fiction is your genre of choice, then however much the book cost is definitely worth the price of admission.  Others may now continue to read this review.Rhonda Driscoll is one of the few survivors of a zombie apocalypse and the story begins roughly six months after the world has gone to hell.   The most immediate aspect of Rhonda's character is also what makes her so interesting: she is more human than human.   Despite the world the novel takes place in, she never gives up although she most certainly wanted to at times and definitely wonders why she didn't.  That is what kept the story so grounded; she isn't some insane badass because she goes through the world with a stoic look plastered across her face, kicking zombie ass and never getting hurt.  No, she is a badass because she does get hurt numerous times, displays non heroic emotions like self doubt and fear, but still keeps going through this fucked up world.

After she finds her zombified boyfriend, Brad, the memories of her former life flood back into her, including her complicated relationship with her Colonel father, the man she loves but also the man who didn't care for Brad.  Torn between doing the right thing, staying with her Dad in what is left of the Army, and her love for her lost soul mate, her brain somewhat snaps and she runs off on a crazy, horror drenched road trip with her flesh eating fiancee.  The scenario is obviously very different, but the situation is relateable all the same.  Who among us hasn't been torn between what we want and what others want for us?  Who hasn't questioned their loyalty to their family?  Who hasn't had trouble of letting go of a lost/former lover?

Wagner just has this innate ability to write about these real life topics and put them into a blender with horror, action, and suspense.  There isn't a scene in this book that is horror for horror's sake nor is there anything sexual or gory that didn't, ultimately, have some sort of purpose beyond shock value.  Zombie/human sex dreams, female masturbation, torture, potential rape, and even redneck cannibals all find their way into the book but each disturbing scene moves the character, and story, perpetually forward. Rhonda eventually meets two children, Tyler and Ellen, and her road to emotional salvation and redemption begins.  Introducing children into a story can often times ruin it, but these two kids help mold the story, and Rhonda, to a rousing and violent climax.

Jeremy's well established fan base will check this book out no matter what.  However, you don't have to be a fan of his music, horror, or even zombies to get something out of this book that in under three hundred pages, contains a surprising amount of depth.
Edited 22 November 2019

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