Less Than Dead – by Cal Brett – Book Review


The zombie apocalypse caught everyone by surprise. The hungry dead have eaten their way through most of the world’s population, leaving only the shells of humanity behind. Kelly and Rob have survived in the ruins of their city by sheer luck avoiding being eaten by the undead, killed by human marauders or starving to death. Now they must venture out into the lands beyond to guide a group of friends to an old airfield where they might find a way home. A trip that takes them right through the realms of the unknown and the undead.

Hi, fellow 9th Circle dwellers. I’m back with ‘Less Than Dead’ is the sequel to ‘Worse Than Dead’, which some of you may remember I was quite critical of. And, you know me, I’ll probably be a bit critical here, too. However, let me start with some positives.

Firstly, I much prefer the cover layout for this book – nice bold, red lettering with the cover image beneath, clearly displayed in all its glory. I do have a few gripes with the formatting again (the text isn’t justified – just like you see here with this review – what the hell is wrong with WordPress all of a sudden and why don’t I have this option anymore? Drives me mad!), but Brett has significantly improved with this from the first book.

I was pleasantly surprised to find early on that Kelly, our protagonist, is feeling guilty about a decision she made in the first book. She has not yet gone through with said decision, but I was relieved to find she was conflicted because it eased my fear that Brett was turning her into some sort of manipulative automaton.

I struggled a little in the first book with the amount of marine characters, mostly because they came in late and I couldn’t remember who was who – they all sort of blended into one. Here, however, I very much enjoyed the adventures of DuPree and Kim as they went off to rescue some woman on a boat, while the others went to check out a building. I found that this helped to flesh out these characters and I got to know them so much better than I did before. I was invested in them and cared about what happened. I also enjoyed the story formatting here, as we jumped between chapters of these two heading for the woman, and the other marines exploring somewhere else. However, (sorry sorry sorry Cal Brett, but I HAVE to whinge about this), I think the author may have confused himself here. Things are really getting tense for DuPree and Kim, and then the chapter ends and we’re with the other group, and shock of shocks, DuPree is somehow also with the second group. At the same time as he’s meant to be with Kim, somewhere completely different. The only thing I could think was that Brett wrote all of one mission, then all of the other, and interspliced the chapters afterwards and just sort of forgot where Dupree was meant to be. Writing a novel takes ages and so these types of things are surprisingly easy to do, but how no one noticed in the editing phase, I don’t know.

Once again, I found Brett’s imagination for this scenario almost unhinged (in a good way) in regard to the amount of detail he was able to envisage and communicate. I really did see all of the details as I was reading. Where I’m going to complain is that at the end, the story hasn’t progressed – we’re basically where we were at the end of the first book: Rob doesn’t know that Kelly is pregnant, Kelly’s long lost husband is still in the wind, the marines still haven’t reached their destination, and everyone (all but one) is still alive. I very much enjoyed a new character, Baxley, but unfortunately, her inclusion in the story turned out to be pointless – literally nothing plot-wise would change if she were completely removed. I just think that in an environment as high stakes as a zombie apocalypse, there should be more significant character death than we see here. But I’m twisted, so maybe that’s just me.

I do think ‘Less Than Dead’, writing-wise, is better than ‘Worse Than Dead’, and again I’ll say that all the markings of a talented writer with a great imagintion are here. In my humble, horned opinion, if Brett can just tighten the story-telling and focus a little more on story beats that move the plot along, there could well be some great novels from him on the horizon. I’m not the biggest fan of these books, honestly, but I am very interested in the author and where he’s going to go. I know he has a novel in his head somewhere that I’m going to like a lot when he pens it, and I can’t wait. Oh my Dark Lord, I think I just experienced the phenomenon known as “optimism” for the first time ever. What’s happening to me?!

If you’re interested in checking out ‘Less Than Dead’ (as many, far-less-picky-than-me people are – I’ve seen nothing but good reviews elsewhere), you can find it below:


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