THIS DARK EARTH by John Hornor Jacobs

THIS DARK EARTH by John Hornor Jacobs
Gallery Books July 2012

More books need taglines. “Grab your head knocker and get ready for some wet work in the murder hole”. Something like that would catch my eye every time. That line is on the cover of This Dark Earth, the second novel from John Hornor Jacobs, author of Southern Gods.

Zombie novels have become plentiful over the past few years. I’ve found there to be two different types of zombie novels. The first is what I think of as the” indie releases” from publishers like Permuted Press and Severed Press. These are the grindhouse b-movies of zombie novel, not for everyone. The second is the major label stuff like St. Martin’s Press or Simon and Schuster. These are your big budget releases that you can find easily and they remain pretty user friendly. This Dark Earth is from the second group.

It opens with the world going to shit in a hospital emergency room in rural Arkansas. The first chapter is a mash up of things you have seen or read before, but works really well setting the tone. The second chapter is where things take off. The zombie outbreak has caused World War III and the clock has been set back 100 years. It’s a medieval, old west like new world. Lucy Ingersol, a physician, is raising her genius son to be the leader of Bridge City, a fortress in the Ozark Mountains. Life is slowly coming together for Bridge City but in the rest of the world, there be monsters – the least of which are the zombies.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character. Some you will like, others not so much. Something I both loved and hated in the book was the lack of detail. I liked it because it forced me to use my imagination. I hated it because at times there were things I wanted to know more about. I also felt the ending was too quick, and at times Jacobs was unsure of how brutal to get with readers. Hardcore zombie novel fans may have issues with this book while the casual fan will love it.

All in all I felt this was a solid story. Jacobs is going to write some cool shit in the future. I want to check his first book out. if your taste runs in this direction, i mean that of a big budget apocalyptic themed hollywood movie with an a-list cast and the chance of a franchise (sequels), This Dark Earth is your perfect pool or beach read.

Dave Wahlman