Friday, September 01, 2017

The Last Crawl by Daniel Parsons


Upon reading that, I assumed it was going to be something like Shaun of the Dead meets The World's End, but a novel.

The book is actually about Milo, a freshman on his first night away from his parents, dealing with drunken students, zombies and his own insecurities and fears. The story begins with him attempting to avoid a party being thrown in his apartment, but soon escalates to avoiding being munched on by the rest of the student body.

The Facts

Author: Daniel Parsons
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Sub-Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Coming of Age
Length: 306 pages
Publisher: Amazon/CreateSpace
Date of Publication: May 3, 2017

My Opinion

I'm going to say right now, I did not like this book and couldn't finish it. I really wanted to because the premise sounded great. I was all ready for a funny, gore-filled romp full of zombies and college students wreaking havoc. What I got was three hundred pages full of two-dimensional stereotypes making illogical decisions in favor of tired jokes about college students.

As I read through, I literally could not understand some of the choices Parsons made with his characters. After watching another student literally plummet to what would be his death from a stairwell, Robbie the Alcoholic comments that they both need a drink. Wyatt the Junkie is more interested in buying pot than escaping a building quickly being cut off by zombies. He then proceeds to talk to the furniture because marijuana is LSD. The gang finds a bar with drinks so cheap it pretty much makes most of them forget that they just watched one Party Girl rip the actual guts out of the other. It just doesn't work. The characters' reactions to just about everything are so shallow that it's hard to care about them.

"Surveying the street below, I sighed. We'd never make it through the sheer number of the undead littering the road." - Pg 78

From almost the very beginning, it was impossible to suspend my disbelief. Here's another example of why; the "student village" where the story takes place is isolated and has no cell reception or wifi of any kind. It also does not seem to have any landlines, and maybe as an example of the budding wireless generation, nobody thinks to look for one, or that this is at all odd.  So, I'm expected to not only believe that every college student (except Milo) spends their first night at school getting blasted, but none of them are figuring out how to get on the internet?  I understand that the author's idea is the students can't call for help once the zombies come, but wouldn't it have been easier and more believable to say that the networks are down?  There are always technical problems at the beginning of a semester, so this excuse would have been totally plausible, as opposed to, a college's student campus was built in the last few years with absolutely no access to the internet, and there was no outcry and everyone was cool with having to live there anyway.

There are other reviews out there comparing this novel to Shaun of the Dead. The only similarities I can see is that I think it's supposed to be British (?) and there's drinking and zombies involved. But here's the thing; Shaun of the Dead is actually rather witty, subtle and well-constructed. The characters in it are not flat stereotypes, but developed, at least a bit. Shaun is a loser with unrealistic expectations, but we empathize with him. There are jokes everywhere, but they work the plot, not against it. The film never completely sacrifices suspension of disbelief in the name of humor.

I put the (?) next to British because the only character who is relatively reliably British is Monty the Posh, who says English-y things like "jolly good," in a frustratingly stereotypical way. He says "English" things because he's supposed to be rich and snobby, not because he's English. In a book taking place in England. Occasionally phrases like "gap year" and "uni" are used, but without any sort of consistency. The narrative and all of the other characters come off as resoundingly American.

Don't even get me started on Sophia, the obnoxious SJW. Here's an exchange between Monty and Sophia that will tell you everything you need to know about every one of their exchanges for the first one hundred pages;

"What's this?"  
"The communal launderette, by the looks of it," Monty answered Sophia. "I imagine this is where the hired help wash and dry clothes." 
"Hired help?" Sophia snapped ... "Do you think normal people live like that? I mean, slaves? Seriously?" - Pg 36
Yes. That is pretty much the framework of every conversation they have for the first third of the book. Some are worse.  Sophia really doesn't talk much unless she's accusing someone, usually Monty, of being sexist, racist or ableist, even when they haven't said anything like that. Party Girl, Chloe, is even worse. The first victim of zombie attack in the group, her lines consist mostly of "I've got a boyfriend."

I guess my biggest problem with this novel, its biggest let-down, is that it's not funny. It's pretty much just a collection of the most stereotypical jokes and memes about college students and drinking, particularly the ones that you've seen a million times before. It manages to miss the boat both as a zombie apocalypse parody and a drunken college comedy.

Should You Read This Book?

I'm going to say, probably not.

This book might just appeal to a younger audience, like middle school or high school kids who have very little idea what college (or the UK) is like, beyond the teen comedies they've been exposed to, but I don't think it'd appeal to most people.

Other Useful Information:

Bechdel Test: Pass 
Helpful Tropes: Addiction Powered, Closed Circle, College is High School Part 2, Drugs are Good, Functional Addict, Genre Blindness, Marijuana is LSD, Smug Straight Edge, The Stoner, Wild Teen Party 
Links: Goodreads

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