Zombie Joe Reviews: Devil’s Wake by Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due

What happens when an unprecedented infection sweeps the world, leaving the earth on the brink of the Apocalypse?

But this infection goes far beyond disease. Beyond even the nightmare images of walking dead or flesh-eating ghouls. The infected are turning into creatures unlike anything ever dreamed of . . . more complex, more mysterious, and more deadly.

Trapped in the northwestern United States as winter begins to fall, Terry and Kendra have only one choice: they and their friends must cross a thousand miles of no-man’s-land in a rickety school bus, battling ravenous hordes, human raiders, and their own fears.

In the midst of apocalypse, they find something no one could have anticipated . . . love.

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Original edition (July 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451617003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451617009
  • Buy at Amazonor Book Depository

In Devil’s Wake, Barnes and Due examine the zombie genre, nodding to a number of the plots and themes that the zombie enthusiast will recognize and appreciate. In reading it, I noted a tip of the hat to more than just the George Romero movies in their storytelling. Some aspects of the early stages of the infected can be seen in movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or for those of you who are students of the early film work, Invisible Invaders which some consider a precursor to the modern zombie movie (having released in 1959, previous to Night of the Living Dead). I won’t go into all of them, because for me this was one of the joys of the book. It’s like a scavenger hunt for the zombie fan.

As for the main characters, this story focuses mainly on the character Kendra. We also follow Terry and his group of friends from a rehabilitation camp where they are all councilors. This split story arc eventually converges into one flowing story when they all meet up. As our protagonists are teenagers, the story definitely fits within the heading of a Young Adult novel. A good amount of the gore and adult subject matter happens “off stage” as it were. That said, it is still an enjoyable read for any adult fans of horror, urban fantasy or their YA versions.

There is an attempt to explain the outbreak and its cause that is not cannon in the genre. Personally, I am not a fan of explaining the cause of the outbreak, although it does help to set stories apart from each other. The movie Quarantine would be an excellent example of this. And while not completely sold on defining the outbreak, I think this gives us a fresh look at the zombie story in this novel.

My one critique that I have of this story is that when I came to the end of it, I was left wanting more. It felt like I had come to the end of a scene, but not the end of a story. Of course this does leave me expectantly waiting for the next in the series, because I’ve also grown close to the characters and want to follow them through this journey. In this aspect it reminds me a lot of the comic series Walking Dead. It is an open ended story that is more about the survivors than the monsters. Which is what Devil’s Wake is really about – Kendra, Terry, and the rest of the survivors. Not the freaks.

I’ll give the novel four and a half zombies out of five. Although not your normal zombie story, it is solid storytelling.  And for the Zombie Joe specific version of this review (would I spend money on this book), I am putting it as one I would pay full retail price for. In fact, I would rank this as something I would keep a spare copy of for loaning out to people, or giving as a gift. (And I already am getting a spare copy.) I will also be giving it to my oldest granddaughter to read.


To celebrate the release I had planned on giving away a copy of the novel when it releases the end of the month. The authors have upped the ante on it though and are offering a signed copy of the novel to go along with this review. Simply leave a comment below, possibly with your current favorite zombie novel or movie, and at the end of the weekend we will pick a commenter at random to receive the signed copy. Good luck!

Contest is US only and ends a week today!

Contest is US only and will end Sunday, August 5th, 2012. Shipment will be after Authors After Dark (8/12) due to travel plans by the reviewer.

  • MJ Allaire July 31, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Although I’ve never read any of Steven Barnes’ work, I do love Tananarive Due’s books. When I found out that she’d co-written this book, I was thrilled, especially since it’s a post apocalyptic story with zombies. I’m looking very much forward to listening to it on audio book when it’s available! Keep up the good work, Steven and Tananarive! As an author myself, I know how important it is to give authors whom you may not be familiar with a chance.

    • ZombieJoe July 31, 2012 at 11:31 am

      Tananarive just posted to Twitter that this was the first of her books available on audio the day of the release. You can get it at Audible already. I’m picking one up later today probably.

  • Violetta Vane July 31, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I would love to enter the contest.

    violettavane2011@gmail.com. Favorite zombie movie: Dead Alive by Peter Jackson.

    • ZombieJoe July 31, 2012 at 11:44 am

      Nice one. Not the usual answer. That was one I had to dig for. I think I was busy that decade or something. 😉

  • Marti Parham July 31, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I am a big Due fan! When I heard about this new book written as a YA I was very excited. I am so glad you gave it such a good review. I can’t wait to read it. If I had to choose a favorite zombie movie I guess I would have to stick with the classic Night of the Living Dead.

    • ZombieJoe July 31, 2012 at 11:42 am

      I have to admit, there are aspects of the remake with Patricia Tallman as Barbara that I like, but I still can’t pass up the classic when I find it on some channel.

      And while I am a huge Barnes fan, this book and My Soul to Keep has me adding more of her books to my stacks.

  • Charity Keith July 31, 2012 at 10:51 am

    I am a junior high teacher and am always looking for YA books to read and recommend to my students. It’s a great way to connect with them! I recently read “Rot and Ruin” by Jonathan Maberry and loved it!

    • ZombieJoe July 31, 2012 at 11:33 am

      Easily within that age group. Rot and Ruin, Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Enemy are all more “edgy” than Devil’s Wake. Equally as good of writing, just… different.

  • ZombieJoe July 31, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Note for the Contest…

    I leave for Authors After Dark on Tuesday, so shipment will be once we return from the convention.

  • bn100 August 1, 2012 at 1:41 am

    I like 28 days later.

  • Patricia Eimer August 1, 2012 at 8:13 am

    All of the Evil Dead franchise but most specifically Army of Darkness. “This is my boomstick” may be one of the best lines in cinema along with “My name is Inigo Montoya…”

    • ZombieJoe August 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      Personally I side with, “Good, bad, I’m the one with the gun.” Either way, excellent call.

  • TracyW August 5, 2012 at 1:03 am

    I really liked the book “The Passage.” I don’t know if it is strictly a zombie novel, but I really enjoyed it.

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