MAX RANDOM AND THE ZOMBIE 500
BY MARK LONDON WILLIAMS
Narrated by Luna Cross
Length: 6 hours 14 minutes
Publisher: Trifecta Publishing House
Released: Oct. 8, 2018
Genre: Middle Grade / Horror
“'Not dead,' Max said, as he stepped out of the kart to look at me. ‘You should get in.'”
“When I first saw Max Random, he was driving his go-kart right at me. He was also wearing goggles, so it was hard to tell if he was dead or alive. I was pretty sure, though, that zombies didn't know how to drive.
And so, weeks after watching her principal try to chew up her school teacher, and minutes after she'd just lost her family, 12-year-old Aurora Bonsall begins her odyssey of escape with Max Random in his hand-built go-kart across a ruined map of abandoned studio back lots, wrecked shopping malls, encounters with the not-quite dead in hospitals and the not-quite tame when they meet a feral cat. All while realizing that surviving humans can be far more dangerous than the Nano-Z's taking over the world.Max, meanwhile, keeps driving them toward a rendezvous where he says they will be safe. But as Aurora discovers he has secrets of his own, she wonders if there can ever be any escape at all.
HALL WAYS REVIEW. AUDIO BOOK REVIEW. Max Random and the Zombie 500 is an absolute blast! Aimed at the middle grade audience, it is refreshing for all readers who enjoy the zombie stories but prefer to let their imaginations do most of the work for sketching out the gore factor. That’s not to say the book is watered-down; author Mark London Williams gives plenty of details for readers to immerse themselves in all-things-zombie and his world building is richly written and fabulously done.
“You never think there’s gonna be a last day of tasting ice cream.”
Set in the near future, Max Random and the Zombie 500 paints a realistic picture of how science could go wrong and the devastating, widespread effects when it does. It’s interesting that readers aren’t given a clear villain to blame for the outbreak; rather, there are two explanations circulating among the survivors. Both are plausible, and both are delivered with not-so-subtle social messages, but ultimately, neither root cause matters to those who survive it. These characters aren’t looking to blame – just to live.
“Max talked funny -- like a substitute teacher who
overdresses to show how serious they are.”
The characters are excellent, and Williams breathes each of them into full-color life. From the eccentric to the egotistical to the downright evil, there are plenty of people to really…wait for it…sink your teeth into. You’ll eat these people up! (see what I did there?) Main character Max is particularly well done. He carries a bit of emotional baggage and is complex and confusing to others. Readers get a tween’s perspective via main character Aurora, who narrates. She notes Max’s quirks, which adults will recognize as signs of Asberger’s or a high functioning autism of some sort. Despite not having a label for it, at just twelve years old, Aurora is more perceptive, and considerate of Max’s needs than most adults, and she remains a compassionate example of how to treat all living, mostly dead, and dead creatures.
Speaking of those mostly dead creatures: the story hints that maybe these zombies aren’t the mindless, unfeeling, undead that readers are typically shown. And maybe – just maybe – once a zombie doesn’t mean ALWAYS a zombie – a different approach! While the writing is fresh and vibrant, a few misplaced modifiers might catch the listener’s ear, and there is an unnecessary and startling inclusion of a swear word that might bother young readers (or their parents). Additionally, there are times readers are beaten over the head with the obvious, where I wish the author would instead trust his readers to get the point.
Max and the Zombie 500 is an action-packed, adrenaline-filled thrill, right up to the abrupt ending. Don’t worry, though. The conclusion feels more like a chance to catch your breath than an ending, and it clearly indicates there are more adventures to come in this mixed-up, dangerous future world. I will anxiously await the chance to live vicariously through another Max Random story.
ABOUT THE AUDIO NARRATION. Luna Cross does an admirable job with all the characters: young and older, male and female, living and undead, and cats, too! She nails Max’s voice, which underscores his awkward way of interacting with others. Honorable mention for Tilda, too, who couldn’t be more different from Max. To be able to master such a wide range of characters is impressive. It’s a rare thing for me to be able to enjoy an audio book at its regular, intended speed, but Cross’s delivery is just right there. Sometimes the punch of a sentence was lost because of her uneven cadence and where she pauses in her sentences, and there are times when a sudden burst of emotion feels misplaced. However, overall, she is a great choice as the voice of Aurora, and any bumps or inconsistencies are only minor distractions from an enjoyable audio book.
Mark London Williams wrote the L.A. Times-bestselling “Danger Boy” time travel series, was a contributor to the history anthology “Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out,” and has covered showbiz and its discontents as a writer for Variety, the LA Times, Below the Line, and other publications. He’s had plays produced in London, wrote a video game adaptation with both Aliens and Predators in it, and taught storytelling at Disney’s Creative Academy and other venues. He’s currently a one-man “Hollywood bureau” for a British film magazine, and keeps a watchful eye out for winds and wildfires in Southern California. He has two grown sons currently navigating L.A.’s landscape sans go-karts. Connect with him on Facebook.
Luna Cross lives in Los Angeles and swears that she was named after the Harry Potter character (even though her parents have assured her she is not), she loves Halloween and will be holed up under a blanket with candy and a scary book for the rest of October, with Hocus Pocus on in the background on mute, thinking about the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
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