Monday, April 23, 2012

Writer's View: The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

From Goodreads: The morning that the world ends, Katie is getting ready for court and housewife Jenni is taking care of her family. Less than two hours later, they are fleeing for their lives from a zombie horde.
Thrown together by circumstance, Jenni and Katie become a powerful zombie-killing partnership, mowing down zombies as they rescue Jenni's stepson, Jason, from an infected campground.
They find sanctuary in a tiny, roughly fortified Texas town.  There Jenni and Katie find they are both attracted to Travis, leader of the survivors; and the refugees must slaughter people they know, who have returned in zombie form.
Fast-paced and exciting, filled with characters who grab your heart, The First Days: As the World Dies is the beginning of a frightening trilogy.

The Writer's View:

First, I am seriously frothing over this book. Incredible, awesome, amazing, da bomb, rad -- there just are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe how great this book is.

Every once in a while, I come across a book where the setting and circumstance feel like they could be tomorrow's reality. The First Days is the sort of apocalypse book I can see on the horizon, and makes me wonder if I should start saving for a bomb shelter or stockpiling guns. *grins* (The last book that did this was the Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Honestly, I was traumatized by that book, in a good way.) Seriously, if the zombie-pocalypse comes, I am buying a sh*t load of guns and moving to Texas. No one can take on Zombies like the Texans in The First Days.

There are so many things I love about this book. Top of the list are the characters. They seriously LEAP off the page. (Or in my case, the MP3 player, since I'm listening to the audio.) The characters are so REAL, so heroic, dysfunctional, lovable, and nuts, and I love them all. This is an adult book, starring adult characters in their mid-thirties, in adult situations with adult problems, all of which I greatly appreciate as a reader. (Since I read a lot of YA, I get a little burned out on teenage angst.) Their relationships and situations are all things I can relate to. For example, one of the main characters, Jenni, embarks on a daring rescue mission to save her stepson. As a mother myself, I can honestly say that I would go to hell and back to save my daughter, and to hell with my own safety. I loved seeing that in Jenni's character, and it made me adore her.

I could go on and on about how much I love this book, but I think you get the picture. I finished The First Days this morning and started the second book, Fighting to Survive, about 30 seconds later.

Here's an interesting technique I picked up from Frater:

One step forward, two steps back

About 50% of the chapters in this book started at Point C, flashed back to Point A and Point B, then picked back up at Point C and kept going. I hope I am explaining this in a way folks can understand. Essentially, many of Frater's chapters were not chronological in their own mini-timelines. Many contained flashbacks to several days, or even several hours, previous to the chapter's starting point.

I found this technique very interesting. Personally, I try to keep most scenes in my own writing chronological and present; I use flashbacks pretty sparingly. IMO, Frater's technique didn't add anything to the story; it didn't amp up the tension or create extra mystery. That being said, it didn't distract from the tension and momentum of the story, either. Net-net, I would say the results of this technique were neutral. I just found it interesting, since I always like to see how other writers do things.

So . . . if you haven't read this book, please add to your TBR list! You won't regret it!


  1. I've heard some really great things about this book and given my slow YA reading progress at the moment I think reading something outside of YA might be good for me. I love the freedom the zombie apocalypse provides to an action orientated writer. There's the ability to have a heroine go nuts and kill things without the added morality issues. I should seriously think about writing a zombie book.

    Once again I am guilty of the info dump flashback. I've been trying to edit all day but it doesn't seem to help. I'm convinced the info needs to be there. Thank goodness for critique partners.

  2. @ Lan - I was getting a little burned out on YA myself, and have been reading regular adult books for the past few weeks. This one is definitely awesome!

    The flashbacks in The First Days weren't info dumps; it was more like a a purposefuly rearrangement of the reveals. Does this make sense? It didn't hurt or help the book, I just found it to be an interesting choice.

    Good luck with your editing! I'm editing 2 novels at the same time myself. :) It's a wonder my head is still on straight!

  3. have totally made me want to read this book! BTW, thank you for The Writer's View. I am loving these posts!

  4. Great review, Camille! I really need to get my hands on this book. I never read anything zombie related, but a good book is a good book. It's on my radar--that's for sure.

    I'm not sure I understand the chapter technique you mentioned, but if it moves the story along, then it's working out.

  5. @ Cathy - Yeah, I'm not really into zombies either, but this book is really about characters and what happens emotionally when their world is turned upside down.

    I was worried I wasn't explaining her technique very well. :( Maybe it'll be easier to make sense of when you read the book.

  6. @ Heidi -- thanks for stopping by the blog! Glad you enjoyed the review!