The King of Clayfield by Shane Gregory

Posted on: February 14, 2014

I’ve mentioned more than once how sick I am of zombie books. To my way of thinking, of all the potential disaster scenarios out there, both plausible and outlandish, a zombie apocalypse would be among the easiest to negotiate. I mean, in most stories the zombies are rather slow-moving, so they’d be easy to dodge. Plus, it isn’t hard to pick them out of a crowd, y’know?

With all that said, I rather enjoyed The King of Clayfield. Unlike many other zombie books, this one comes across as at least somewhat realistic. A virus dubbed Canton-B is sweeping the nation, turning people into rabid, cannibalistic monsters. While they lack much of any intelligence, they are strong and quick-moving.

The protagonist is left unnamed and the book is written from his perspective. He’s a museum curator, which is a nice change of pace from the typical ex-Special Forces/Navy SEAL/Recon Marine that is all too commonly the hero in these sorts of tales. He has little to no inherent survival skills, though he is somewhat intelligent and quick-thinking as the story progresses.

The Canton-B virus sweeps through his town like wildfire one day, with mobs of people going crazy and attacking anything that moves. He’s at the museum when this occurs and runs outside to try and help those who are trying to escape the zombies. He meets up with a woman who’s unseen brother is obviously a prepper/survivalist. Upon realizing our hero has not a clue what to do about this disaster, she tells him to start downloading and printing out as much information as he can glean from the Internet on topics like water filtration, growing food, and other survival skills. Her brother soon picks her up from the museum, battling zombies all the way.

He then comes across an old high school classmate whom he’s spoken to perhaps a few times since graduation. They manage to flee the city center and head out to the countryside, though not without some difficulty. Jen is at times flighty and a bit…off. But, she is also a fighter and not afraid to do whatever it takes to survive.

They had both heard a few news reports indicating that alcohol consumption seems to kill the virus if you are infected. So, the acquisition and imbibing of Southern Comfort is high on the to do list after any encounter with the zombies.

As the story moves further along, we meet other characters, both good and bad. What I really appreciated as a reader was how most of these characters had distinct personalities and motivations. While their back stories weren’t fleshed out very much, that made for a leaner story overall.

They discover that some of the people they’ve killed in self-defense come back to life later, becoming what we readers might recognize as true zombies, the undead. This, however, isn’t discussed much in the story, with the characters just being confused about this new development.

All in all, The King of Clayfield wasn’t a bad read, but it does have a few minor faults. The book begins 8 months after the virus outbreak, with the protagonist talking about being thankful he’s learned how to grow food and not have to rely upon scavenging canned goods to survive. From there, the basically becomes a giant flashback about how the virus started and all that happened to the hero along the way. But, the book never reverts back to the time frame at the beginning of the story.

The book also ends somewhat abruptly. However, I later learned there are two sequels to The King of Clayfield, so in retrospect I guess this makes sense, at least to a degree.

The King of Clayfield is fairly well written, lacking the typos and other errors that are so common nowadays. The dialogue rings true, with each character having their own “voice.” The actions of the various characters are true to their personalities and motivations.

What I really liked, though, was how the zombies in this book were sort of secondary to the story itself. Rather than focusing on the states of decomposition and trying to shock the reader with scenes of gore just for the sake of gore, Gregory instead concentrated on the survivors, which I felt was a wise choice. This is a story of people, not the undead.

The King of Clayfield was certainly good enough to get me to search out the sequels — All That I See (book 2) and Fire Birds (book 3).

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