Cover of The End Games by T. Michael Martin. A teenager and a young boy walk down a road toward a blood red sky filled with smokey monsters

About the Book

Title: The End Games
Published: 2013

Cover Story: Gorey
Drinking Buddy: Meh
Testosterone Level: KABOOM
Talky Talk:  So 2012
Bonus Factors: West Virginia, Millennialism, Colonel Kurtz
Bromance Status: See Ya Next Armageddon

Cover Story: Gorey

This is one of the goriest covers I’ve ever seen. And by Gorey, I mean Edward Gorey, the greatest illustrator of all time. This totally looks like his stuff.

The Deal:

Seventeen-year-old Michael Farris has escaped from an abusive home life with his five-old-brother, Patrick. By an unfortunate coincidence, a zombie plague breaks out that very night, sending hordes of ‘Bellows’ (zombies who have the Pee Wee Herman-esque habit of repeating the last words they’ve heard) out to devour the uninfected. Realizing that this might have a negative effect on his younger brother’s overall mental health, Michael convinces Patrick that everything is just a game. None of this is real, and the brothers cannot be hurt. Just a game…

The brothers shortly come across the few remaining pockets of humanity. Unfortunately, one is a group of deranged cultists who see the zombies as a sign of the rapture and the resurrection of the holy. Something everyone should imitate.

The other survivors are holed up in the West Virginia capital building, lead by the enigmatic Captain Jopek, a non-nonsense military man with a ton of armaments. And he’s totally not insane. Just put that out of your mind.

Drinking Buddy: Meh

Two pints of beer cheersing with a "Denied" stamp over them

Now Michael is someone we’d all want at our backs during a time of crisis, whether it be an abusive step-father or the end of all humanity. He will protect his brother at any price, and is willing to risk everything for the greater good. A true hero in every sense of the word.

But…I dunno. When he’s in a social situation, he’s a bit of a dull noodle. He admits that in the before life, he was kind of a nerd, and is using the deaths of billions of people to reinvent himself. And yet, he is still the most boring guy on earth. Literally.

For instance, when he meets Holly, the cute little survivor, he totally fails to exploit his ‘last man on earth’ status. And when Captain Jopek introduces himself by clubbing Michael unconscious with a rifle butt (he thought Michael was infected), Michael never brings up this shocking breach of hospitality.

Michael’s a bad-ass, but I wouldn’t want to go on a long car trip with him.

Testosterone Level: KABOOM!

It’s about what you’d expect. fist fights in hot air balloon baskets, high speed car chases pursued by hordes of babbling zombies, big dick grudge matches, and Lovecraftian evil from the very bowels of the earth.

Talky Talk: So 2012

Like the vampire and dystopian novels before them, the zombie novels are kind of on their way out. There’s only so many times you can remake The Walking Dead, and I only resent that I wasn’t quick enough to get in on the action. This is a well-done novel, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. The repeating zombies were a nice touch, though.

Bonus Factor: West Virginia

That famous bridge in West Virginia

An Englishman (surprisingly, not Antony John) once told me that Europeans tend to picture America as bordered by Chicago to the north, Texas to the south, California to the west, and New York to the east. Unfortunately, that seems to be the way a lot of YA authors seem to view the US as well. It’s nice to see a book that takes place in a little-used YA location.

Bonus Factor: Millennialism

You really can’t blame Rev. Rulon. Jesus said that when he comes back, the dead will rise. Of course, everyone was picturing kind of a glowing, ethereal resurrection of the souls, not the rotting flesh of the Bellows. But hey, who is he to argue with the Prince of Peace? Rapture’s comin’ folks, and the zombies are holy angels. Let me help you reach salvation…

Bonus Factor: Colonel Kurtz

Marlon Brando as Col. Kurtz

Captain Jopek is a highly trained soldier, ready to lead his ragtag gang of civilians to some vague safe zone somewhere. Unfortunately, there’s kind of a power vacuum, and we’re missing a check or a balance somewhere. Possibly in his mind…

Bromance Status: See Ya Next Armageddon

Well, things were pretty crazy there, what with the zombies and all. Yeah, pretty exciting and all that. Well…guess I’ll see you around. Hang out? Um, not just yet. But should the dead ever rise again…call me.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Harper Collins.  I received no money nor cocktails for writing this review, no matter how many times I hinted. The End Games is available this May.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.