K T Volante’s new zombie novel When the World Flipped will have readers breathlessly following the adventures of Lacey and her survivor companions when the world “flips” due to a strange virus that is changing the living into the living dead.
The novel opens when a flu virus has resulted in more patients than normal in the emergency room where Lacey works as a nurse. When the patients start attacking the doctors and nurses, Lacey is forced to seek shelter. She ends up in a supply closet with another nurse and a security guard. Together, they manage to fight their way out of the hospital, being joined by a young doctor along the way. Things get wilder and wilder as they are forced to defend themselves. While they make it to the safety of Lacey’s car, they watch in agony as their coworkers are assaulted and killed in the parking lot.
Afraid to go home or go anywhere, the four of them stick together. Their first stop is a school where they try to rescue Lacey’s fellow nurse’s children. The visit doesn’t go well. The infected are now everywhere, attacking and biting children in the schoolyard. Lacey ends up losing one of her friends, but rescuing some children.
Survival now becomes the primary focus for Lacey and her friends. Readers will fear for their safety and at the same time admire the decisions they make to ensure their survival. Lacey and her companions end up moving from one house to another until they find the perfect gated estate where they can feel safe. They are also able to get a little information about the situation before all telecommunications cease. One cable broadcaster explains:
“A virus, definitely not the flu, ripped through the world within the last few days. It starts out with regular flu-like symptoms-body aches, fevers, and chills. The fever rises until it burns out the brain. Then madness and violence take over until the person dies. But they are not really dead; they reanimate. They move as if they are alive, but without a mind or soul. This virus has flipped our world. Many people are now calling this ‘The Flip.’ I pray we live long enough to see it flip back. This will be our last live broadcast.”
Over time, Lacey herself comes to refer to the infected as LDs, short for “Living Dead,” a term her companions adopt. While most readers will be familiar with zombies and can imagine how they wander about aimlessly looking for their next human lunch, what makes Volante’s zombies interesting is that while those who are bitten turn into zombies, the virus, whatever it is, also seems to affect the dead. Those who have not been bitten but die natural deaths, and did not even die from the virus, are also starting to turn into LDs. This situation results in one instance in Lacey having to drive a stake through a beloved friend’s body after her death to ensure she does not become an LD.
To survive, Lacey and her friends are forced to venture out regularly to various stores to look for food and supplies. During these outings, they constantly fight off LDs, but they also meet other humans, in small groups, whom they befriend and bring back to their compound. Even a group of nuns ultimately joins them.
But not all humans want to be their friends. Some are not trusting and some deserve not to be trusted. At one point, Lacey and couple of her friends come in contact with some other survivors who refuse to trade for supplies and then later try to follow them home.
The adults also have the constant worry of taking care of the children they have rescued. This situation is especially heartbreaking because the children have lost their parents and are having difficulty understanding death, much less the horror they are experiencing. The children’s safety is always a major priority and a constant fear.
Readers will definitely feel a bond with these people. Numerous strong and distinct characters are in the book, Lacey being the foremost of them and the one who narrates. Lacey manages to stay tough through it all, despite having lost her own husband. She takes over leadership of the group and keeps everyone safe until the last page when a situation beyond her control erupts.
Volante ends the book with a true cliffhanger. A sequel, titled After the World Flipped, is planned for the near future. There are a lot of zombie novels out there, and I’ve read several of them, so I can say this is definitely one that stands out. The pace never lags, and Volante creates realistic characters you come to bond with and even shed a few tears for when they die.