Fiction Reviews

Dead Island

(2011) Mark Morris, Bantam, £6.99, pbk, 336pp, ISBN 978-0-857-50103-5


Okay, pop quiz time. When has there ever been a decent film made out of a computer game? Hardly ever, I would dare to suggest. And for your bonus question, has there ever been a decent book written based on a computer game. Hardly ever, I would suggest again, but the tide might be turning with two recent publications – first John Shirley’s novel Rapture based on the 'Bioshock' games, a weighty tome which demonstrates the care and attention Shirley has put into his novel, which is really a prequel to the games; and secondly, we have award-winning dark fantasy and horror writer, Mark Morris, writing a novel based on the game Dead Island. Morris is a canny operator, when he was younger he went on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme to be paid to learn to become a horror writer and has a considerable body of work behind him, including Doctor Who novels, so he knows how to write within worlds created by someone else. Those who follow him on Facebook will know that he had a month to write this book, a considerable challenge even for a professional writer, but he managed to get the job done. I have to confess that I am not a player of computer games, they are too fast for me, and my meagre thumb to eye co-ordination, but the very title of the game and book gives a major clue to what it’s about....

...Yes, we are in zombie city Arizona or rather zombie island, the tropical paradise of Banoi, the perfect place to get away from it all, a place to die for, or in. Nearly everyone at the Royal Palms Resort succumbs to a mysterious epidemic which fells those in its path, regardless of their station in life. They fall ill, die and rise again, hungry for the flesh of survivors and there aren’t many left: a former cop with a chip on his shoulder, a rap star, and an American football star with a drink problem, oh, and a spy – spies are good in a crisis, they have some interesting and useful skills sets. They have to unite to survive and try and solve a few mysteries along the way, such as where did this outbreak come from and why are they immune from its effects? All in all this is an enjoyable and interesting read. The characters are not one dimensional, there is plenty of action, and gore, and a few in-jokes, or references to films and some nice humorous banter to lighten up the tension. In conclusion, though Dead Island is not a masterpiece, it is not bad either, and probably better than your standard inspired-by-the computer-game fare!

Ian Hunter

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