May 18, 2012

LOCKED IN (Book Review)

 by Stacey Roberts

Locked In 
(Zombie Bedtime Stories #1)

By Thea Isis Gregory

Self-Published: 2011


3 / 5 zedheads

Locked In (Zombie Bedtime Stories #1) by Thea Isis Gregory is a tale of cascading betrayal.

Our heroine, Haley the junior paramedic, is betrayed by Buddy--a homeless man she had once befriended and tried to help--who attacks her and turns her into a zombie. She then betrays her boyfriend Jake and her kindly, cookie-baking neighbor Mrs. Jones by killing and feasting on them. At the end of the story, amid a horde of her new-found friends (you guessed it--rampaging zombies), she is betrayed by her own flesh-craving body. A paramedic who has dedicated herself to helping others becomes, against her will, a slayer of innocents.

The perspective of a thinking person “along for the ride” in a careening, out-of-control, homicidal zombie is excellent. The theme of betrayal is evident early on and persists throughout the story. This is a good idea. However, like Haley herself, Locked In is a great idea trapped inside stilted, clunky writing and flat characters.

Haley’s boyfriend and neighbor are so one-dimensional and stereotypical that the story would be better off without them (except as a continuation of the excellent betrayal theme). The only character who stands fully formed on the page is her paramedic partner, Frank -- gruff, sarcastic, contemptuous of Haley’s rookie status yet protective of her in the way of good partners in tough situations. He is such a great character that he should have been the first to fall victim to Zombie Haley, which would have been a top-notch betrayal and would have made for a dramatic scene.

The author tells us a great deal about fear, pain, betrayal, death, and a near-vegetarian’s sudden craving for meat. The scenes where transformed Haley tries to eat cookies and a pickle are great but show us nothing. Rather than be told that Haley’s “insides resounded with anxiety,” I would prefer to see her shaking, sweating, biting her nails, pacing, or compulsively running her fingers through her hair. Instead, the reader is dispassionately told what happens in a way that distances us from the main character, her horrific transformation, and her killing spree.

The elements of Haley’s transformation are nicely done. In addition to a craving for human flesh and blood, becoming a zombie means that cookies and pickles don’t taste good any more, pizza crust is wasted, and, likely as not, you will kill and eat your significant other. The zombie wants what the zombie wants.

Haley’s hunger for meat is well-depicted. She eats human flesh and is nauseated by it at the same time, demonstrating that she is truly trapped inside this zombie body. Her new superhuman form uses its strength to kill, feed, and smash through windows. There are some elements of her zombie transformation that are confused – does she feel pain, or not? At the end, does she want to die, or not?

In all, Locked In is a good idea with unique elements and a nicely crafted theme that is buried under poorly executed writing and storytelling.

Locked In and other fiction by Thea Isis Gregory are available on Smashwords.

Guest Reviewer Bio

Stacey Roberts received degrees from Florida State, University of Miami, and University of Cincinnati. As well as being the owner of Computer Systems Management since 1994, he has been writing since his early teens, with some contest wins and publications. Currently, he's at work on several works of fiction and maintains a blog at Stacey invites you to follow him on Twitter (@sroberts1971) and check out the zombie web comic