DAY BY DAY ARMAGEDDON: BEYOND EXILE
by J.L. Bourne
(July 2010, $15, 288 pages)
When I first discovered Day by Day Armageddon years ago, it was a self-published novel by first-time author J.L. Bourne. Loaded with typos and cheesy gimmicks like black and white photos, the journal format was still a welcomed addition to the zombie genre after The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead mania had ravished zombie fans. There have been two more editions since then (the first one had the simple black cover, the second one had the militarized look, and the third cover looked like a movie poster). By then, Permuted Press had picked up the book, and Bourne gained a massive following.
Day by Day Armageddon, the journal of an anonymous naval officer/pilot/expert-at-staying-alive, reveals the daily struggle of a military man who is on leave when the outbreak occurs. The setting is Texas, and the source of the outbreak is unknown. After finding out that several major cities in the U.S. are scheduled to be nuked, the soldier seeks out a secure location, safe from zombies and nuclear fallout. He finds other survivors, and they form a small group of men, women, one little girl, and a dog. They find refuge in an underground bunker known as Hotel 23. The journal ends with his group defending Hotel 23 from another group of survivors who are more of a threat than the undead. Meanwhile, the zombies seem unaffected by the radiation, and by spreading out from the nuked cities, they increase the threat of exposure to the outbreak.
Many readers described the main character as “right-wing,” and some complained that the book was overloaded with heavy military jargon. Bourne is an active-duty officer, which is why this sequel took so long, and why Day by Day Armageddon has a militaristic style. However, there is reason to believe he took the criticism into consideration when he wrote the sequel, Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile.
The writing has changed between the two books, even though they are both styled as parts of the same personal journal. Bourne still includes a lot of military terminology, but nothing so complicated that readers will have to run to the Internet to figure out what the characters are discussing. The entries in the sequel are much longer and more detailed than in the first book, a lot less like a journal in general and more like the personal story of a survivor divided by dates instead of chapters. Best of all, there are no cheesy pictures, though there are a few hand drawings.
The story begins exactly where it left off, after the battle with the other group of survivors. The explosions have attracted the attention of military convoy; while the soldiers are searching for the source, some Marines get trapped by a zombie horde, and call for help over the radio. An extraction group is sent out from Hotel 23, and they bring the Marines back with them. Although they go to great lengths to keep the location secret, after the Marines leave, they come back with more soldiers. In an attempt to avoid another bloody confrontation, the survivors come to a reluctant agreement with the military group. Soon after, the author of the journal finds himself separated from the safety of Hotel 23 when a scouting mission goes horribly wrong. In his efforts to find his way back he meets a sniper from Chicago and discovers a secret militant organization. When he finally finds safe sanctuary again at the end of the book, it’s quickly yanked out from under him.
It’s extremely difficult to write anything about this sequel without giving away major spoilers, but I will add that the zombies have been enhanced by the radiation. Beyond Exile was one of the very few zombie novels that frightened me at all. Bourne is taking his zombies in the direction of an epic nightmare. I recommend reading the first book, just for the background on the characters, but don’t expect the sequel to be much like it. I sincerely hope that Bourne can get out the third installment more quickly this time.
~Ursula K. Raphael