A devastating new bacterial disease sweeps across the states on the west coast and saps its victims of their own free will. Four strangers must work together to survive a mad dash across the United States to find safety in the nation’s capital. The outbreak chases them from their homes on the west coast, and they struggle to reach the capital before the disease does. When they arrive, danger rears its ugly head again, and the four must race against time to save not only themselves, but the entire country from destruction. The Departed is a story filled with the unlikeliest of heroes, who must find hope even when things look hopeless.”
Thank you to the author, Chase McCown, for gifting me with a copy of The Departed in exchange for an honest review!
When I was young, I had a Nintendo SP and I was obsessed with collecting those ‘life’ kinds of games. There was one where I played a new vet in town and I played through each one of her days as a vet; seeing her patients, having conversations with the other employees, etc etc. As anyone who has ever had a Nintendo hand-held system (whether it be an Advance, SP, DS, 3DS, or anything else), you’ll know that the games are visibly computer generated with typical responses and predictable outcomes. It gets harder to see as the programming got more advanced in recent years but back with my SP games, it was very apparent. My young vet would say the same things and her friends would as well. You may be wondering about the necessity of having a monologue about my childhood gaming experiences in a book review. This book strongly reminded me of the patterns I picked up on in my Nintendo SP games in the dialogue, plot, and writing in general. Let me explain:
1. The characters/dialogue. The characters themselves had so much potential. In the beginning of the book, the reader is treated to a bit of background on each of the characters (all except Mike for some reason) and each are presented with different experiences and life achievements and goals. They also began with very distinct personalities. Now, as the book progressed, some of that began to fall away. It’s almost as if the author found the writing process monotonous and fell into too deep of a rhythm. I’ll get into this more in the writing section but in terms of characters, they started out developing well but the development quickly dropped off as the major events of the book took place.
2. The plot. The plot itself as well is quite good. I think the author did a fine job of mapping out what was to happen and thinking about cascading events. There were some inconsistencies where settings would seem to be jolting from chapter to chapter and an awkward amount of time had past. One major element of the plot that kept bothering me throughout my reading of this book is the path the characters took to reach their destination. They start out in Washington state (in the very upper north west of the US) and are journeying to Washington DC (in the upper north east). I’m from the US so I’m very familiar with it’s geography so it struck me as odd when the characters found themselves in Texas of all places. Why on earth would you travel down and then up so you’re spending the most time on the road? You’re running from what equates to zombies! This provided an endless source of confusion. Perhaps there was an explanations somewhere which points to my other quarrel. Events seemed to occur with lightning speed and both harrowing and touching moments were over in a flash. I completely understand that scenes with danger and adrenaline need to be written so they are read faster but I have an inkling that this author was on a space deadline and had to cut out some major scene and plot development.
3. The setting. As I said above, this book chronicles a journey basically across most of the US so the characters are confronted with many different weather patterns and scenery changes. While some were expressed wonderfully, others were glossed over and what remained was a largely plot-driven novel. Generally, this isn’t a bad thing at all if there’s at least some picture painting going on but most of the writing was telling and not showing.
4. The writing. This is where it all comes back to. I’d guess either the author was on a page deadline (you can only write so many words or pages for it to be published) or they simply need more practice in the art of writing itself. Much of the writing was telling and not showing which made many of the life-threatening events feel inconsequential. This did the plot a giant disservice. There also was a lack of variety in dialogue and I often found myself questioning why the character would say such a thing. For example, the phrase ‘sure thing’ is used an incredible amount of times. ‘Have a nice day’ was also a popular one although I more was upset with that phrase because of it’s timing. Generally speaking, there was a real lack of life for lack of a better term.
The Final Verdict:
Sadly I have to conclude that this book was just not my cup of tea. It is intensely plot-driven to the point of questionability and the writing did nothing to illustrate the qualities of life itself. Simply put, the book felt immensely flat to me. The plot and characters do show potential, however, if only they were given the tools to succeed.