I have a blog now. I can’t decide if that’s good, bad, or potentially catastrophic, but I’m going to run with it.
The third short story in my weekly/sort of weekly short story binge is one I’ve been eager to read for quite a while now. Not only is the author of this story a local Richmond writer, the story itself is set in Richmond. Big as it is, Richmond isn’t exactly at the level of the global cities you always see in books, movies, and television (I’m looking at you New York City). So, I get jittery with excitement whenever I find a story that features Richmond, either partially like in an episode of the TNT post-apocalyptic television series, “Falling Skies,” which came complete with a view of a devastated Richmond skyline, or fully, as in the case of this short story, “Zombie Walk,” by Richmond’s own Bill Blume. And I had a real blast reading it, though not just because it’s set in Richmond.
“Zombie Walk” was published by “Time Killer Publications.” While self-contained, this short story takes place within the larger universe of Bill Blume’s novel series, which includes the books “Gidion’s Hunt” and “Gidion’s Blood,” published by “Diversion Books.” This story, as I discovered via an author’s note at the end of the story, takes place between the first and second books of the series. So I’m going out of order by reading “Zombie Walk” without having read the first book in the series. That wasn’t an issue, however. I’ve always had this weird enjoyment for jumping into a series out of order and playing catchup with the plot and characters. Not that I do that all the time, it’s pretty rare that I do actually. But even if I didn’t enjoy that it wouldn’t matter. “Zombie Walk” is perfectly accessible for readers who are new to the series. In a lot of ways this story is a great foot in the door for the series as a whole and has spurred my interest in going back to read the first book, and then the second. Spoiler warning from here on for people who haven’t read “Zombie Walk” and don’t want to know anything about it or the first book in the series.
As you might’ve guessed from the top of this blog post, the title, “Zombie Walk,” is somewhat, probably intentionally misleading. Though I don’t imagine people who’ve read the series in order like you’re supposed to do were misled. This story isn’t about a zombie invasion of Richmond, at least not really (more on that in a moment). Rather, this story is concerned with the much more intelligent and cunning of the undead, vampires, and the high school student, “Gidion Keep,” who hunts them. No, no, don’t roll your eyes. I know young-adult vampire fiction has developed a bad reputation in the past decade or so, thanks to a certain book/movie series with a certain sparkly vampire who likes to stalk his underage human girlfriend. THIS IS NOT THAT!
The vampires of this story, and the series I’m assuming, are not misunderstood romantics, nor are they vampires in the classical sense, nor are they an unstoppable plague seen in various vampire-apocalyptic crossovers (I’m hoping to blog about one of those stories at a later time). The vampires of Blume’s story are handled with a refreshing amount of realism, about as much realism as can be applied to a story about vampires and their teenage hunter. As Blume makes clear in the wonderfully tense early parts of “Zombie Walk,” the vampires of his world are really not much more than serial killers and predators, albeit serial predators with longer life spans and improved senses. They blend in with nighttime crowds, stalk potential victims, and lure them into poorly lit areas, as real-life killers and predators do all around the world, including in Richmond. High school student by day, vigilante vampire hunter by night, “Gidion’s” fight doesn’t come with human race-saving stakes. His fight is a matter of public safety, which is a far more believable wheelhouse for someone his age, especially when his family has a long history of hunting vampires and provides him with the necessary skills to live this moonlight life. Reading the story, I got the sense that if the truth of these vampires’ existence became common knowledge, the biggest life change we would see is some overzealous and ineffective political campaign to rid the world of them, like the War on Drugs before it (I would totally read a Bill Blume book about the War on Vampires, not that he has to do that).
But why is the story called “Zombie Walk?” That’s central to the plot. In this iteration of Blume’s series, “Gidion’s” close friend is taking part in Richmond’s annual zombie walk, basically a pre-Halloween tradition where a crowd of people dresses as zombies and flood Richmond’s streets in a mock zombie apocalypse. Apparently this zombie walk is a real thing, though I hadn’t heard of it till reading this story. That’s what I get for living in the suburbs. Down to earth and drawn with plenty of enjoyably relatable awkwardness, “Gidion” isn’t all that interested in taking part in the walk. Not until he learns vampires have targeted the walk, putting his friend and scores of other people in danger. Thus, he’s faced with the challenge of finding the vampires and eliminating them before they attack the crowd and without anyone noticing.
Aside from being an entertaining read about a teenager chasing quasi-realistic vampires in Richmond, Virginia, “Zombie Walk” is an awesome story in general. You don’t have to be familiar with Richmond or its yearly festivities to be drawn in by this story’s likeable characters and swift plot. You don’t even have to be a fan of vampires or zombies to like this story. The life of “Gidion Keep” is the focus, not vampires. Funny in its lighter moments, frighteningly tense when it needs to be, this story has enough for all different types of readers. But what I loved most about “Zombie Walk,” more than its Richmond setting, more than its realistic take on some very unreal villains, is a key aspect of “Gidion’s” character, one that intrigues me the more I think about it and one that Blume addresses at a critical point of the story. As commendable as “Gidion’s” actions may be, he frequently has to behave like the things he hunts in order to combat them. “Gidion” is human, yet his tactics mirror the vampires to the degree someone viewing him from afar might question his humanity. Having finished this story, I’m now anxious to find time to read the two full novels of this series and see if that element about the line between human and vampire is further explored, and to get more nighttime Richmond adventures with “Gidion Keep.”
“Zombie Walk” is available to purchase in Kindle format on Amazon. “Gidion’s Hunt” and “Gidion’s Blood” are also available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. I highly recommend checking out Bill Blume’s work.