Book Review – Stage 3 by Ken Stark

First published, 2016

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

A rip-roaring, flesh-tearing, zombie apocalypse novel, Stage 3 finds misanthropic hero, Mason, on a flight bound for San Francisco. Having boozily slept his way through much of the journey, Mason wakes to find himself the only person on the plane still blessed with the gift of sight. Including the pilot and copilot.

As the rest of the passengers and crew wail, moan and rant their way through the descent, Mason must read the dials out loud for the pilot to be able to monitor a safe landing. But that’s only the start. For the blindness quickly gives way to madness and, from that point, the true horror of the story unfolds.

With plucky, ten-year-old sidekick Mackenzie, Mason must find a way through a city filled with monsters of one kind or another to get to Mackenzie’s only living relative. But with no power, no weapons except those they can fashion from items along the way, and zero training for this situation, will the intrepid pair make it past the horde unscathed? And does Mackenzie’s recent blindness mean what Mason thinks it means? That she’ll turn out like all the others and lose her mind as well as her humanity?

An awesome story, the tension never let up. The characters were well-drawn, if rather more affectionate than seemed particularly usual in a zombie apocalypse, and the descriptions were epic.

I did get a little irked by Mason regularly shoving people “rudely”; okay, there’s no other way to shove someone but there are other words. And the extraneous apostrophes for “Stage 3’s” (sic) got a little irritating. Also, it’s been impressed upon me by my partner (who’s the daughter of a commercial pilot) that the pilot is not just a passenger with a certificate and aeroplanes cannot land themselves.

That said, these all feel like pretty small quibbles in the face of a story that blew me away.

Must read.