Jacob’s Odyssey By Russ Melrose is an engrossing zombie novel in which a virus has decimated the country, and Jake, a fifth grade teacher, must travel across the Salt Lake Valley in Utah to survive – all the while haunted by more than world events. Jake has a troubled past, and he’s on a quest for redemption. When a woman and child are in need of help, Jake has found a way to redeem himself, just when the zombie apocalypse becomes even more dangerous.
While the set-up of Jacob’s Odyssey is not exactly new, the depth of Jake’s voice is. A trope of zombie fiction is that people become more animalistic when faced with an epidemic, but Jake doesn’t lose his gentleness and humanity. He seems more like us, or what we’d like to believe we’d become. Jake doesn’t become a superhero offing the infected left and right, he’s troubled and weakened in a very human way. It makes for absorbing and realistic reading.
A weakness in the book is the zombie apocalypse itself is fairly by rote – not a lot you haven’t seen before, and Melrose could have done more to have this book stand out beyond character development, though the alpha zombie with immunity is a very good touch. Overall, if you’re looking for a thoughtful and analytic take on a horrifying apocalypse, you can’t do much better than Jacob’s Odyssey.