We start with someone who is no stranger to the blog, having been interviewed here before, our good friend and star of "Lord of the Rings" Ian McClellan and his zombie/moon landing faking novel ONE UNDEAD STEP.
About ONE UNDEAD STEP:
Many people know that the 1969 moon landing was faked, but are unaware of the actual circumstances. Find out how the U.S. faked the moon landing to avert the zombie apocalypse as the lives of a disgraced B-movie director, a bar owner, some drunks, an Army Ranger unit, a bunch of gangsters, an affluent but very dysfunctional family, and a few cops come together in ONE UNDEAD STEP.
One year after Romero shocked the world with Night of the Living Dead, a small city is rocked by grisly killings, the gory details of which are only known through whispered rumors. The government presence that makes the populace all the more nervous is unable to contain the impending threat that grows out of control on a hot, humid night in Mid-July. As the city's residents fight for their lives, the Military rushes to make a film about two men landing a small spacecraft on the moon. Will their plan work? Find out as an evil man finds redemption, some soldiers choose between their mission and duty, a young couple finds forbidden love, an older couple reignites their passion, and a bartender gets stiffed for lots of drinks in ONE UNDEAD STEP.
** spoiler alert ** SPOILERS!
McClellan starts off with a familiar premise, one that's been run into the ground in fact: a group of plucky survivors in an American urban center face down the zombie apocalypse with nothing to rely on but their wits, and each is paid back in kind according to their moral compass (assholes die horribly, heroes die heroically, and plucky kids survive.) If you've read more than one zombie book you've heard this story already.
As I read on, though, I realized that my familiarity with this premise was what McClellan was counting on, and possibly preying upon. As the book progresses, he slowly fills in some fascinating details that gradually turn the narrative on its ear. With clever flourishes like a gangster named Nicky "No-Nickname" (get it?), a rather perverse story of statutory rape that ends as it must, and always, always in the background a seemingly unrelated B-story about a director faking the moon landing, McClellan gradually draws us in to a tale that's not been told before.
ONE UNDEAD STEP is "Mad Men" meets "Night of the Living Dead." Where the latter was a product of the '60s played straight, the former was an attempt to re-create an era through its anxieties and foils, also played more-or-less straight. I admired how McClellan tries to do the same with ONE UNDEAD STEP. As with any historical drama, occasionally the satire was a little too on the nose, but I don't remember anything especially egregious along the lines of, "Look, we're smoking on a plane because people used to do that back then isn't that craaazy?" or "Wouldn't it be cool if someday we had phones we could carry around with us?" McClellan's depiction of the '60s was aware but nuanced, without ever resorting to easy targets.
For a long stretch of this book I was wondering why the moon landing plot was even there. It felt completely shoehorned in. By the end, though, I realized that this was by design, so that McClellan could smash us over the head with a Shyamalan-style twist. Believe me, by the end, the title and the focus on the moon landing and not just "Mad Men" style '60s shenanigans becomes fully deserved.
If you love the shambling dead but you've been waiting for someone to do something new with them, your wait is over. Grab a copy of ONE UNDEAD STEP now.
About Ian McClellan:
Ian McClellan was born in a small harbor town in southwest Ireland. In an effort to be cliche his parents moved the family to New York when he was thirteen. Once a promising up-and-comer in the world of competitive eating, his career was cut short by an ACL injury. He now resides in Florida with his dogs and drives a truck for a living, but is crossing his fingers and hoping his writing career will earn him enough money that he can tell his boss where to stick it.