The idea that love can conquer all has been around since the beginning of time in stories. No matter the details, the kernel of wisdom at the center of the idea remains the same: humans need each other. Author Jeremy Wagner took that concept to its beautiful and dystopian extreme in his novel RABID HEART (Riverdale Avenue Books, 2018).
The story centers around 21-year-old Rhonda who begins her journey on a military base in North Carolina. Just six months earlier humanity was taken out at the knees by a pandemic of the aptly named Necro Rabies. This horrifying disease turns regular joes into drooling undead monsters hell-bent on eating human flesh.
While on a mission to look for supplies, Rhonda is surprised to discover her undead fiance Brad waiting for her in their home. She’s even more surprised to discover his violent zombie tendencies don’t extend to her. In fact, he’s downright loving. In a moment of love-blind improvisation, Rhonda goes against her better judgment and takes Brad with her back to the base.
Of course, her base mates are none too keen on having a zombie among them — least of all her hard-nosed Colonel father — and soon Rhonda breaks out, Brad in tow, to start a new life. What follows is a high-speed ride into hell as Rhonda must fight them to survive in a world full of horror, mayhem, and pain.
Is there a place where her love for Brad can be accepted? With her rabid heart as her guide, Rhonda is about to find out.
The deeper I got into this book the more firmly Wagner had me convinced that more zombie stories should be love stories. Not enough writers explore the idea that zombies are terrifying not only because they are violent, but also because they are a reminder of who we’ve lost. To lose the ones you love is a horror all of us have to face, and RABID HEART explores that idea through the heartfelt metaphor of a road story peppered with violence and death.
Wagner keeps the various genres he plays with spinning nicely, never letting the story stray too far down one particular path. Just when you think Rhonda might make it through unscathed, a new obstacle will appear to keep the story firmly moving forward on roller coaster rails.
RABID HEART is a fast-paced read that will keep you engaged and coming back for more. Crack open a copy and get ready for a horrific journey into the matters of the undead heart.