The Return Man

The Return Man - V.M. Zito 3.5 Stars. This is a fun book. There are some books I read that strike me so strongly as a story that would translate well into a movie. The Return Man is one of those movies. I read a lot in this genre. I love survivalist, end of society and end of world books. When I saw this title I grabbed it because it fits everything I love about an action novel. And it did not disappoint. The Return Man had me not wanting to put it down and had me thinking about the world created between its pages long after I finished. The Return Man begins several years after the western part of the United States has fallen and succumbed to a zombie plague. The government and society has retreated to east of the Mississippi; everything west of the Mississippi has been evacuated and abandoned. The zombie plague is focused only in the USA, other countries have not (yet) experienced it. (I wasn’t clear if Mexico or Canada had been effected and if not ….. why or what they were doing.) The main character of the story lives in Arizona in the house he lived in with his wife before the fall. He has fortified it and is able to jump off satellite connections and communicate with a relative living in the "safe states". The Return Man is an interesting and different take on the zombie plague compared to what I have read before. Zombies are referred to as "corpses" and they are not completely mindless. The corpses are like most zombies -- not complex and not thinking roving beings but they retain some reflexive memory of places and actions. This is explained in the book in a scientific way - - the stronger the emotional connection to a place or action, the more embedded it is in the brain and only that is retained. So a corpse will return to locations that it had a strong emotional connection to. Why is this important? Well the hero of the story is an assassin of sorts. Through his satellite internet connection to the retreated US populace in the "safe states", the hero has become a hunter of corpses that are the former loved ones of paying clients in the safe states. He uses information about his target to determine where the corpse would be emotionally pulled to and he goes after the zombie to eliminate it. Then the relatives can go on with their lives knowing that their loved ones are no longer out in the world hungry, desparate and undead. The main character travels throughout the western part of the former USA on his hunts. So there are fights scenes and chase scenes – oh and the gore scenes. Funny enough, this is not what I like about survivalist and apocalypse themed books. So I skimmed these parts, however they are well written and with tight realistic action and humor. What’s that you ask? How can I like zombie books and not love the car and train chase scenes, fight and gore scenes? I like the collapse of society novels to read about what caused the collapse, how it happened, how people survived it and how people attempt to move-on past the collapse. The Return Man has that aspect, but it also centers more on a quest that needs to take place after the partial collapse of society and the fights and battles the leads must engage in to complete their quest. There are painful memories, witty jokes bantered about and fighting. Some other unique things about this book, there are references to both domestic and international politics. There is a themes of foreign espionage (the USA is no longer the strongest country on the planet), domestic terrorists, and the very conservative and fascist government that has arisen and is in control in the "safe states". At the same time, the main character is plagued by his own emotional loss. The reader learns about these through flashback scenes. These touches to the post-zombie world make The Return Man different and interesting. It reads like an action packed thriller but instead of chasing down international secrets about warheads – an unlikely pair is chasing down a potential cure to the zombie plague fighting off zombies, domestic terrorists and international forces. This book was a lot of fun and I really hope there is a sequel! I believe fans of thrillers, zombie books and post-apocalyptic books will really enjoy the Return Man. Update May 23, 2012 - The Return Man is now on the Badass Book Reviews' Best Badass Zombie Books List. Check it out!