Red Hill – Jamie McGuire

red hill

I will start this review with the acknowledgement that I have never watched a full episode of The Walking Dead. I have not read or watched World War Z. I have seen the original George Romero Night Of The Living Dead though and consider it absolutely amazing and revolting all at the same time. I also watched Zombieland. Way cool. But as it goes with today’s Zombie fest culture, I am simply not a part of it.    So in keeping that in mind I have to say Red Hill is one of the best reads you will pick up this year!
“…We passed more people, unsure of who was running and who was chasing. I saw parents carrying their young children, and pulling along older ones by the hand. A couple of times people screamed at me to stop, begged me to help them, but stopping always meant dying in the movies, and I was barely eighteen. I wasn’t sure how long we could survive, but I knew I wasn’t dying on day one of the fucking zombie apocalypse…”
   The story is told through the narrative of three individuals. Scarlett, Nathan and Miranda. In the small city they live in an outbreak occurs, a pandemic that re-animates the dead. They each conclude, through sacrifice, that they much make it out of town and into the country. Each deciding to make it to the out of the way ranch known as Red Hill. They each take themselves or their group to Red Hill where together they will make their stand against the dead. The dead that at one time had been their love ones.
“…A person could go from someone you trusted and loved to an animal waiting to eat you alive. I didn’t know Annabelle and had never seen her, but hearing the story of how she’d made it to safety and the didn’t hesitate to risk everything to save Connor, she must have been a sweet soul. Hearing her clumsy footsteps upstairs as the sickness told her braindead body to move to find food was unbelievable. Annabelle sacrificed her life to save Connor, and the creature she’d become wouldn’t hesitate to strip his flesh from the bone…”
   This is what Jamie McGuire does so well in Red Hill. Like a master chef she infuses the tale with just the right mixture of heroism and tragedy. No one is left untouched. But it is this humanity amongst the dark horror of Red Hill that makes it so good.    You feel the guilt of Scarlett as she makes it to safety while her two daughters are left out in the danger of the flesh eating zombies. You wait with her on her vigil as daily she hope to see them coming over the rise to Red Hill.    Miranda, the teenage angst of surviving and knowing her anger and selfishness toward others will never be forgiven. You cannot say you are sorry to the dead.    And Nathan, whose only hope is to save his daughter Zoe from the horror that is all around them.    There are others in the group and you will feel for each of them as they live and die and rise again.
“…I’ve seen grown men bawling and begging for their moms to save them from the death they knew was just minutes away. I’ve seen horrible. The woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with died in my arms, and then again when I put a bullet in her brain. That was fucking gruesome…”
   Jamie McGuire has created a quiet masterpiece of humanity struggling to maintain when all around it has succumbed to its inhumanity. It is never clearly explained why the dead come back to life but that is hardly needed. For in this horror novel it is not the dead that are important, it is the living.


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