One of the most popular genres out there today is “the zombie apocalypse.” You can find it on TV, in books, in graphic novels, and just about any other media format you can think of. Author Scott D. Smith brings his voice to the genre in his award winning book An Outcast State. It is a fast paced, imaginative, riveting read.
Written in the first person, you’ll quickly find out that the world is a different place than it was a few short months prior to the story. The book’s main character, Corbin, is a loner who has honed his survival skills and survived long enough to “live to tell tale.”
He tells us in the beginning of the book, “In fact, as I write this, an entire herd of them is outside this building trying to claw its way in. The door to this place is reasonably solid, but it won’t hold forever. Doesn’t really matter I guess since I’m planning on opening it soon anyway.”
The herd he is referring to are the zombies or as they are called in this book “eaters.” Corbin continues:
“The only comforting thought I have is that I don’t imagine the eaters are going to have any interest in this book. That means there’ll be some kind of record of my having been here, something that could give my death a little meaning. Assuming it even gets found. It’s better not to think about it. I have enough problems for today.”
Early in the book the loner status was soon to change for Corbin as he obtains a traveling partner. One of the realities of life in this current state of the world is the fact that to survive, one must explore the now empty homes of others. This quest is to gather usable supplies including such treasures as non-perishable good, batteries, and weapons.
On one such exploration, our main character meets Molly. Inside the home when Corbin arrives, we quickly learn that Molly is searching for her parents and this particular home Corbin chose to explore was hers. This sets off a quest to help Molly find her family, one that leads the duo via bicycle from Texas to Louisiana. This journey is filled with harrowing complications that build suspense. It is engrossing to see how our main character handles the new partner as this greatly impacts his ability to travel, seek food and defend himself.
Soon the pair encounters yet another challenging, but unexpected twist in their young lives. The following excerpt is a fine example of an important aspect about this book, the very real human concerns that play out in each of the scenes. Zombies are only the tip of the iceberg in this book. The real depth of the story lies in the interactions of the main characters to each other and those whom they encounter. It is through these interactions and encounters that Scott’s writing skills shine.
“Some combination of intelligence, intuition, and luck has kept me alive on my own all these years. I’ve learned to trust in each of them, but I usually count on all three working together. Unfortunately, intelligence and intuition had apparently called in sick that day.”
Luck was going to have to get some overtime, so one spot out in the middle of nowhere being as good as any other for chance to intervene on our behalf, I signaled Molly to follow me, turned my bike off the pavement, and headed for the woods that grew thick and dark just a few feet from the old highway……I have never believed in karma. I have never thought the universe was in favor of my success or my failure.
Things simply unfolded as they did, and that was that; however, as the events of the next few seconds played out, I was certain that I must have been paying for the accumulated sins of my lifetime.”
An Outcast State is one of those books that once you finish it, you are left with a desire to return to the world you just left and will want to hang out a little longer with the main characters. Filled with suspense and backed by a solid storyline, this novel is one that is hard to put down. Scott D. Smith has taken a popular modern genre, made it his own, and gives readers a thrilling tale to behold. An Outcast State received the Dante Rossetti Award for YA Dystopian Novel.