Welcome to Nuke Jersey

Author: Neil A. Cohen

Published By: Permuted Press

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                A while back, I stumbled upon a display for a new zombie tale set in New Jersey at my local Barnes and Noble.  The hazmat suit seated in a chair awaiting the author to sign his book intrigued me and I decided to purchase the novel without waiting for the author to sign it.  I’m glad I did – Exit Zero was a fun new spin on the zombie genre and I loved what Neil A. Cohen did to keep the reader’s attention with short tales of survival/demise outside of the main characters’ storyline.  So, when the author invited me to read the second novel in his trilogy, Welcome to Nuke Jersey, how could I pass up the opportunity?

                So, how many of the graduates of Holy Friends Catholic High School made it?  Well, as Welcome to Nuke Jersey begins, we only know one thing for sure – Patrick Callahan, sole surviving member of the United States government, now sworn in as President of the United States.  Of course, President Callahan is nothing but a figurehead.  The man really running the show is benefactor and businessman Max Gold. 

Gold orchestrated the release of the virus that is destroying the populace of New Jersey as well as the government in Washington, D.C.  Now he is trying to track down several of his pawns (friends of Callahan’s) in an effort to get ahead of some pesky competition causing issues with Gold’s plan for containment.  For this, he needs mercenary Daniel Sullivan to help track down the nuisance group and perhaps hunt down Gold’s errant son Ivan.

Meanwhile, the man truly responsible for the creation of this virus, Dr. Woodrow Coleman, has been hiding out with a rogue Colonel whose hope to destroy New Jersey’s “zombie” problem with a controlled chemical explosion didn’t quite work out.  New York is gone, but New Jersey’s flesh eaters are still thriving.  But Dr. Woody has a plan – together with a new group of propagandists called The Blades of GRASS, Woody looks to expose Max Gold and his PCRC (Post Conflict Restoration Corporation).  Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Woody, The Blades of GRASS has another agenda entirely.

                While Patrick struggles to get some sort of control back from Gold, The Blades of GRASS seeks to destroy the new government…and then there is Ivan?  What’s his agenda?

                The concept of the book is still genius – I love the use of the controversial subject of engineered food as the carrier of the virus that transforms people into flesh-eaters.  They aren’t exactly zombies in the sense that we are used to.  Those that turn are ruled by brains that develop in their stomachs while their own brains dissolve into nothing.  The disease is spread by bites, like other zombie tales, but the rules regarding killing these things have changed drastically – destroying the head or spinal column won’t work this time around.

                I love the idea that severely overweight individuals may not actually turn.  Instead, they become extremely thin, but there is something about them that isn’t quite right.  There is no insatiable hunger for flesh, but there is definitely something different about them.  I think it interesting that individuals like this would be rounded up for use by the PCRC for further use, but what that use is I can only imagine. 

                I also found it interesting that the destruction of the “zombies” actually becomes a question of humanitarian proportions.  Infected are round up in various ways, transported to a facility and bombarded with fire retardant foam, removing the oxygen and killing them.  While some would argue that this is a safer and more efficient way of dealing with the issue, others believe that the souls of the infected are still in there – they’re just sick people who want to eat other people, right?  If that’s the case, then Gold’s plan for eradicating the problem becomes tantamount to mass murder, all too reminiscent of the showers used by the Nazis during the Holocaust

                Then, there is the masterful discussion of The Blades of GRASS and what groups like this are really about.  In fact, the author offers up backgrounds of members of the group, making them responsible in some way, shape or form for many real grassroots movements like Occupy Wall Street or the Tea Party.  The discussion of how to transform this apocalyptic event taking place in New Jersey by this group is actually a tad chilling when you realize that there are real groups like this out there, seeking to manipulate our reactions and feelings toward a course of action they want to take place.

                Of course, not everything is so serious.  Neil A. Cohen can’t help but add some comedy relief that take aim at actual events in tongue-in-cheek fashion.  I almost spewed my coffee when I read about the grassroots movement to protect the zombies – Dead Lives Matter.  I enjoyed the musings of Dr. Zed and his sarcastic warnings about the zombies.  I also found the zombie diet rather funny – the new way to shed that obesity label.

                Welcome to Nuke Jersey ends in a cliffhanger of course – this wouldn’t be a trilogy if everything was wrapped up neat and tidy at the end of novel number two, right?  With the virus now spreading to other areas, what comes next for the characters we have grown to love/hate?  Who knows what Neil A. Cohen has in store, but I’m sure it’s bound to be something rather unusual.  After all, nothing about this series has been the norm. 

                Welcome to Nuke Jersey is an excellent continuation novel that adds more twists to this new take on the zombie genre.  Neil A. Cohen’s descriptive writing captures your imagination and his characters are so familiar to the reader that they can probably pick out members of their friends and family to act out their roles.  He invests you in their welfare and captivates you with his storyline.  I love the fact that it is set in New Jersey and the surrounding areas, because I can actually picture the places the action takes place in.  Like Exit Zero, Welcome to Nuke Jersey is another intriguing novel you are not going to want to put down.  I can’t wait for the finale!  I want to know what happens next!


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