Red Hill (Review)

Red Hill (Review)

othing makes the miles go by faster on a road trip than audio books. I only wish I could listen to more of them but my commute is only twenty minutes and most of the times I’m biking anyway. But we had to go to Atlanta for a model railroad function and stopped by the library the night before for a couple of audios. And that’s where we picked up Red Hill.

I’d shown the description to the wife – a brief read of the back cover made me believe that some vague disaster had happened to civilization and a group of survivors were holed up at Red Hill Farm, a converted farm house somewhere in the American mid-west. Turns out that’s not entirely true. The disaster is quite obvious – it’s a zombie apocalypse. And we know all about it because three quarters of the book takes place during this event. Only when all the characters reach the farm does it settle down.

So we have three primary protagonists (each read wonderfully by individual voice talents). There is Scarlet, the x-ray clinic worker who’s picked a very bad day to send her two daughters to stay with her ex. She spends most of the book trying to find them before leaving a message at her ex’s house (spray painted to the wall) telling them that she’s heading to the farmhouse she once cleaned for her employing doctor. And then there is Nathen, a father whose daughter has emotional problems and, if faced with the unexpected, suffers seizures (perfect for when zombies are drooling around for you). His story is that his wife left him a Dear John letter which he discovers only after he’s recovered his daughter from school and fought his way to her place). His vocal tones, when he finally gets into her place and sees the note (can you just imagine worse timing) was laugh-out-loud priceless. And thirdly, there is Miranda (one of the daughters of the doctor who owns Red Hill) who is trying to make her way out of the climaxing cities with her sister and their boyfriends in a new VW beetle when the poop hits the spinner. As I said, all three of the readers were perfect for the roles. They really added to the tale.

The weird thing about Red Hill is the context. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie or read a book where zombies aren’t new. Yes, I’ve seen dozens of these silly things and it always goes the same way – suddenly the dead are wandering around, biting people. And the living collect, trying to make sense of all this strange shit. But here, all those Hollywood stories are part of the characters’ culture. They know exactly what they are – they’re zombies! It’s just like the movies, the lurching, the attacking, the apocalypse. It’s as expected as the change of seasons, an event captured in films and finally happening. And that’s strange. I have to ponder what I’d think about this – between the running, the hiding, and the zombie-slaying. This would imply a deeper event, some sort of fated end-of-civilization prophesy, which means that movies somehow predicted it. Does this lead to a firm belief in God? In fate? It would be like smurfs suddenly appearing because of those silly smurf movies, or spaceships looking exactly like the Enterprise. If some horrible pandemic really did sweep civilization, I doubt it would end up exactly like a zombie movie. Long odds, all I’m saying.

But still, yeah, we all love zombie tales and this has it in bloody buckets, with all the groups seeing evidence of the other groups, their paths crossing and recrossing until they all get to Red Hill and the final conclusion. And while I, as a writer and lover of interesting twists, thinks the end might have been better if it hadn’t been quite so main-stream predictable, it works. So if you like your zombie-civilization-crashes from a woman’s writer POV, with everyone moma-bearing their children and all the XXX sex told from a XX viewpoint, give Red Hill a try. It’s the perfect audio book to make the miles fly by.