Doomware by Nathan Kuzack (A Review)

doomware

Review by Curtis Cole

In the century of Kim Kardashian and Barack Obama, what can really be said about the ‘End of the Earth,’ especially after epics like The Walking Dead, Left 4 Dead, and George A. Romero’s portfolio? Hard to say, personally, but evidently not for Natan Kuzack who manages to deliver on a (un-)surprisingly divergent take on the zombie end. Surprising for it being a well-written literary experience and unsurprising for its blasé take on technological determinism.

Plot wise, we see this: David is an ‘acybernetic,’ someone whose brain rejected the so-called ‘brainware’ which propelled humanity into the golden of near-immortality and Godlike biological and interconnected prosperity. He is a modern black sheep and faces discrimination due to his inability to fit in with the crowd. Fortunately, he does not have long to suffer his torment since a devastating virus wipes out humanity thanks to a ‘bug’ in the brainware; thus, billions of people are instantly killed while others become ‘reanimated’ carcasses who wander the Earth as biological machines—brainware working but biology long deteriorated.

So David leads a solitary life of scrapping by on whatever is left over from the great end. He scavenges for food, entertainment, and tries his best to cope with the unending horror of hostile dead and insufferable loneliness. That is until one day when he encounters a young boy; a fellow survivor who he eventually adopts as his son and has many heartwarming moments protecting. Not long after he meets his adoptive son, he meets a strapping solider-man who makes all of his romantic and existential dreams come true. Or, as many as possible when the rotting cadavers of Mom and Dad still walk about, screaming for your flesh.

I guess what I am trying to say is this—the story is well-written. The characters develop smoothly, and the internal machinations of the universe assist rather than degrade the uniqueness of the apocalyptic happening; the idea of implanted machines leading to the near-extinction of humanity after a virus shuts down the central processing center of the depended upon machines, makes for an interesting reading experience which is a breath of fresh air in a stale horror sub-genre. This is greatly welcomed since with every passing day, there grows more fetid pieces to capitalize upon the zombie craze, written by Johns and Jane Does who think they can pen an engaging zombie epic.

But, for all of Doomware‘s strengths, for how visceral the author is able to write action scenes and how much emotion he is able to convey, much of the novel is simply ‘good,’ not ‘amazing,’ just average.

My objections ultimately boil down to this—although the idea of brainware dooming humanity was a different take on how zombification happens, it was still an old-hat in the pantheon of reasons why humanity is overthrown; the notion that humanity unknowingly plants the seeds of their doom by being overeager to use technology as a crutch is a tired affair. Moreoever, it is a deeply reactionary affair, pessimistic in what humanity is able to achieve. It is the status quo screaming for stability in an economic order increasingly shaken by its own internal contradictions.

Doomware has multiple instances of the author preaching against technological dependence and, by extension, advancement. Entire pages are sometimes dedicated to religious-like soliloquies on technology and its boring, underlying neo-luddite ideology which hankers for the good old days of natural humanity. One may argue that the novel may not explicitly argue for a neo-luddite re-imagining, but considering that the digital version is free, it is also hard to argue that it is anything other than, in the very minimum, another unexciting piece of anti-technology propaganda.

I have other issues with the text—from the forced religious metaphors and stand-ins to the ‘trying too hard’ attitude of the author when it comes to self-referentiality—but the preaching against cyborg initiatives is my main beef primary because of its reactionary thinking, and partly due to its eye-rolling prominence  among modern artists.

Another moment which I found myself barking at was directed toward the romance… there was little need for it. I can enjoy reading a satisfying romantic entanglement between two people—hetero-or-homosexual—but this was one of those instances where you find yourself scratching your head at why it is important that these two people fall in love and what it adds to the story, especially since the romance itself does not seem to be the primary focus of the text’s consciousness: the protagonist survives, meets a boy he is grateful to save in order to redeem humanity, and then meets an intriguing older-man. The text wants to be about family but manages only to speak about familial relations on the periphery. What one ultimately reads is a familial-oriented story muddled underneath the exact motives of the protagonist and survival itself.

But the romantic deficiencies is simply a symptom of a deeper, subtending base, that of the rushed ending compounding its shortcomings. The book is short, at just under three hundred pages but feels as though there should be another hundred in order for it to feel whole. Case-in-point, the final twenty-percent of the book feels like it should be the final forty-percent; meaning, that when reading near the finale, one feels as though there should be, at least, another twenty-percent before your turn the last page. Instead, the book ends on an unsatisfying and vague conclusion which is closed enough for a stand-alone novel but open enough for the author to revisit should he choose to do so. In other words, the text gives you just enough closure mixed with just enough wonder enabling the author to have the best of both worlds. A rookie cop-out.

Even so, at the end of the day, Kuzack’s title is, as far as I know, his first full-length literary production. Because of this, certain shortcomings can be glossed over; every writer’s early work is to be expected to have some ‘bugs,’ so to speak. Ideological differences aside, there is much to enjoy in Kuzack’s writing since it is well-crafted and worth looking into since the Kindle versions of his works are free; so anyone short on funds should not be afraid to look at his library if you want a different take on sci-fi and horror. One should simply be prepared for the customary gulf of experience which comes alongside any new author.

Doomware

Nathan Kuzack

298 pages. Published by Nathan Kuzack. $0.00 (Kindle), $7.85 (paperback). 2014.

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