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BOOK REVIEW: Side by Side Reviews of WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE by Aaron Dries and Mark Allan Gunnells


Author: Aaron Dries & Mark Allan Gunnells

Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing

WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE follows Emily as she just tries to hold it together. She is a single mother living in post-infection Chicago. She just wants to go to work, do her job, and make a good life for her daughter. She works as a hospice worker in a government-run facility where the recently infected can come and live out their final days in comfort away from where they can’t do any harm and will be “crowned” before they have the ability to do so. Can Emily keep her life from falling apart while society and her past are there at every turn to stop her?

Okay, so first and foremost- this is a zombie book. I usually tend to stay away from zombie books because I think that the market is oversaturated and it’s really easy to get it so wrong. This was such a fresh take on the subject though. The authors had a unique idea and wrote an amazing story. The idea of a hospice for people that are infected with a zombie virus sheds new light on the idea of zombies and the way society would react to them. This book is comprised of mostly strong female characters that were all written wonderfully. The main character, Emily, was smart and hard-working. I was raised by a single mother and having witnessed that first hand, I thought that Emily was written extremely well. I think the “smilers” were an interesting stress to put on the main character and the way the authors wrote about the worry she had for her daughter was spot on. The thing that stuck out about this book most to me, though, was the way society reacted to these zombies. See, I used to live directly beside a Planned Parenthood in Ohio, and I had to use the entry to their parking lot to get to my parking spot (I promise I’m going somewhere with this, just stick with me). There were always protesters outside year-round. Holding signs, marching around, yelling etc. They did actually spit on my car a few times as I just wanted to go home. So when I read about the protesters outside of the hospice for the infected, it really struck a chord with me. Especially when ONE OF THEM SPIT ON SOMEONE.

The protesters in WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE thought it was wrong to make these infected humans comfortable as they turned. In their eyes, the infected were dead already, so don’t waste the resources. I am not going to talk about what happens at Emily’s daughter’s school because I’d like to avoid spoilers. But, the school has strict guidelines about the infected as well. Everyone has their morals that they stick to, even if they don’t know the trials of the people they are imposing their morals on. 

The protesters were extremely effective at showing how sad society handles certain things. They were a great way to show off how certain situations can go from bad to worse with the actions of one person thinking they're doing the right thing. The protestors kick off things going bad, because hello, this is a zombie book and things have to go bad. And when things go bad, they go really bad. I was excited to read this book after I read Aaron Dries’ A PLACE FOR SINNERS because that book was nuts. The level of excitement in that book was what I was waiting for the entire time in WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE. The issue I had with this book was that it took too long to get to that level of chaos and excitement. The beginning was written well and was definitely interesting, but there was so much time spent on Emily’s day to day life that the ending, even though it was wonderful, felt rushed. There was plenty of gore and lots of excitement, I just wanted the book to be paced just a bit better.

Overall, WHERE THE DEAD GO TO DIE was a fresh and unique take on a subject that is often just the same thing over and over. I’m giving it 4 stars because of how it was paced. I would recommend this one to anyone who wants to read an interesting and poignant zombie book. You’ll cry, you’ll be scared, you’ll even smile.

Emily Samuels moves herself and her daughter from warm South Carolina to Chicago right before the holiday season. Anyone living in the Midwest would call you an absolute moron for making that decision this time of year but, Emily felt as if she had no choice. They could no longer remain in the South. Memories that now equate to emotional baggage fill every corner of The Palmetto State. As if moving to a region of the country with unforgiving winters at Christmas time isn’t bad enough, Emily has accepted a position as a nurse at a long term care facility, while a contagious infection plagues the country turning citizens into soldiers of the undead, referred to as “Smilers”.

Being a caregiver of any kind is difficult. There is the constant moral and ethical struggle of doing what is best for your patient, while also following protocols. Often the outcomes are conflicting. Emily is no stranger to these dilemmas, especially when a young man by the name of Robby is admitted to the Hospice. Children should not be getting admitted to Hospices in the first place so when Emily learns of how Robby contracted this fatal infection, the weight on her shoulders increases. 

With this knowledge tugging at her heartstrings, her daughter Lucette being suspended from school until after the new year has begun and the constant mob of protesters outside of the Hospice every single day, it’s surprising Emily is able to keep it together as long as she can. 

I am usually pretty skeptical when it comes to zombies. It has been done so many times that I usually skip right over it. This story was different. While the book isn’t very long, most of it focuses on Emily as she tries to keep shit running smoothly in all aspects of her work and personal life. I liked that. It was not what I was expecting. We get to meet a few strong females in the director of the Hospice and one of the volunteers that made me want to just keep reading about their day to day lives as they live and work alongside the infected. Naturally, the story gets a little wild in the later chapters but, how can you have zombies without even a little blood? 

Other than the fact that my favorite character in this novel was done SUPER dirty, there was one part of the story that I found upsetting: the protesters. When I read horror, there are often several emotions that I feel can be relatable to the everyday reader but, not many of the events are. The protestors in Where the Dead Go to Die were one of the few times that I have read a horror story and could relate everything they represent into the current state of our society. The protesters stand outside of this Hospice facility day in and day out, in the dead of a midwestern winter, shouting and berating employees about how “wrong” it is to care for the infected and make them as comfortable as possible before they turn. They’re as good as dead, right? These protesters spit on people. Spit! Our society has become the epitome of a cancel culture. It seems like you cannot go one full day without hearing about how everyone is offended by everything and those who do not agree with whatever group is shouting the loudest is sought out and destroyed. Dramatic yes but, it feels like that most days. By all means, stand up for what you believe in but, take into consideration all the Emily Samuels out there and don’t be a goddamn turd.


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