“And before the light can flash again he explodes, straining and struggling.”
Flotsam & Jetsam, by Carrie Ryan.
Another tale from The Living Dead 2, edited and introduced by John Joseph Adams. If you’d like your own copy, which I’d really recommend if you’re at all a fan of zombies, you can order it here or here in paperback or ebook format. If you just want this story in particular, however, you can get it from Amazon here by itself.
After a zombie outbreak on their cruise liner, two guys–either late teenagers, or young adults–end up alone on a lifeboat together. As they struggle to survive and fight their urges to go back to the sinking ship and look for their friends, the tension between them grows. Especially since one of them was bitten.
The concept behind this tale was really interesting to me. When I shared a synopsis of this story with my good friend Elma, she reminded me of the movie Train to Busan, in which there’s a zombie outbreak on a train. Dealing with a zombie scenario in close-quarters raises the stakes that much more, and Flotsam & Jetsam is certainly no different in that regard. Knowing that someone was slowly turning made the whole story feel like a countdown.
There was a strangely casual tone to the whole thing, however, which took away from some of the tension. Much of the conversations between the two men felt forced, although maybe that was intentional. I also wondered about the exact nature of their relationship, since they didn’t seem to have strong feelings in any way for each other. If they liked or even disliked each other a bit more, I feel like the tension would have been through the roof.
The story wasn’t very descriptive, but what is there to describe on a life raft? There were a few scenes towards the end that were really strong–when one character is tying up the other, for example. The ending was also very interesting, and definitely not what I was expecting. I really enjoyed the conclusion, and I think that’s what really sold me on this story.
This piece had a solid foundation and finish, but it lacked just a bit in the middle, and I think I’m going to give it a 4 out of 5. It definitely captured my interest and was by no means a bad story, but I think if a little more attention had been given to the characters, it would have really stood out.
Carrie Ryan has a website here, including a bibliography of her work here. Apparently this story is set in the same world as her The Forest of Hands and Teeth, so if you like this one, definitely take a look at those books as well. I hope I can check it out soon. She also has a twitter, at @carrieryan.
What do you think would be the worst place to be trapped with a zombie?