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Risen (2004)

By J. Knight

Risen by J. Knight
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Reviewed By Zombie-A-GoGo

We are residing in the sleepy little town of Anderson. It's a town so sleepy as to almost render itself completely unconscious, and it seems as though a little zombie action is just what they needed. Enter town newcomer (if you've been there less than two and a half years, you are still fresh and ripe for harassment from the townsfolk) Brant Kettering, once a calloused journalist in the "big city", now running Anderson's weekly rag, just barely. Peg, a local waitress and mother of two. Her daughter Annie, who is about five and in a vegetative state following a car accident, and her son Tom, 17, who does what most 17 year olds do. He sits around a lot, being angry, and dreaming of someday blowing that town and heading for something bigger, better. Where he could make something of himself. Like a Springsteen song (I'm still trying to figure out if the whole book is actually just a metaphor for the exact type of thing).

It begins when battered wife Madge Duffy slits the throat of her rat-bastard husband John, thus murdering him as he slept drunkenly on the couch. That night, at midnight, after Madge is locked away and resting peacefully in her cell, John wakes up on a cold slab in the morgue. Healed and confused, he doesn't know much, but he now knows "Seth". From here it's a chain reaction of people dying. The more people that die, the more people they kill to bring into the whole Seth cult. The townspeople are shocked by this whole coming back from the dead business, yet seem to accept it easier than you'd think, most likely due to the fact that this is the most exciting thing that's ever happened in their town since.ever.

The story itself isn't too far a throw from your average horror story, the difference being made in the writing, which finds Knight capable. He creates a world not far from reality, where incredible things are allowed to happen without much question, and also without making you feel stupid for buying into it. This aids in one's suspension of disbelief, which is something that anyone who reads horror should be able to appreciate in a writer. Knight knows exactly where he's leading you, even if you don't---like being blindfolded and lead, you feel in front of you, afraid of bumping into something unpleasant. Regardless of that generally uncomfortable anticipation, he doesn't bump you too much, and he does keep you walking.

Now, I know what you're asking. How about the violence and gore? Well, lot's and lot's of people die, sometimes more than once (what a treat!) There is violence and there is gore, quite a bit actually. Again, the desired effect is achieved in the writing. Knight tends to kill his victims in first person, not third. While this might sometimes be bothersome in it's shifting, the result makes it less jarring and the actual death more effective. Maybe you're not affected by this whole first-, second-, third-person thing. Imagine watching a man drown in a lake. Now imagine drowning in a lake. I'm sure you'd agree that your own drowning is much, much worse. That's the effect.

Also adding to the overall heebie-jeebieness about this book is the feeling of paranoia, which begins in a subtle way with Brant, still considered an outsider, building to an all out, watch-your-back sensation, when no one, not even the reader, knows who is alive, who's dead, who doesn't know Seth and who does. You now find yourself living in a town where your loved one, who you just saw an hour ago, may now be trying to kill you. How can you tell what's happened to that person in the last hour? Maybe they died and came back. It's probably safe to assume the worst.

Is J. Knight's Risen a zombie story? Good question. The living dead, in this case, are never called "zombies", though they are dreamt of by one character and referred to by another stating, "This isn't some horror movie where zombies start eating peoples' brains." They are simply the "Risen". Regardless of how horribly they die, they are healed in coming back and seem to be much as they were before, with the exception of a shared, newly acquired belief and compulsion to follow a man, or thing, called "Seth." I am of the opinion that this is a zombie novel in the same way that Dead & Buried is a zombie movie. They're walking, they're talking, but it doesn't change the fact that five minutes ago, they were deader than, as they say, a doornail.

Risen is wrought with well formed characters, seemingly random acts of violence (that aren't random at all) and best of all.well.lot's of Risen. If you're not too particular about your zombies and are open to them moving in a slightly different direction, this book could very well be for you.

Footnote: I appreciate Knight's use of the Edmund Burke quote: "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." I also like the fact that he chose the 1968 Charger over the more popular 1969 model. It's all in the details, you know.


(Out of 5)
June 1 2004

A novel every horror fan will love and a must-read for fans of the living impaired! Fresh, innovative, and full of suspense!
In this case, these zombies go down any old way. Shoot them. Smash them. Burn them. But don't loose track of time, because come midnight, they're back and you have to deal with them all over again. What a pain in the ass.
"It's the damned cockroaches," Carl explained. "I've done everything, but with all the cats.I don't want to complain but you know how it is. Cat food left out all the time, and they eat like pigs. Bernice tries to keep the place clean but.twelve cats! Jeez!"
Read for FREE : The (almost) Complete Risen Short Stories
When published by Time Warner Book Group as an e-book, Risen rose as high as #3 among all e-books at It placed as high as #4 at Palm Digital Media, behind two books by Stephen King and one by Anne Rice.

Pinnacle Books (Kensington Publishing Group)
January 2004
407 Pages
Dimensions (inches): 1.08 x 6.70 x 4.20
ISBN: 0786016124
E-BOOK DETAILS (Time Warner Bookmark)
May 2001
347 Pages


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