Alternating with the first-person viewpoint when Hannah Winter is narrating the over-the-top zombie story about people learning how to survive and third-person perspective for the other characters that inhabit Never-DEAD creates more depth to the story, making you feel the anxiety of the characters. It is a stand-alone story with past tense writing to create a feeling of immediacy, frequent dollops of humor, and short (five-or-six-page) chapters ending often with a closing sentence that is witty. Never-DEAD features second-tier characters Ken Langtry, Chloe Park, Dan Saunders and Vivian Wheeler who are larger-than-life complete with personal drama sure to entertain.
When a world-changing virus that brings the dead to life springs up in Chiapas, Mexico near the city of Palenque, a place with a historical site of stone carvings from the Maya, people question whether there is any truth to the circulating doomsday prophecy with December 21, 2012 approaching, the end of the Maya calendar. A rabid raccoon viciously attacks a couple of campers killing the woman and biting the man just before he kills the animal with a tire iron and becomes the first carrier of the disease, turning into a zombie and spreading the virus to people he bites. The mindless, creepy crawling zombies, feed on flesh and those merely with a few bites, die and come back as flesh-eaters themselves. And, of course, to stop the zombie you must disable the brain, shooting it in the head tends to work best. And plenty of gnarly zombies at that, from a zombie wearing a Grateful Dead T-shirt to one wearing a Sonic Drive-In employee uniform.
The plot centers on this communicable disease and the life of 26-year-old Hannah Winter, a multidimensional, vibrant, occasionally pessimistic but down-to-earth character that anyone can relate to. Five foot five, slim with shoulder-length brown hair and eyes, Hannah is a natural beauty who hardly wears makeup and rarely wears dresses. Her narrative voice in the novel talks to the reader, engaging their senses with descriptions that make the story come alive and easy to visualize. This inventive conversational tone makes readers feel like she’s addressing them personally. A cutting-edge computer scientist, she loves her job as the head of information technology at Biogenetics & Disease Control. This medical research company, deep beneath the city of Dulce, New Mexico, is the focal point for an antidote to the virus. With fascinating medical terminology and procedure descriptions which help the reader understand the symptoms of the virus and the root cause, Julie Mehta, a virologist of Biogenetics & Disease Control in charge of their state-of-the-art laboratory, takes on the task of developing a vaccine protective against one of the deadliest pathogens facing humanity before every living thing on the planet dies from it. At the very core of this epidemic is hope, always present, even in the face of doubt and despair, which drives the characters including Hannah and Julie. For Hannah, it’s expecting Jenna to arrive in New Mexico and for Julie it’s to find a solution to the viral outbreak.
In a telephone conversation, Hannah persuades her nineteen-year-old sister Jenna to travel from San Antonio, Texas to be with her in New Mexico because it’s the safest place. At five-seven, slender, with green eyes, long light-brown hair, and creamy white skin, Jenna Winter is just another pretty face for magazine covers or movies. Her plan to leave St. Mary’s University and stay in her father’s Albuquerque home while she does nothing but plan a career in modeling and designing clothes for her own future boutique, all goes south and the reader feels her grief as if they are walking beside her every step of the way as the story unfolds. In a thrill ride toward the (almost) end of the world, Jenna’s life is an emotional roller coaster of many life and death encounters with zombies she’s utterly afraid of. The reader slips easily from one tense situation to the next hoping each time Jenna gets out of her latest scrape with the zombies. Pushing herself to the limits of her abilities, she manages to outwit and narrowly escape from these leg-dragging, moaning zombies who tax her patience with the smell of decaying flesh they leave in the air. Her way of thinking during those times makes it realistic. She’s not automatically brave, cries a lot and often smokes cigarettes to relieve the stress and cope with her fear. Though she wants to quit smoking, the pandemic fuels her addiction. Making choices that are true to her heart can be tough. When she sees a thirty-eight revolver lying on a table in a RV, against her better judgment she reluctantly picks it up. She teaches herself how to use the gun and uses it on some zombies, but regrets doing it, feeling that she’s losing her innocence, doing things outside of her norm to survive.
Protagonist Jenna Winter is unafraid to bare her emotions, you’ll see her growth from weakness to something approaching courage in a way consistent with her personality while still holding on to her vulnerability. The reader will feel as if they are right there in the action because things are set up so that every time Jenna appears to be smooth sailing on to New Mexico, she encounters a setback on every leg of her journey, throwing readers for a loop and a wrench into the story for edge-of-your-seat action and hair-raising suspense. You’ll find yourself impatiently awaiting her arrival in New Mexico, so much so that you’ll keep flipping from one chapter to the next. You can’t help but hope for the best for her because she deserves a happy, gut-wrenching ending that is off the charts. The feeling of coming home and returning to the one you love is beautiful - capable of causing great joy - emotional enough to move you to tears that you find your heart in the back of your throat because you see yourself or someone you love in Ann Greyson’s words. Yes, it’s a Hollywood-style happy ending! Some of us want a bed of roses to lie down on and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Maybe it’s risky using two sisters to hold such a story together but for anyone who has experience with any of life’s twists and turns, you will take interest in Never-DEAD that convincingly portrays a time and a place where the human struggle to survive is the norm and provides an understanding of the lasting effect of living through a cataclysm. This prototype thriller may blow the lid off the zombie genre, showing there are a lot more ways to write about horror. It’s not that tough in this day and age to do something original with zombies when you throw in many eye-grabbing strong female leads wrestling against the stigma of the genre by using these individuals to shine a light on key themes, turning them into tangible people. Yet, like many zombie stories, Never-DEAD features lots of action, gore, guns, religion, science, dramatic life-or-death scenarios, movie and pop music references, and see if you can handle the cars and the beautiful women because if that doesn't grab-you-quick, nothing will.
Though the novel does not maintain overly Christian thematic interest, you will find Christian context in the novel. The character of Jenna Winter drops out of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas which has a Roman Catholic religious affiliation. She’s from a Catholic family. And Jenna stays many weeks in the St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Abilene, Texas where she develops a close relationship with Monsignor Anthony Lucca, who provides a balancing philosophy about how to treat and deal with the undead and consoles her about her father Henry Winter’s death in a zombie causing plane crash in the Gila National Forest in Catron County, New Mexico. Jenna also prays more since the start of the epidemic, often thanking God for her survival.
Horror readers will enjoy the creepy zombies that you start reading the top of a page afraid of what you’ll read at the bottom, that brings many of us to the genre in the first place for the thrill of scaring us in a way we aren’t accustom to. Read Never-DEAD at your own risk because after turning the final page of this book expect to be hungry for more of this story that has lots of zombie-killin’ action and an ending like a Walt Disney movie.
Never-DEAD (Book Trailer: Hannah Winter’s POV) c. 9/21
Never-DEAD (Official Book Trailer) c. 1/21
Never-DEAD is a captivating story that any zombie or thriller lover would enjoy ... That said, Greyson weaves together the story lines of a diverse cast of strong characters into a book you won’t want to put down.
Goodreads 5-star review post August 28, 2020 from The Faerie Review 5-fairies review by Liliyana Shadowlyn Greer - August 29, 2020
Great Zombie Book ... Well written story. Characters are well developed and the author pulls you into the story making it difficult to put the book down. Makes a perfect gift for a ’zombie lover.’
Goodreads 5-star review post April 21, 2020 from Amazon 4-star review by Carol Pirog, Author & Managing Director of Anchor Book Press - April 13, 2020
The setup in the prologue and beginning chapter remind me of writers like Michael Crichton and Dan Brown. The author introduces readers to a cast of seemingly disconnected characters whom you soon discover all hold different pieces to the same story. I enjoyed being led into the story in this way, learning along with the main characters what is going on across the world and what it could mean for humanity ... Anyone with an interest in science fiction, apocalypse fiction, or simply zombies should enjoy this read. Last, the added twist of the Mayan calendar angle weaves some great historical and science facts into the story. It takes no time at all to become invested in the narrative, and the ending is sure to please even the most avid zombie readers.
Goodreads post of LitPick 4-star review by Amanda - April 4, 2020
Greyson’s cinematic narrative easily pulls readers into this bleak but enthralling story of survival. Through Jenna’s ability to maintain an emotional distance from the horrors around her as her survival instinct kicks in, Greyson explores the boundless capacity of perseverance in the human race. Greyson’s prose is simple and accessible, plotting tight, and characterization thoroughly done ... Greyson poignantly portrays people’s fear, insecurities, fickleness, and bitter rage through Jenna and her other characters. Lovers of apocalyptic fiction will be delighted.
Booklife and Goodreads 5-star review post by BooksCoffee from The Prairies Book Review Digital Magazine, Vol 08, June 2020, page 34 and The Prairies Book Review review by Neena H. Brar - March 27, 2020
The action of zombies shambling toward a victim is vivid ... The imagery is vivid and bold, with fast-paced scenes that would make great visuals for a film ... The plot intensifies through conversations with co-workers with references to the Mayan Calendar that predicts the end of time in a specific period, which is the year the story takes place ... This thriller will challenge the reader to question his own response to a cataclysmic event and consider making advanced preparations for unforeseen disasters. Never-DEAD is a survivalist horror story that begs you to ponder if a zombie virus breaks out; would you know how to survive from it?
AuthorsReading.com review by Carol V. Weishampel - March 15, 2020
the balance between pacing and plot is an element of the novel that really shines through. As for the characters that fill this dark fantasy world, they fit perfectly inside their roles. Readers will quickly recognize or even relate to the sisterly-bond between Hannah and Jenna ... For those that love a strong build-up to a nail-biting climax, Never-DEAD is that type of horror story. Of course, more than enough zombies are created along the way and some good characters are sacrificed.
Horror Palace review by Damnetha Jules and Ivan Karhoff - March 3, 2020
Of all the characters, Hannah tries to maintain humanity in the face of a cataclysm more than others. She remains kind and calm to her coworkers, not even forgetting Christmas tidings! Jenna proves to be surprisingly resilient, though the odds are against her ... If you want a classic zombie book loaded with action, Never-DEAD will satisfy your craving!
Indies Today 3-star review by Amanda Murello - February 29, 2020
A zombie thriller with some discerning twists, it’s the debut release from Ann Greyson and she’s packed quite a punch! Immediately immersive, she weaves the requisite elements of the genre into a nail-biting narrative with sisters Hannah and Jenna finding themselves separated as the Never Dead virus threatens to destroy everything they know and love. Against all odds, Jenna must journey from San Antonio to New Mexico to join Hannah in the safety of the Biogenetics & Disease Control facility. But it’s a journey fraught with peril and this is where Greyson as a writer comes into her own. She’s set out to write a fast-paced character-driven thriller and that’s what she delivers ... The zombie attack set pieces are tense with the ugly reality of real-life and death fights brought to life through Jenna’s many life and death encounters.
BookViral review by John Reese - January 27, 2020
The stakes are high, and the tension is mounting with every minute ... The descriptions are strong and vivid and the dialogues well-crafted. I loved the imagery from the very first page. Ann Greyson allows readers to see the images and the scenes in their mind’s eye and follow characters through tense and dangerous situations ... The crisp writing and richly developed characters make Never-DEAD an enjoyable read. It is fun following characters that beat the never dead and make narrow escapes.
Readers’ Favorite 5-star review by Christian Sia - January 12, 2020