Roamers

When scientists initiate human trials for a drug created to prevent and cure the common cold, nineteen-year-old Scarlett McKenzie's life rapidly crumbles around her. Her mother, Grace, having fallen on hard times financially, is among the first to be injected with the medicine. Hours later, Scarlett is faced with her mother; cold, dead, blind... and hungry.

Scarlett is forced into the new world - a world where the dead rise to feed on the living and the constant fight for life brings out the worst in even the best people - along with her boyfriend, Jimmy and his twelve year old sister, Alice.

Along the way, she will of course meet new people – survivors, just like her – but can anyone really be trusted when the shit hits the fan? Forced to endure the pain of losing people she cares about in the most horrific ways, just how long will it be before she loses her mind, and is there anything or anyone who can keep her from losing who she is?

‘Roamers’ is the first instalment in a series of three books following Scarlett McKenzie in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s a fictional look at how a young woman might learn to adapt in a world where nobody is guaranteed to survive day-to-day.

Critic Evaluation

Cover Design Score: 10

The striking black and white draws the eye, and the detailed silhouette of the girl gives hints as to what kind of story it will be.  The dog adds to the visual drama and the whole thing is framed nicely by the darker foreground trees and the lighter background trees.  The typography looks professional and fits with the overall design.

Book Blurb Score: 10

Clear, concise, and aptly presents the key questions of the book.  Leaves plenty of room for surprises along the way while adequately preparing the reader for what the book is about. It is clear who the main characters are and what might be in store for them. 

Formatting Score: 9

Overall, the formatting is clean and sensible.  There is adequate spacing between paragraphs, the font is very legible, and the chapters are clearly demarcated. I did note the lack of page numbers.  Chapters were hyperlinked but it would have been nice to be able to navigate back to a specific page.

Grammar & Spelling Score: 6

Some typos, a few spelling errors.  Some minor issues with tense at the sentence level, for example, “Henry was sat by the campfire…”  Some wrong words, including “automation” instead of “automaton” in the first paragraph.  Throughout, a consistent issue with dialogue ending in periods instead of commas before dialogue tags, for example: “I don't think we're getting far in a hurry.” she stated, closing the car door.”

None of the errors were frequent enough to make me want to stop reading.

Plot & Structure Score: 10

Plot moves briskly from crisis to crisis, with time for Scarlett to learn and grow, and without it ever feeling choppy.  There is always something happening, and events lead logically from one plot point to the next.

The romances aren’t hard to see coming, but they are satisfying nonetheless.  A good sense of timing makes the love feel inevitable and organic. Flashbacks are neither distracting nor confusing, but serve to deepen our understanding of the characters. 

The overall structure runs from the catalyzing event of the virus.  At first, there are desperate attempts to escape, and new characters are introduced.  Episodes of relative security include love and children, before danger returns and the characters continue to wander.  This structure reinforces the central concept that the “Roamers” are not only the zombies, but the survivors themselves, searching for safety and home. 

Character Development Score: 9

Scarlett is the undisputed heroine here, and she is bold and decisive. She is reminiscent of other recent female heroines, but tougher even than Katniss from The Hunger Games.  Scarlett’s development from hard-headed, survival-bent teenager to a more empathetic adult is relatable and realistic.  When she suffers, her grief is believable.

With such a strong main character, the others tend to fade into the background.  That being said, the secondary characters provide some comic relief amongst all the angst and zombie-slaying.  This is perhaps especially true of poor, hapless Jimmy in the early chapters: “Jimmy just looked as though he was concentrating hard on not soiling himself.” 

Originality Score: 8

This does, for the most part, follow the conventions of the genre.  There are many predictable scenes of horror and devastation.  There are conversations that seem very familiar as characters come to grips with their new, terrible world. 

Starting with Scarlett’s mother as a zombie is a potent beginning.  The fact that the zombies are blind gives the characters a fighting chance and adds to the tension of the plot.  That the zombies eventually begin to adapt is another interesting, original development. 

Pacing Score: 9

Things move quickly, yet the writing is clear enough that I never needed to reread.  The first few chapters alone include a plane crash, a city bombing, and lots of zombie killing.  Chapters end with cliffhangers, start in the middle of the action, and just keep going, relentlessly.  There is never time to be bored, and the fast pace sweeps the reader on through. 

That being said, it wasn’t too fast.  Scenes and characters were given enough time to become solid and plot lines were followed through, with a building of tension throughout.  There are several places where the passage of time speeds up, but only the one at chapter 12 left me disoriented.

Use of Language Score: 8

The language is straightforward and easy to follow.  It is always clear what was happening, and more importantly, what is at stake.  Dialogue and scene transition take place without much fuss.

I felt there was a bit of overwriting, when the author would point out what was already obvious.  It stood out because the rest of the writing was so very clean.  For example, “He knew that Scarlett was strong-willed, but above all, he trusted her.”  This line is unnecessary, given the description and dialogue that preceded it.

This occasional awkwardness is offset by great use of detail.  Mostly, the language allows you to get lost in the action-packed world of the novel without becoming too aware of the author’s intrusions.

Overall Readability Score: 10

Overall, very easy to read.  Fast paced, flowing, and the language gets out of the way of the story.  I cared about the characters and was happy to keep reading.  Everything made sense and worked to advance the central questions of the narrative.  I would hand it to anyone who is into zombies, and consider it a solid example of the genre.

This book received a critic's score of 89 out of 100 possible points.

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Curator Evaluation

Cover Design Score: 8

Whilst the dark colours provide links to the book's dystopian genre, its silhouettes increase the air of mystery that comes with Roamers. The only downside to a cover with dark colours is that it becomes less eye-catching, although this is arguably a necessary sacrifice for conveying the novel's themes.

Book Blurb Score: 7

This is a good blurb and conveys the book's story and themes very effectively. I think the only downside to it, is the inclusion of the phrase, "the sh*t hits the fan"; whilst explicit language on the blurb may give an impression of the suitability of the novel for different age groups, I also think it takes something away from the rest of the blurb, particularly as most of it is so eloquent!

Formatting Score: 10

I found no problems with the formatting of this book, and there was nothing out of place that drew attention away from the story.

Grammar & Spelling Score: 7

There was the occasional odd syntax that made reading this book a little more difficult; whilst such phrases still made sense, they were written in a way that caused me, as a reader, to slow down and think about what the text was actually trying to say. Nevertheless, the book overall was written very well, and I noted no serious spelling or grammar issues (aside from a few typing errors).

Plot & Structure Score: 9

So much happens in this book! I found the plot gripping, with just the right mix of personal issues thrown into the dystopian, zombie novel that this is. The story was easy to follow and grew more and more intriguing as the protagonist began to change and adapt to the world around her. Overall, a great book filled with tension, drama and intrigue.

Character Development Score: 7

Scarlett is an extremely strong character. You can really see how she changes as the novel goes on. My only gripes are that perhaps she changes a little too fast initially; whilst it is in her character to be strong-willed and violent when it comes to the dead, the gaps in time between different characters skip out some important character development that may have been weaved in. I also think that some of the other characters in the novel seem a little undeveloped (particularly at the beginning with Jimmy and Alice), although this may only be because they are juxtaposed to the well-developed Scarlett.

Originality Score: 6

It is hard to give the originality of this novel an extremely high score, just because the zombie genre is one that has already been explored frequently in books and TV programmes alike. Nevertheless, I do think that&nbsp;<em>Roamers&nbsp;</em>approaches the topic in a different way, making the main narrative not about the undead, themselves, but about the character, Scarlett.

Pacing Score: 9

This book was such a great read; whilst I would normally say the pacing of the story was a little too fast, I think this speed matched the book quite well. There are hardly any moments of quiet reflection that may cause the reader to put down the book; there was always something happening, and always something to be fearful of!

Use of Language Score: 9

I think this book combines simple and complex language to form an interesting narrative. Whilst keeping the content accessible with (somewhat) simple terms (which is important in this type of book), it also introduces more complex language to intrigue the reader and remain sophisticated.

Overall Readability Score: 9

I had no problems reading this book; I thought the pace was good and there were no obvious issues causing me to slow down in my reading. The topic itself kept the tension and drama in the book and thus made the narrative all the more intriguing.

This book was curated by EmilyW

This book received a critic's score of 81 out of 100 possible points.

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This book was curated by EmilyW

This book received a critic's score of 75 out of 100 possible points.

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