Book Title: Serial Killer Z: Sanctuary
Author: Philip Harris
Publication Date: Oct. 5, 2017
Available On: Amazon as an eBook
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Marcus is once again on his own after the events of the Serial Killer Z and he has settled into a new routine, alone in a cave with his zombie subjects. But when a plane falls from the sky, Marcus encounters Ling and his gang, who put him through a series of difficult tests to see if he has the mettle to become part of their crew. Faced with their brutality, he decides to go off and finds another group of people in a different encampment. This group, led by Allison and supported by a military contingent led by Captain Harwood, has a plan to occupy what looks to be a walled sanctuary to protect their large group. When these two storylines converge, how will all of this affect Marcus and his plans?
Marcus’ ongoing struggle to survive continues to be a compelling story. He wants to be left alone to slice open zombies with his prized scalpels and feed the darkness that resides inside of him. But Marcus is constantly being tested by the elements and by other humans, both benevolent and amoral. When he encounters those he considers guilty, they seep with dark tendrils of guilt that are laid bare to him alone. With that perspective, he feels they deserve to die and he is the one who must do the deed.
However, this dark shadow inside of his soul needs feeding but it is constantly being held in balance by the need to stay covert and survive among other humans. If he lets loose in front of others, he will be shunned and put his life at risk when others find out what kind of threat he really is. This continuous psychological battle between these two parts of himself while also nourishing his dark side is a nonstop source of fascination for me as a reader. It is especially interesting when you see how Marcus is pushed into different circumstances between each of these groups of humans and how he reacts.
This is especially telling when he encounters Melissa, a mechanic who takes a liking to him. Her personality is very upbeat, buoyant and fierce, endearing her to me. She tries to see the best in Marcus despite his protestations to her that he’s a loner. How he keeps trying to reject her friendship and how she keeps on trying anyway only deepens their rapport. How this affects Marcus emotionally, how he comes to care for her in his own way and how it impacts his perspective of himself and his image in front of her is enlightening to see. Whether she can pierce his darkness and infuse it with some light is a true highlight of this novel.
Marcus is pushed to his limits here as he faces duplicity from many sides with the enemies he makes here. Both Ling’s thug group, as well as the developing schism between Harwood and Allison, make for extreme and complicated difficulties. Marcus’ trying to survive amongst these groups and the treachery hidden in the shadows among them demonstrates true improvisation and thinking on his feet.
I was really impressed with how the larger groups recreated a society in microcosm amongst the sanctuary and how Marcus is viewed there, as well as how this adulation for some of his heroic actions (!) affects him. The depth of his enemies schemes and how they attempted to manipulate him affects both halves of his soul in the process. It is an ongoing and delicious dilemma that makes for continuous reading enjoyment.
Of course, I must mention the zombies here. While there is a lot of action between humans fighting amongst one another, the zombies are a constant threat and are not to be trifled with. They are deadly, especially in swarms and each encounter with them we read, either with Marcus or the others, is a teeth-gnashing frenzy that viscerally hit me in the gut with each life-threatening fight. I felt like I was the one in the story fighting for my life, as it immersed me deeply engaging all of my senses. Their effect on the story is one that is constantly in the foreground influencing everyone’s decisions and is a constant threat that cannot be minimized.
Finally, Marcus gets some character development beyond knowing his inner struggle with his thoughts and desires. We also get some much-needed background from his life when he was much younger and how his family interpreted his personality issues and shaped his experiences. This insight was sorely needed and welcomed by me, as it fleshes out Marcus’ character more. It looks like this will even be further expanded upon in the third installment of this series, Serial Killer Z: Shadows which I look forward to reading. Also, over the course of the novel, we get to see what happens when Marcus thinks he lost his irreplaceable scalpels, which he uses during his kills of humans and zombies alike. How this affects his thought process and the desperation it drives him to made me wonder how a serial killer like him can get even more unhinged. I liked the answers I found to this question.
Sometimes, the scariest thing in a zombie apocalypse is not the zombies but the humans who are trying to stay alive. That is especially true here, given the level of deception Marcus has to deal with, how different forces ally with one another and how he must find his own way inside his mind as well as how he functions in a larger society. There is no stability in the zombie apocalypse and it is almost always an uphill battle. The thought I kept having was “Why can’t a serial killer just be left alone to do what makes him happy during a zombie apocalypse?” My answer was “If he was left alone, then we wouldn’t have this entertaining series of novels, of course.” Bring on the third book in the series – I want to see what happens to Marcus next!
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Previous Indie Athenaeum book reviews about stories by Philip Harris include “Serial Killer Z“.