Dead on the Water by R.W.K. Clark is an ‘off-the-beaten-path’ novel which tells about a passenger ocean liner which inadvertently becomes overrun with zombies, with the captain of the ship leading the pack. The book would be classified as a sci-fi horror. This particular work is the second zombie story Clark has put out, but it is very different from his first one, ‘Living Legacy’ and his third one ‘Permanent Ink’.
A family from the ship docks in Belize for an afternoon of shopping. While on shore, the daughter is bitten by a infectious dog, but it isn’t until they return to the ship and set off that things go terribly wrong. After she changes, she attacks a passenger, which sets off a chain of events that culminate in the ship being infested with the flesh-eaters, and their living dead leader is none other than the captain. Clark has written this tale in a manner that has the zombies being able to think things through and plan; the devious captain organizes the others to take over the ship, then they will head to land and do the same. Making this one of his best zombie books yet.
But here’s the kicker.
Simultaneously, at the lab in Belize where the girl was bitten, all of the rats have gone on murderous rampages. They have all been victims of experiments conducted by a mad scientist. Now, his assistant must join forces with the CDC to contain the zombie outbreak in the lab before it manages to escape and the virus spreads out of control.
‘Dead on the Water’ is a fast-paced book that speeds along with action. One of the best things about this author is that he writes in a manner that really keeps things moving, and he effectively tells the story in a way that gets you through its pages in a short amount of time. You will like the realism of the ending, but Clark is known for this in his writing as well. With him you don’t really have to wonder ‘if’; you simply wonder ‘how’. Another reason why I added this novel to the best zombie books list.
You might be wondering?
It would be difficult to pinpoint a particular moral lesson in these pages. While this author often weaves some type of educational opportunity into his storylines, those often revolve around deep inner issues. This was a fiction novel written for entertainment purposes. This is a novel that you are to sit down with and disappear into without the pressure of introspection. If there is any morsel of a lesson whatsoever, it could come from the Harrington family, four wealthy individuals who live fairly shallow lives, oblivious to anything outside of their own little world. With the exception of the daughter, the girl bitten by the dog, each one of these people got what they deserve; they were just bad, greedy people. Also, the girl being bit is unfair; she is the only ‘good’ one of the four. Lesson? Bad things happen to good people.
This is crazy.
‘Dead on the Water’ does not come from a first-person perspective or focus on any one character; in fact, there are too many characters and situations to narrow them down to a main one. The ship and the goings-on on board are probably the main story, but the point is the virus itself; Clark simply chose an isolated cruise ship for his location, and it is effective. The number of characters with actual parts is no problem.
It gets better.
My favorite character, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, was the zombie leader, Captain James McElroy. Yes, he is an evil, blood-thirsty, and devious character, but that’s precisely why I liked him. He had a vendetta, and the moron zombies around him needed some guidance. This made the book fun; it wasn’t the everyday story of the undead. It is important to mention that this was a man of integrity and leadership in the beginning of the story, though we don’t really get to know him that well. But the point is, I believe, that this is what happens when someone turns into a zombie; it changes them through and through.
What’s the bottom line?
In comparison to his other works, I will stick with holding it up to his previous zombie offering, ‘Living Legacy: Among the Dead’. The first was a bit more on the somber side in feel; there was a grave situation at hand with a zombie outbreak, and there were two college-kid heroes racing against the clock to stop it. ‘Dead on the Water’, in contrast, does not focus on one hero. Clark teases readers here and there by giving them hope that this one or that will eventually save the day, but the day stays pretty dark throughout. Even though both of them feature the ‘open-ended twist’ that Mr. Clark is known for, they are much different in nature, and both give the reader a vary emotional tug.
Zombie fiction book recommendations.
I would recommend ‘Dead on the Water’ for an entertaining reading experienced that is light, easy to keep up with, and won’t take forever to complete. It is an original idea that Clark creatively keeps moving with various scenes and situations, and he does it well. This is definitely worth checking out for any zombie apocalypse or horror fiction fan.