Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Good Reads: Play Dead by Ryan Brown

I just recently finished reading an advanced copy of Play Dead, the debut novel by Ryan Brown. The best description of the book comes from thriller author Brad Thor when he said the book is "Friday Night Lights meets Dawn of the Dead." You really can't get a shorter, more accurate description of what this book is all about than that.

Two high school football teams are destined to go head-to-head for the district championship. The Badgers have all the advantages, including some powerful Mexican steriods, however, the Jackrabbits, a poor team from a poor town, actually have a shot at the championship. That is, until nearly the entire team is killed in an accident. They come back, with a hunger for meat and the skills to play the game of their undead lives.

I grabbed this book looking for an easy, fun read, and that is what I got, except there was more to it than that. At times action-packed, at times horriffic, and at times funny, this was a great escapism read. Ryan Brown did a wonderful job of marrying high school football with the shambling undead without beating the reader over the head with either. It wasn't like some B horror movie where your slogged down with zombies from the word go. Instead, there is a natrual, almost believable, progression to how the entire situation unfolds and then comes to its dramatic conclusion.

Some of the best passages are where the author shows the reader how a situation like this might actually happen in a town full of residents who put the success of the high school football team in the list of the most important things in life. There's one conversation between a concerned parent and a police officer that is spot on. I'll paraphrase it for you:

Parent: My son isn't acting right since the accident.
Officer: What's he doing?
Parent: He's eating a ton and not talking to me.
Officer: He's a teenage boy. Did he eat a lot before the accident?
Parent: Yeah.
Officer: And did he talk to you much?
Parent: Not really.
Officer: Sounds pretty normal to me.

The book will be available in hard cover on May 4, and you should definately check it out. If you like horror and/or football, you wont be disappointed. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review. There's a trailer and other info at the author's site.