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Thirteen Roses Book 1: Before

Michael Cairns

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Thirteen Roses is a lot of things. I should say, Thirteen Roses is a lot of great things. The book, at its face, is an apocalyptic zombie tale.  Going into this, one might think that it’s just another story of some government experiment that goes wrong, and suddenly most of the world’s population is shambling around eating anything that isn’t a walking corpse. Well, it is, kind of that, but it's also so much more. Without going too much into it, we’ll just say that there’s a supernatural element as opposed to some scientist who accidentally sticks his hand in a blender that happens to contain the T-Virus.

The story is told from the perspective of an interesting group of people living in London. There’s Dave, an employee at a greeting card company who thinks he’s found a spark in life with a woman (who’s not his wife). Jackson, the street thug looking to hustle his way up the criminal ladder.  And Krystal, the streetwise homeless girl who becomes attached to a boy she meets.


The characters are defined nicely with their distinct personalities, thought patterns, and speech. We feel that Krystal has built mental barriers around herself living in the streets, and Jackson thinks and talks with the slang of a gangster.  


My favorite character by far was Luke. At the surface, he’s a flower seller, but his tale, background, and role in the story is different from the others. He has this internal conflict that shifts between wanting to save humanity and turning his back on it. In addition, his observation in the book is broader than what the others experience. By experience I mean simply surviving and trying not to get eaten by zombies.


I mentioned before that the book was a lot of things. It had action, horror, and some really funny moments. In regards to the last, a quote from when someone gets hit by a bus, “[the] sound was somewhere between dropping a watermelon and squirting the last bit of ketchup from the bottle.” I think about that periodically, and I still laugh.

To summarize, Cairns has written an excellent first entry to this series. I will without a doubt continue this tale.

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