Need a good horror story for the beach? Recently, I had the good fortune of visiting beautiful St. Augustine, Florida with my family. I’d been meaning to read the first novel in Armand Rosamilia’s zombie horror series, Dying Days, for a few months, and this vacation provided the perfect opportunity.
Dying Days, you see, is set along famous A-1-A near St. Augustine (or, at least, a healthy portion of the story is set in this area). What better setting for the zombie apocalypse than the idyllic beaches of Florida’s space coast? The story line follows Darlene Bobich, an immensely likable and believable protagonist. Easy to cheer for, Bobich gets herself into one horrendous predicament after another, her character growing and becoming wiser as the apocalypse unfolds.
Armand Rosamilia – Dying Days (Continued)
Location and Atmosphere:
There’s something uniquely terrifying about juxtaposing the sunny, laid-back vibes of a Florida beach town with the dread and gore of a zombie apocalypse. The familiar surroundings of St. Augustine’s scenic views, from its beaches to its historic streets, become eerily alien when filled with the undead. This creates an unsettling atmosphere that works to the book’s advantage. As I read, I found myself frequently glancing up from my book to the tranquil waves and tourists, feeling an odd mix of relaxation and underlying horror.
Character Depth and Development:
Beyond the gripping environmental contrasts, what truly anchors “Dying Days” is the evolution of its central character, Darlene Bobich. Through her eyes, we witness the heartbreak, terror, and the harsh realities of a changed world. But it’s not just the external challenges she faces; her internal battles – grappling with loss, fear, and the moral complexities of survival – are profoundly engaging. The supporting cast also adds depth, with each character being intricately designed, having their own sets of flaws and strengths, making them feel alive and real in this apocalyptic scenario.
Plot and Pace:
Rosamilia crafts a story that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last. While the premise of a zombie apocalypse isn’t new, his take on it feels refreshing. The pacing is spot on, with tension-filled moments balanced by introspective ones, allowing readers to catch their breath. The plot twists are smart and often unexpected, ensuring that the narrative never feels predictable.
Reflections on Human Nature:
One of the most striking elements of “Dying Days” is its portrayal of humanity. In many apocalyptic tales, the undead are the primary antagonists, but Rosamilia digs deeper. As the story unfolds, the lines between human and monster blur. This narrative choice is unsettling in the best possible way, reminding readers that in dire circumstances, humans can often be as fearsome, if not more so, than the supernatural threats they face.
Character Interactions and Relationships:
The interplay between Darlene and other survivors is meticulously crafted. The dynamics, alliances, betrayals, and fleeting moments of trust serve as a mirror to our own society, revealing both our strengths and dark underbellies. These relationships add layers to the narrative, offering a complexity that goes beyond the standard zombie fare.
Setting and Atmosphere:
Transitioning from the haunting ambiance of St. Augustine to the bustling metropolis of Orlando, the story maintains its grip on the reader. Rosamilia brilliantly utilizes these changing settings to escalate tension, making even the most mundane locations, like a roadside diner or a gas station, hubs of palpable dread. The contrast between the two cities adds depth, illustrating the widespread impact of the apocalypse.
Beyond the immediate horror of the undead, “Dying Days” delves into deep, thought-provoking themes. Questions about morality, the nature of humanity, and the lengths we’d go to for survival constantly simmer beneath the surface. By the end of the book, it becomes clear that the real horror isn’t just the zombies; it’s the choices we make when pushed to the edge.
“Dying Days” is a masterclass in horror storytelling. It’s more than just a tale of survival; it’s a profound exploration of the human condition. Rosamilia’s skill in blending visceral horror with psychological depth makes this book stand out in a sea of zombie tales. As the sun set on my vacation, and I turned the last page, I was left with a lingering unease and a plethora of introspective questions—a testament to the story’s power and resonance. For those seeking a read that is as entertaining as it is profound, “Dying Days” is a top recommendation. Just be prepared to see the world, and perhaps yourself, a little differently after.
I enjoyed Dying Days quite a bit. It was easy to imagine the hollowed-out condos and hotels lining the beach, the ghost of Jimmy Buffett singing on the wind about boat drinks and margaritas as the dead shambled after Darlene and her fellow survivors. I ate every last morsel of Dying Days’ nastiness in three short days, beginning on the very beaches of St. Augustine and finishing two days later in Orlando after our vacation shifted westward. By the book’s end, I’d come to fear humankind as much as the undead.
Visiting the actual locations where much of the madness of Dying Days takes place added to the enjoyment, so I particularly encourage you to give Rosamilia’s book a read if you are headed to a beach this summer.
In “Dying Days,” Rosamilia has brilliantly captured the essence of a classic horror tale while embedding it in a familiar and picturesque setting. The result is a story that’s both chilling and deeply human. Whether you’re lounging on the beaches of St. Augustine or cozied up at home, this book is a must-read for horror aficionados. Just be warned – you might find yourself glancing over your shoulder the next time you take a leisurely beach stroll.
Dying Days: Two thumbs up, highly recommended.
Want even more scares? Check out Crawlspace, the novel Brian Keene describes as “an instant and important classic.”