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The Hand That Feeds

The Hand That Feeds

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This book was given to me by the author for an honest review

From the very beginning, stories about the living dead have been more about exploring the human experience (how one deals emotionally and psychologically with this type of “outbreak”) than they have the actual walking dead themselves. In that way, it’s hard to find fresh, new themes for the genre or alter the zombie lore enough that it feels like a natural progression, yet doesn’t go too far to alienate hardcore fans. Michael W. Garza attempts to do a little of both in his novel The Hand That Feeds: A Horror Novel, but the book ultimately falls short of capturing the originality inherent in the very intriguing premise.

Right from the start, we’re thrust into the life-altering change in John and Angela’s young child, Alex, who they find dying out in the fields of their home. After the local doctor declares him dead, Alex wakes up, surprising and scaring both John and Angela, who couldn’t be more at odds in accepting their son’s new condition, fighting over what’s right and what’s necessary. Should these loving, devoted parents do whatever they have to to keep their son alive, even if that means feeding him warm human flesh?

In this question, the story has great potential. Watching as Angela grows increasingly mad over keeping her son alive is a fantastic hook, as is the argument over the right and wrong aspects of finding people to feed to him, even after he inadvertently begins a plague when one of his main courses gets away. I was also impressed by the descriptive nature of the book, from Alex’s initial transformation to the details of the decomposition of the zombies at large. The book does a good job of making us believe this world, and the fear and desperation that goes along with it.

However, after digging a little into the psychology of how far parents should go in protecting their flesh and blood, the second act diminishes this idea in favor of John’s overly drawn-out race through the zombie-infected city to return home to his wife and child before someone finds out who actually started the plague. From where the story begins (and ends), this section of the novel seems extremely out of place and introduces us to characters that, in the end, have no real purpose. In most cases, introducing us to supporting characters like this are meant to help the protagonist understand and come to terms with his inner conflict, but the book fails to explore this dynamic, making these characters nothing more than unnecessary roadblocks.

Choosing this action-oriented segue over the psychological complexities of the premise, I feel, does the book a disservice. Angela’s maddening dynamic was far more interesting to me. I would have much preferred going deeper into her mind than dealing with John’s external challenges. If we had, perhaps the climax wouldn’t have felt a little forced and unnatural. I didn’t believe that these characters would go to the lengths that they do because I wasn’t given time to know them, or understand them enough to root for them. It’s a shame, too, because the last few lines of the novel are quite intriguing (and weirdly fun). But because there’s no clear change in any of the character’s actions or beliefs from beginning to end, it all falls a little bit flat.

If you like this genre, go ahead and give it a shot, but for me, the idea was there, the descriptions were well done, but the emotional impact needed to rise above the best of the best fell extremely short of where it should have been.
( )
  BryanCaron | Jan 4, 2014 |
A parents love, and sanity, is put to the ultimate test in The Hand That Feeds. Michael Garza has delivered us one heck of a dark, mind-bending horror read. While the cause of the illness remains a mystery, the events that follow are well laid out for readers. Alex, ten year old son of John and Angela, contracts the zombie infection. Driven only by the need to provide for their child, The Mason's do the unthinkable. They sacrifice the living so that their son may continue to exist.

They thought they could contain it...they were wrong. Unknowingly, The Masons unleash hell on their town. Bodies of the unsuspecting souls, lured into their home under false pretenses, begin to rise and infect others.

I had difficulty reconciling the main character John. In that I mean it was difficult for me to root for a protagonist that was as much victim as he was villain. Struggling to survive in an outbreak, his main driving force remains to maintain the well-being of his family unit. Fueled by a mentally unstable wife, John is forced to commit unthinkable crimes upon his fellow man.

The major theme of The Hand That Feeds is one mans inner struggle between doing what's right and doing what he thinks is best for his family. Unlike most books that I read, I did not read this one fast. I couldn't, because it kept making me sick with what one man was capable of. A great book is one that makes you think, and man did I think on this book a lot! The human psyche is a fragile thing. So what happens when the one thing you love most in this world is no more? Denial, people! Denial can be a powerful beast all on its own, and can lead to our ultimate undoing.

Garza's work appeals to many readers. If you enjoy zombies, apocalyptic tales, horror, or psychological thrillers, then this book is for you. Visit www.bookie-monster.com to read my entire review. ( )
  shanafesta | Dec 2, 2013 |
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