One of the great frustrations of working in a field is seeing it portrayed inaccurately in popular culture. Medical professionals, journalists and law enforcement can all point out films and television programs where the creators just plain got it wrong.
The same is true of the military, and that, in part, led one serviceman to write his zombie novel with an eye for detail into the way the armed forces actually work.
Brian Parker serves in the U.S. Army and is the author of “Gnash,” a zombie novel that uses the U.S. War on Terror as a backdrop.
“I initially planned on going a different way with the story, but instead I found myself thinking about how real soldiers would do things as opposed to the one-man super soldier concept that seems to be so prevalent. I blame Call of Duty,” he said. “The more I wrote from that perspective, it evolved into more of a zombie book with a very heavy military fiction flavor.”
The premise of Parker’s story is that there is an ancient fundamentalist organization called The Brotherhood of Niyyat that predates Islam, but is now a Muslim-controlled group, that is basically the secret parent organization for the more publicly known groups like Al Qaeda and several hundred sleeper cells that don’t know anything about each other. The Brotherhood puts out an encrypted message to all of the cells to carry out their plans, which sets into motion the assassination of several heads of state, bombings and ultimately the release of a deadly engineered virus-bacteria hybrid in the Pentagon. The cell that released the virus didn’t know it would mutate into a zombie plague, but that’s just an added bonus for the Brotherhood.
The US government tries to contain the zombies inside the Pentagon’s walls, but they escape and the news gets out. One of the new heads of state from Europe overreacts and launches a nuclear missile to stop the virus from spreading worldwide.
The zombies survive the blast because they are underground at the time, but the DC region is a wasteland. The military gets fully committed to containing the diseased, so nationwide several militias and street gangs use the confusion to make a play for control of their areas and cities. The book follows two main, and one supplementary, characters as they fight for survival.
Using the Pentagon as a setting came naturally to Parker, who until recently worked there. He said having inside knowledge was plus and it allowed him to imagine a fantasy shared by many.
“Who doesn’t want their workplace to be ground zero for a zombie outbreak?” he asked.
Parker said the way the military operates in his story is quite a bit different than what fans of the zombie genre might be used to seeing.
“We’re not gonna stand there and ‘hold the line’ against a zombie horde,” he said. “We’d fall back, regroup, defend, fall back again, and so on. In so many other books in this genre, the military is quickly overrun because they fight like doughboys in the WWI trenches. That’s just not how we do things.”
In addition to his military background, Parker is one of those zombie writers who doesn’t credit George Romero as an influence. In his case, it was “Resident Evil” that introduced him to zombies and “28 Days Later” that made him a fan.
Those influences show in zombies that populate the world of “Gnash,” where the first generation of undead are rather different from those popularized by Romero.
“There are the Type Ones which are the original zombies from the Pentagon virus and they’re faster, extremely strong and have the ability to learn rudimentary skills,” Parker explained. “Then there are the Type Two zombies, which are people who’ve turned due to a secondary infection after they’re bitten by a Type One or another Type Two. They’re pretty much your standard, dumb shambler.”
More than films, it was the books “World War Z” and Day By Day Armeggedon that inspired Parker to write his own story.
“What was especially poignant, to me, is that J.L. Bourne was an active duty military pilot and I thought, ‘Hell, if he can find the time to write then so can I,’” Parker said.
With “Gnash” now finished, Parker is looking forward to his next project, but fans shouldn’t expect a sequel.
“I feel that the story is complete and is a stand-alone,” he said. “However, I am working on my second release that I want to make a series with. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a zombie book for a younger audience.”
You can find “Gnash” on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/GNASH-ebook/dp/B00CS7O54U/ref=la_B00DFD98YI_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371741083&sr=1-1
Parker is also running a Kickstarter campaign to publish the book in paperback. You can learn more about this effort at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1127379172/gnash-hardcopy-publishing