Ryan Collins reviews Blood on the Sand (Z Plan #1) by Mikhail Lerma.
From the racial undertones in White Zombie and I Walked with a Zombie, to the Marxist anti-consumerism themes of Dawn of the Dead during the Romero years, the greatest zombie stories have always been those which touched upon greater sociological issues. For whatever reason the living dead have always been a go-to medium for popular culture to express the concerns, the fears, and the aspirations of each generation; as well as a general mirror to reflect the nature of the human condition.
In this regard, I found Mikhail Lerma’s Blood on the Sand to be an enlightening look at the nature of military culture in the 21 st century, and the environment that soldiers find themselves in on deployment.
Though not the most character-driven work I’ve read, the action in this novel never lets up. The book keeps your adrenaline pumping from start finish, as Cale navigates his way through a dangerous environment made horrific by the onset of a zombie apocalypse that breaks out during his deployment as a U.S. soldier in Iraq.
The influence of Lerma’s own military career is evident in his storytelling. Cale’s struggle with the concept of taking another human’s life, his longing for home, and his adjustment to the military lifestyle are all internal battles that soldiers face every day when thrust into an alien environment. Cale’s constant worry over the wellbeing of his family, and the fear of not knowing whether or not they are safe is a powerful reflection of the struggles that military families face every day when their loved ones are thrust into combat. In Lerma’s story, however, the entire world becomes the combat zone. There is no “safe” place where one knows that the danger is behind them. Another mentality felt by soldiers in the mist of war.
The zombies here are more of a backdrop than anything else, a plot device for the express purpose of bringing these themes to the fore. Though written for a specific audience, Blood on the Sand is a story that can be enjoyed by anybody with an appreciation or action or zombie literature.