I wanted to like this book. I really did. And because of that, I ended up giving it more of a chance than it really deserved, pushing on until I actually finished it. I should have saved myself the time.
The premise of the book is one that was obviously inspired by Dan O'Bannon's "Return of the Living Dead." In the film, two characters at a medical warehouse discuss the "true" incident that inspired "Night of the Living Dead." That incident was the release of "Trioxin" gas at a VA hospital, which caused the dead to reanimate. Fans of the film know what happens next.
"The Real Night of the Living Dead" puts forth its own version of the "true story" behind the film. It presents itself as a "survivor's account" of a 1951 zombie outbreak at Byberry State Hospital in Philadelphia, this time caused by an experimental polio vaccine.
This gimmick was the main reason that I bought the book. NOTLD and ROTLD are two of my favorite movies. Realizing that this was a self-published effort, I expected a loving, if slightly amateurish homage to the two films. A book for zombie fans by a zombie fan. The other reason I bought it was the unique setting. Most zombie fiction is of the post-apocalyptic variety, and I was looking forward to something a little different.
Unfortunately, "The Real Night of the Living Dead" doesn't deliver. It's actually a little frustrating, because the potential for a really good horror story was there. Setting the book in a `50s-era mental hospital gave Mr. Kramer the chance to do something relatively fresh with the zombie genre. But he doesn't. Instead he tries to make the standard "survival horror" trope fit into his setting, and it doesn't work. We don't get any moody, atmospheric descriptions of the hospital and its grounds. We get a series of repetitive, almost interchangeable action scenes in which the narrator fights some zombies, runs to the next room, and fights some more zombies. It came across more like a video game than a horror novel.
Mr. Kramer should have found a co-author to help him flesh out his ideas a little more. There were some really good concepts here; they just weren't developed very well. I think it would have been interesting to see what a more experienced storyteller could have done with this material.