Plot: 5/5 Characters: 5/5 Writing: 5/5 Entertainment: 5/5 Word Building: 4/5
Mutation is an exciting, action-packed, zombie-filled thrill ride with something for undead fans an non-fans alike.
Alex MacCallum thought life had gone back to normal. Sure, he’s stigmatized like everyone else who recovered from the zombie virus, but at least no one’s munching on other humans anymore. That is until a new strain surfaces, turning its victims into monsters faster than ever before. Now Alex must find out who let this new disease into the world with the most unlikely partner: an anti-Survivor mob-leader who was just trying to run him out of town. Who will turn out to be more dangerous: the un-dead or the living?
I should mention that I’m a bit of a zombie fanatic. The Walking Dead, Zombie Land, The Last of Us, 28 Days/Weeks Later, The Night of the Living Dead, Zombies Run!, the whole shebang. If it’s got zombies, I’ve probably watched, read, or played it, so I was incredibly surprised that Mutation brought something new to the genre: zombie virus survivors (Warm Bodies doesn’t count!). That’s honestly something I can’t say I’ve seen before (seriously, it doesn’t count) and it was enough to hook me on the first page. Wheatley’s spectacular ebb and flow between action and stillness, character development, and unique, although very bizarre, conflicts kept me reading for hours.
Wheatley’s writing is outstanding. She knows just how to balance action, world building, back story, and character interactions without getting lengthy in any one category. Everything feels just long enough to satisfy your curiosity but still leave you wanting more. Her use of dialogue is impeccable as well. Characters give information, but it never feels like exposition. Their conversations feel very natural, which tells you a lot about their relationships without using narration to explain it. Even if you’re not a zombie fan, I recommend you check out Mutation simply for its craft alone. If you write fiction that relies heavily on dialogue, it’s definitely worth taking the time to study how Wheatley uses it, because she’s awesome.
And then there’s the character development, which is also brilliantly executed. The supporting characters are developed enough to be their own people, but not so much that they take away from Alex and his frienamie, Micah, whom I love. His character development is as perfectly paced and fleshed out as the rest of the novel, which is especially impressive considering how easy it would have been to make him easy to hate and condemn. He plays off Alex so well that, even before we get to know him, he’s hard to completely dislike. I at least wanted to see what he would do or say next, even if he didn’t come across as a great person. While I didn’t enjoy Alex to the same extent, his character arc is well done as well, not to mention unique. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever seen a story about an ex-zombie trying to reconcile what he’s been and who he is in society now, which was fascinating.
So, in conclusion, go read this book. Whether you enjoy zombies or not, there’s enough great writing, character development, and excitement to satisfy anyone who is into speculative fiction. And if you are into zombies, there’s plenty of creative, nail-biting, edge-of your-seat undead gore to really sink your teeth into.