Legends Of The Night: Horrors Of War focuses heavily on the isolation aspects of a protagonist set against the backdrop of a fictional zombie outbreak occurring during World War Two Japan. The story lays out a scenario where shortly after the atomic bombs have been dropped a strain of highly infectious virus breaks containment from Japanese biological weapons development and begins to sweep through the crippled Japanese countryside. As the outbreak begins to escalate, which will ultimately draw in our lead character, a lieutenant in the Japanese military is informed that he has lost his family as a result of the detonation over Hiroshima. Upon hearing this news he is immediately ushered into a leadership briefing, where the outbreak and its source are being outlined. At the conclusion of the meeting he is nominated to lead a small contingent force to eradicate and contain the infection. The great thing about this work is that the main character really drives the bulk of the story, despite zombies rising and society crumbling we spend more time thinking about him, than we do thinking “how in the heck are they going to survive this zombie outbreak?”
During that briefing, a flashback montage is given as the scientist who created the virus describes how he formulated and adapted the disease to be weaponized. I found it interesting that during the flashback I found myself thinking more about the Lieutenant’s portion of the story (losing his family the page before), than I did about the details of how the doctor created the disease. The doctor’s explanation of the “why and how” of the disease is an important plot point, but I thought it peculiar that I’d willingly skim through that portion (which I know is crazy because I love zombie stories, but I couldn’t help it). Even during additional segments of reading I find myself compelled to go back to the Lieutenant’s story when I come to the doctor’s flashback, maybe that was all in the writer’s design, dropping a personal bomb on the protagonist and then immediately shifting into background to create a desire in the audience to get back to the main story arch (and if so, then kudos, it worked on me like a charm).
Throughout the entire book a sense of detachment is presented around our protagonist’s actions, whether it’s not reacting to hearing about a doctor intentionally infecting test subjects with a horrendous virus, immediately executing one of your team members due to possible infection, or barely communicating with the people around you; our protagonist performs all of these things. You would expect a normal person to express disgust, moral outrage, protest, or some other form of rebellion against this situation, but our lieutenant does not. The detachment/ isolation of the main character is the driving force to the story, I think that without his shattered world view the story could not have progressed the way it did and probably wouldn’t have functioned as well. The lieutenant can barely carry on a conversation outside of his own silent introspective dialogue. When he does speak to others, it’s very concise, very detached, very neutral, how can we expect him to act normally in such a shocked state of experience?
Few names are used other than rank, that helps to further drive home the isolationist tone. You barely know who anyone is, so seeing them at risk, or dying proves less shocking than it otherwise should. The lack of compassion throughout the book only compounds this. I loved this aspect of the book, I think it’s what makes it so unique. Sometimes the right style of gritty and depressing is just what we need. Given all of that, it fit right in with the tone that zombie stories “should” give; a bleak outlook on the breakdown of the civil society. Though this was not my favorite of the LOTN that I’ve read, it does accomplish what it sets out to do.
Letter From The Editor: As with all of Karl White’s ambitious works, you can purchase Horrors Of War here
~ Cap ~