In the past, Abraham Stroud had battled a nest of vampires and a colony of werewolves, barely escaping with his life. This time around he faces what might very well be his most dangerous enemy of all—an ancient evil that has lain dormant in the earth below the streets of New York City, one that has to power to enslave the masses and bend them to its will.
When Gordon Consolidated Enterprises starts breaking ground on what promises to be the largest building in New York City, they need to dig deeper than usual to set the foundation. The construction crew unearths the decaying remains of an ancient ship, bringing construction to a screaming halt. What they don't realize is that in the process they have awakened an ancient evil that was locked away and buried aboard that ship, an evil that is reaching out to the citizens of New York and claiming them for its own. The first to fall victim to this evil is Simon Albert Weitzel, who has been "called" repeatedly to the construction site. This time, however, he has no recollection as to how he got there from his home in Brooklyn. So how does this tie in with Abe Stroud, who is clear across the world taking part in an archeological dig in Egypt?
While excavating the Egyptian site, Abe unearths a chamber full of mystical skulls made of various substances. One is a crystal skull, and while staring into the empty sockets of the skull, Abe is visited with a vision. In it he sees Weitzel and one other fall victim to the power contained within the ship, but he does not know what it means. The Egyptian site turns out to be more valuable that first expected, and the Egyptian government, having been burned too many times by American researchers and archeologists, request that Abe leave the country immediately.
Abe's plane touches down in New York, where there is a layover before he can head home. When he steps off the plane, he is greeted by an armed escort who have been ordered to take Abe to the Commissioner of Police of New York City. What they could possibly want Abe doesn't know, but he is about to find out. Turn out the Commissioner has heard all about Stroud and wants to enlist him to investigate the ship and what seems to be an airborne virus or bacteria that seems to be emanating from it and placing the people it infects into comas. At first Stroud doesn't want to get involved, but when he learns who the first victim was, he knows it is tied into the vision he had in Egypt. As Stroud and a small team of scientists begin their investigation, the thing in the ship reaches out to Stroud, calling him Esruad, which only serves to deepen the mystery. It seems to know Stroud, even if Stroud doesn't know it.
It soon becomes a race against time with Stroud's research moving at a snail's pace even as whatever is infecting the people of New York starts to move at an accelerated rate, broadening its reach to include animals and vermin. If that wasn't bad enough, more pressure is put on Stroud and his team when those in comas begin to awaken and start herding those uninfected by the disease into the bowels of the ship. Will Stroud be able to unravel the mystery before this evil lays claim to his soul?
Zombie Eyes is probably the most ambitious of Robert Walker's Blood Dreams series in that it attempts to create an evil that actually threatens the world if not stopped. In past adventures, Stroud was up against creatures of a physical type, but here, the threat seems at first to be biological in nature. It is ultimately revealed to be one of a spiritual nature, and the reader finds himself wondering just how Stroud is going to combat this entity and win. Can it be done, or has Stroud finally met his match?
It is that very ambitiousness that I think is the book's downfall, and by downfall I don't mean failure, so before you go jumping to the wrong conclusion, let me say that I did like Zombie Eyes, and the story progresses to a satisfactory and believable conclusion. For me, however, it came off as the weakest of the three books in this series. Why? In Stroud's previous outings, there was more of a sense of urgency in the books, a sense of action and chase as Stroud physically hunts down the evil. In Zombie Eyes, things move along at a great pace when they are inside the ship, but when they return to the museum/lab everything comes to a screeching halt as they research the artifacts that they have brought back with them. There were several times where they were returning to the museum and I got a flash of Batman and Robin racing back to the Batcave. That doesn't make it a bad book, just different that what I have come to expect based on Vampire Dreams and Werewolf's Grief. Because the pacing fluctuated, it took me a little longer to get through it than the previous two. This may not bother some readers, but I was so tempted to jump ahead to where they are back in the ship.
My only real gripe with Zombie Eyes, and it's my usual gripe when it comes to horror and supernatural suspense books, is the romance element. Keep it in your pants until the evil is vanquished or get it out of your system before the you get involved with chasing down the Big Bad Monster. This especially holds true with Walker because his central female characters are usually strong, almost masculine in character no matter how they are physically described, which isn't a bad thing, but when it comes to the woo-hoo moment, you forget that they are actually women and expect Stroud to reach for something that isn't there. The romance element usually comes into the story at the wrong time, as well. In this situation, we just get finished learning how physically and mentally exhausted Stroud and Cline are, how they can barely stay awake, but the moment they get back to the hotel, they miraculously find the energy to go at it. It's an eye-rolling moment and a cue to skip ahead until one or the other (or both) are sound asleep.
All in all, though, Zombie Eyes is a thrilling addition to the Blood Screams series and I would recommend it. Do you need to read the first two in the series? Not necessary, as each story does stand on its own, but highly recommended so you aren't left scratching your head when they passing reference to the vampires of Andover or the werewolf hunt is made. And here's hoping Robert Walker continues writing this series. Long live Abraham Stroud!
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