The story starts off with Indy and Mac (yes, THAT Mac from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) headed to Haiti in the year 1943 to search for the Heart of Darkness, a big, black pearl (the story’s McGuffin) so that Indy can take it back to his museum. Because as we all know, “It belongs in a museum!”
Indy and Mac arrive in Haiti and plan to gather a team to get ready to head off to search for the pearl on a nearby island. One of the team members serves as Indy’s love interest in the story. Maria Arnoux is a gorgeous, educated woman willing to be their guide once they arrive on the Island of the Dead, the nearby island where the pearl is hidden.
The story also presents different points of view (POV) of three other characters. One character, Boukman, lives on the island and who is a master of black magic and who serves as the story’s villain. There are also two other characters who are heavily involved in the story that we get their POV’s during the story. One is a German officer, Gruber, in Hitler’s army, and the other, Yamada, is a Japanese officer. They are both educated and civilized men on a misson for their respective governments to acquire the pearl to use for military purposes, a la the Ark in Raiders.
The first half of the story is about Indy’s party traveling to the Island of the Dead and hiking through the jungle to find the spot where the pearl is hidden. The German officer and Japanese officer, although on the same side in the current World War, are trying to get the pearl for their own respective governments. They attempt to hide from each other and follow Indy at the same time to be able to seize the pearl at the most opportune time and escape with it.
During one of their first nights on the island, Indy and his party encounter the zombis (spelling from the story), and are freaked out by them. They learn why the island is called the Island of the Dead, as the walking dead inhabit the island. This added threat to Indy is always present throughout the duration of the story. I liked that it was always in the back of my mind as a reader, “Are the zombis going to attack them tonight”?
The first half of the book is of a slower pace and tends to establish the setting, the history and culture of the island, and develop the characters. Once they find the pearl, the story picks up dramatically and is a more action based story. It was at this point that the level of angst began to build and the feeling of dread was evident to me as a reader as the characters were being chased by the zombis. The angst increased as random people started showng up dead as a result of being attacked by a zombi or just disappearing altogether. It was at this point that I began to enjoy the story and it started to feel like an Indiana Jones story. The adventures that occurred throughout the second half of the book were fun to read. The climax of the adventure was a typical Indiana Jones ending, in that the supernatural was present. The ending was appropriate for the story and I felt that overall the story fit in well with the Indiana Jones universe.
I enjoyed reading the Army Of The Dead and I thought that it was well written and that Steve Perry did a great job at capturing the Indiana Jones “feel” of the story. It was great to actually read about Mac and Indy and get a better feel for their relationship that wasn’t confused by the whole “is he a traitor or is he a good guy” conundrum that we got in Crystal Skull. Mac’s character was further developed in this story and it became believable that these two were old friends. I believe that this in turn affects how a reader of this story would view Mac in Crystal Skull, and how his demise at the end of that movie would have more of an impact than it would without this story.
There were a lot of references in this story to the original trilogy of Indy movies and other Indy stories. Steve Perry was wise to bring these in and present them at the appropriate times to help bolster the story as a true Indiana Jones story. I didn’t feel like he used this as a crutch to hold the story up, but was able to present these references in a way that solidified this story in Indy lore.
There were a couple of things that I felt were distracting while reading the story. The first and most glaring, is the use of too many viewpoints. I am talking specifically of Boukman, Gruber and Yamada. While the viewpoints weren’t poorly done nor were the characters poorly developed. They were well written and the characters were developed very well, which is a credit to Steve Perry. He was able to establish in just a short period of time, tertiary characters that fit in well to the story. The problem I had with it is just that, that they were tertiary characters. They were at the level of a Toht from Raiders; or a Mola Rahm from Temple of Doom. They are characters that are important to the story and it is good to know their motivations, but their POV isn’t vital to the story. The story should be Indiana Jones’ story and seen mostly from his perspective. The occasional POV of a different character would be helpful to the story, however there were mutiple POV changes switching back and forth to one of these tertiary characters. This eventually became distracting and unneccesary in my opinion. I wanted more Indy!
A good example of POV use in the story was the use of Marie’s POV. It switched over to her every once in awhile, but never for too long. I thought that this was a great use of her as a character. I don’t know if this was the author’s decision or the editor’s decision to overuse these POV’s of characters that we will never see again, but I believe it was a poor decision. I don’t think there was even a Mac POV used throughout the story, which would have made sense as we could’ve gotten to know him even better through this story. As it was, Mac was kind of just along for the ride. There was good banter between Indy and Mac and their relationship was shown in a positive light, but at the same time I think there was an opportunity lost in being able to use Mac more in the story.
The use of zombis was a great choice and there is nothing more scary than being chased by something that can’t be killed, because it is already dead! Using zombis has become the new thing in stories lately, from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to the hit show The Walking Dead on AMC. Even Star Wars incorporated stormtrooper zombies into the Universe last year (the same time this book came out), which was awesome and will be reviewed here at RandomAngst.com shortly. 😉 Out of all the stories that I have seen or read, this story makes the most sense to have zombies in them. First of all, the story takes place near Haiti where there are legends of voodoo, zombies, and other things like that tend to come from this region of the planet. Secondly, it’s Indiana Jones and crazy, supernatural things always happen to him while he is out adventuring – right?!
I give this book an ANGST rating of TWO, as there is some good angst in the story, however as a whole the story could’ve had more conflict. There was minimal internal angst in the characters, with most of the conflict occuring in the form of external conflict with zombis attacking Indy and his party. Which I think was a great source of conflict and thoroughly enjoyed it when it was happening. The story could’ve had more zombi attacks, in my opinion.
PROFANITY, VIOLENCE, AND SEXUAL CONTENT
The profanity I would rate a ONE AND A HALF, there’s more than just crude language, but nothing frequent or too crass. The violence would be a hard TWO, as there were zombis in the story, and the only way to kill them is to shoot them in the head or cut their head off. If you didn’t kill them first, they would start chomping on you (which did happen a couple of times.) There was nothing over the top, but what you would expect from a zombie story. The sexual content is a ONE for implied sexual acts and a sensual scene.
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT , PLOT AND OVERALL
The characterization I would rate a ONE AND A HALF, in that while the characters were well developed, they weren’t the characters I was too interested in. I wanted more Indy and some better development of Mac. The plot I would rate a soft TWO because there weren’t any plot holes and it was well constructed, there weren’t any surprises. It was well written, but straight forward.