When a top secret scientific project seeking to discover the key to immortality goes horribly wrong a pandemic is unleashed which decimates the world’s population. Those who survived banded into small, scattered pockets of civilization.
One such group, a walled commune known as Sanctuary, has managed to restore some semblance of order to their lives, but not without a cost. The community is only able to sustain a finite number of people, so once a baby reaches an age that suggests the child will in fact survive a ‘space’ in the commune must be made for the new member… by expelling an adult.
Exactly who gets expelled is determined by a lottery wherein a name is chosen at random from all eligible members. Sanctuary’s ruling Brethren have been able to get the populace to willingly go along with the lottery by convincing them that the member who is expelled will join the Gods and become immortal.
When Anna Charles’s young daughter, Lucy, is ‘chosen’ in the lottery as retaliation against Anna because of an affair she was having, things start to unravel. Already suspicious of the Brethren’s teachings because of her Mother-in-Law’s cryptic preachings about the one, true God, Anna decides to take Lucy and her son and flee Sanctuary. Pursued by her husband and the manipulative member of the Brethren who fixed the lottery, Anna soon discovers how terrifyingly right her Mother-in-Law was; those who walk beyond the walls of Sanctuary are indeed immortal, but they are far from being Gods.
Shaun Jeffrey’s Dead World is a quick, entertaining read which will bring to mind both Shirley Jackson’s classic The Lottery as well as Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, with a little touch of the film The Book of Eli showing up as well. In somewhat of a departure for Jeffrey, who normally sticks with straight-ahead horror and crime fiction, Dead World has an undeniable religious undertone which questions the potential consequences of placing blind trust in spiritual leaders.
That isolated segments of a post-apocalyptic society would evolve different stories and rituals to explain the catastrophic circumstances which led to civilization’s collapse is not a unique idea, but Jeffrey’s incorporation of zombies into that, and the people of Sanctuary’s belief that the zombies’s undead state is a reflection of God status, makes for a nice twist on both the post-apocalyptic and zombie genres.
Dead World is available at Amazon.