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Literature / Undead on Arrival

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Five years after the Zombie Apocalypse, a community of survivors has made a home in the California vacation town of Devon. Glen Novak, one of the town fathers, has been bitten by a zombie head intentionally planted in his home. Now he has 24 hours to find who killed him before he turns. Undead On Arrival is a zombie noir novel.

Undead On Arrival provides examples of:

  • A House Divided: Devon is controlled by rival gangs.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Walter's chief guard Sakimoto is a judo expert and Lightning Bruiser against the zombies.
  • Alliterative Family: Jacen Ford and his sister Janelle both have ja names.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: The Rosenberg Brothers, Jacob and Micah have traditionally Jewish names but are loyal, high-placed members of Reverend Rippey's camp (although perhaps more for mercenary reasons than religious ones).
  • Agent Peacock: Pulaski, Novak's transvestite enforcer, who spends most of the books gleefully cutting people and zombies apart with a katana (and dancing to Michael Jackson). Unlike everyone else in town, Pulaski doesn't use a gun. He doesn't need one.
  • Anti-Hero: Glen Novak isn't exactly a nice guy. He's the best of a group of bad men.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Ricky Robadella (a student form Novak's gym class during the outbreak) is the youngest and most idealistic of his inner circle, and a Non-Action Guy.
  • Batter Up!: Subverted. When Novak is roughing up his first suspect (a refugee whose wife he extorted for sex) the man's teenage daughter Michelle tries to make him stop with a baseball bat but is quickly scared into backing down.
  • Battle in the Rain: The second half of the book, featuring frequent battles, takes place in a rainstorm.
  • Bittersweet Ending: bear with me here. Granted, Novak is either dead or damn sight better off that way; however, over the course of the plot he took out all the other town leaders who were, by and large, far bigger scumbags than him. Moreover Stew, Novak's appointed successor and thus most likely to take charge, seems to be both a capable leader and a pretty decent guy. Granted, there is the small matter of a zombie swarm but beyond that things just might improve for the community.
  • Blood Knight: Pulaski relishes fighting.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: A sympathetic version when Novak convinces Ford that Rippey doesnít deserve his protection and is a detriment to Devon, causing him to step aside and let Novak at his terrified and outraged boss.
  • Character Tic: Novak says that Stew likes to clean his glasses while he's making a point.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Tommy Martinez is bitten and killed on an excursion out of town before Novak even gets bitten, initially seeming like a Sacrificial Lamb to showcase the dangers of the world. Later, however, it's revealed that Reverend Rippey had been trying to convince him to kill Walter, making Walter paranoid towards Novak and his people, with an attempt he made to kill Pulaski while Novak happened to be nearby further convincing Novak that Walter might have been the one who put the head in his locker, and at the end it's revealed that his death and Novak's reaction to it were the final straw for Ricky, who'd been agonizing about whether or not to kill Novak for a while.
  • Closet Geek: Stew, Ricky, Michelle, laborer Jim Sorenson and Gamburyan (an Armenian thug for Walter and Inez) all play Dungeons and Dragons together, with only Ricky and maybe Michelle being characters you'd expect this of. For Gamburyan this also counts as Go-Karting with Bowser.
  • Coattail-Riding Relative: Inez's cousin Rudolfo was Walter's gardener before Inez and Walter got married (following the infection and Mercy Kill of his first wife) and her cousin got promoted to Walter's inner circle, but given rumors that her cousin put down Walter's first wife when he couldn't do it himself, it's unclear which one of them first came into Walter's favor (Inez for her Trophy Wife beauty or her cousin for performing that service) and then managed to get Walter interested in the other one.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: Downplayed, but the setting is a former resort town.
  • Cue the Rain: Devon gets hit by a rainstorm right when the building zombie horde breaks through the town gates.
  • Dirty Coward: Both Walter and Rippey show fear when confronted and accused by an angry Novak (although in the backstory Rippey did participate in helping wipe ou zombies that got through the fence, although Novak specifically notes he's never put himself at risk since).
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted, as it's Novak who dies this way.
  • Downer Ending: Novak murders his murderer after accepting the kid's apology, and then kills himself
  • Drop the Hammer: Novak uses a small sledgehammer in his offhand. Additionally, other fighting men are described as carrying "guns and hammers." Makes sense, as after a zombie apocalypse, you take what you can find and there are hammers everywhere.
  • Fantastic Noir: This is a classic noir story... WITH ZOMBIES.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Novak and Stew were feuding neighbors before the apocalypse brought them together.
  • Freudian Trio: Novak is the Ego, Pulaski the Id, and Stew the Superego.
  • Gate Guardian: Jacob and Micah Rosenberg guard the main gate to the Citadel City, signifying how Rippey and his faction control who gets in and out and requiring submission from Walter and Novak before they can go about their business. They are also decent at fighting zombies that get over the wall.
  • Genre-Busting: Noir. Zombies. Two great tastes.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Sure, Novak used to be a gym teacher, but his murder isn't going to solve itself.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: Rippey's aide Gloria Wu, In-Universe. She never misses a meal due to her position and Novak notes that he always thinks of her as fat even though she isn't overweight by pre-apocalypse standards.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Walter enjoys cooking and eating zombies, to Novakís disgust.
  • I Own This Town: Walter ran Devon before he outbreak and in the early months afterwards. Reverend Rippey took all of it away form him except for the Hotel Athena after arriving, although he lost The Hill to Novak after he and his group arrived.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Novak strong-arms nearly everyone he talks to. The trope itself is averted as every one of these people lies to him and/or really doesn't know anything, though that's not immediately apparent.
  • Mysterious Past: Many of the characters, such as Rippey (who just arrived one day with the Ford's, another enforcer named Louis Chu and two others), with Novak wondering if he's an actual reverend or its a self-appointed title.
  • Noble Top Enforcer: Ford and Sakiamato are both evenly matched with Novak in a fight, but are both far more moral than the men they serve and donít necessarily want to fight him. Most of this applies to Novak's enforcer Pulaski as well.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Zombies are referred to as "geeks."
  • One-Man Army: Novak, Pulaski, Stew, Martinez, Sakimoto and Ford are all incredibly formidable against both zombies and humans.
  • Only Sane Man: Stew is the most normal and stable of Novak's group, and arguably the town as a whole.
  • Papa Wolf: Rob Franklin is initially accused of having pimped out his eleven-year old daughter to one of Walter's men but in fact chased the man off with a shotgun and thanks Novak upon hearing he killed the guy.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Rippey's child brides quickly establish him as a dirtbag, and Novak extolling sex out of desperate women on the hill by giving them extra food isn't portrayed as being a positive thing and is part of the reason Ricky decides to kill him.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: Zombies are killed by destroying their medulla oblongata (the "medusa something" in the words of the protagonist).
  • Respected by the Respected: Jacen Ford is the only person in town who Novak thinks could beat him in a one-on-one hand-to-hand fight.
  • Saloon Owner: Novak's associate Nunez is a post-apocalyptic version, although he's less influential than the trope would normally imply.
  • Sinister Minister: Reverend Rippey is constantly trying to assassinate his rival, stirs up hate and has child brides.
  • Sole Surviving Scientist: Dr Judy Bloch, the last doctor in town works hard to keep the gene pool viable in the limited population and keeps a couple (with their jawbones removed to prevent an outbreak if they get loose) chained up zombies she studies trying to find a way to understand and potentially stop their herd migratory tendencies. The town still isn't happy when they find out but Novak is able to keep them from lynching her.
  • Sweet Baker: Janelle Ford bakes bread and trades it with people and is portrayed as being fairly nice.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: When Novak finds his killer, it turns out it's one of his closest allies, a poor, scared kid who regrets the hell out of what he did.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Gloria Wu, after being set up to be killed by one of her allies and saved due to Novak.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Janelle Ford, who first got her boyfriend Ricky to go to Rippey's church, setting him down to the path to killing Novak.
  • Uriah Gambit: Jack Finger and Gloria Wu are always fighting for power in Rippey's camp and Jack tricks Gloria into going into the most zombie swarmed part by telling her she needs to fetch Rippey when he is safe elsewhere (she survives though).
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Pulaski is one of the more heroic characters in the book. He's also the most fabulous. When asked why he does it started when he was his older sisters liked to dress him up like that for fun, and he kind of liked it.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist:
    • Dr. Bloch remains convinced that humanity can and will bounce back despite their low population.
    • Ricky Robadella obsesses with writing a new US constitution Novak doubts will ever mean anything or comes to pass and only decided to kill Novak due to feeling he was becoming a dictator, only to change his mind too late when it came down to it.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Inez, who justifies it by saying that otherwise, it would have led to a case it You Killed My Father a few years down the road. Novak is far from placated.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: It's five years later.
  • Zombie Infectee: The protagonist of the novel, in the very first chapter.