When I first started Rise of the Dead I only knew that I wanted to create a zombie novel that contained some themes from one of my favorite books, Catcher in the Rye. It always seemed to me that zombies could be the perfect vehicle to discuss protecting innocence, fighting against time and death, and rebelling against a “phony” society. However, I didn’t want the book to be a literary work per se, or try to emulate the great fiction of Salinger. I wanted the novel to be entertaining first and foremost and create a simple way for readers to explore these ideas without being too bogged down by the seriousness of them.
I tried to leave some tip-offs throughout the book that would easily lead any readers that are familiar with Catcher in the Rye to understand that this novel draws a lot of themes from that text. Some of the references are more obvious than others. In the early chapters, Blake’s explanation of his book and the title were meant to mirror the way Holden Caulfield discusses the book his brother wrote. There are numerous other lines and happenings throughout the book that are intended to point the reader that way.
There are also numerous references to being phony or things that seem fake throughout the early chapters. Much of the struggle of the characters come from having to actually interact and care about the people around them. When the zombie attack happens, people stop pretending to be nice to each other and civilization quickly decays. The technology that we use daily as a medium for our existence breaks down, and people are suddenly forced to deal with reality again.
Children also play a big role in the novel. There are many instances where the loss of innocence comes into play when Blake encounters Melanie, Natalie, and other children throughout the novel. The appearance of children throughout the book always have the biggest impact on driving the story along, and affecting Blake’s character. This is meant to parallel Holden’s love of childhood and his struggle against joining the adult, or in Blake’s case, the zombie, world. There is a whole symbolism parallel intended for the final moments of the novel, but I will leave out the details avoid to any spoilers if you have not read the book. If you haven’t, what are you doing reading this first? Go get the book already.
Or, you can ignore all that and read it as just another zombie book. I hope I’ve left it to the readers to decide what it is and how much they want to see in it. Most of all, I hope you enjoy the ride.