John Hornor Jacobs' This Dark Earth is quick, brutal read that's required reading for any zombie fiction fan. But at the same time, it's a thoughtful and insightful work that examines the human drive to keep some semblance of order in the face of society's collapse (and its competing drive to revert to barbarism).
Jacobs essentially does the impossible here. He takes a tired, worn out, and—let's face it—boring genre and injects new life into by, well, I'm not sure how the hell he does it. I'd say it was the tight plotting or the solid cast of characters, but it's something more than that. Maybe the best way to explain it is that Jacobs injects a heart and a soul into the book through Knock Out, a giant of a trucker whose actions put an exclamation point on everything that's worth saving about humanity.
There are just some characters who are fully formed the minute they step into the story, and Knock Out is one of them. And his actions throughout the novel—even when they're in the background—will break your heart.
And, lest I go too mushy on you, there is a crap-load of zombie stomping going on. Jacobs has put a lot of thought into the practicalities of a zombie apocalypse—from the long-term effects of nuclear strikes on the survivors to fortifying and colonizing a bridge for zombie defense (genius!)—This Dark Earth is one step ahead of other zombie fiction.
I was slightly down on Southern Gods—Jacobs' prior novel—because I felt that the end didn't live up to the promise of the first 3/4s of the novel. I've got no such issues with This Dark Earth.
This book is absolutely worth your time and your money.