Book Review: Slowly We Rot by Bryan Smith

With the human population nearly wiped out because of the zombie apocalypse, Noah has been alone in a mountain cabin for years. When the sister he presumed dead shows up one day though, things start to change, and he leaves his cabin to trek across the country in search of a long-lost love from his college days. But the horrors he faces along the way bring back his alcoholism and inner demons with a vengeance until he's not even sure what's real and what's not anymore.

Book Review: Slowly We Rot by Bryan Smith | reading, books, book reviews, science fiction, post-apocalyptic, zombies
Title: Slowly We Rot
Pages: 324
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon


Wow, I don’t even know how to start this review. This was what I initially posted on Goodreads after finishing:

“I feel like I should be annoyed that I don’t even really know what happened for a good portion of the book, but instead I kind of just feel like laughing and crying at the same time. Is it normal to feel that way after finishing a book? How on earth am I ever going to write an actual review for this?”

And you know what? I still don’t know how to write an actual review for this, but I’m gonna try.

First of all, though there were some zombies, this was not a zombie book. It was an after-the-zombies-have-mostly-gone book. It was a people-are-the-real-monsters book. It was a psychological-mindfuck book. It was an exploration-of-a-character’s-inner-demons book.

You see, Noah was a legitimately flawed and messed up character… but I just so happen to love flawed and messed up characters. I mean, he wasn’t a bad person, he cared about people, etc., but sometimes he did things that no one in their right mind would do, like calmly and unemotionally taking a shower while someone he knew was dead in the next room—and that was before the apocalypse, when dead bodies weren’t even a normal thing. But that’s just it, I guess, he wasn’t in his right mind. Even then, he was struggling with alcoholism, obsession, maybe even delusion, and who knows what other psychological problems. And, not surprisingly, the apocalypse didn’t magically make those struggles go away. So he may not have always been the best person, but he was still someone I could empathize with, and he was fascinating to read about. I will admit it was a little strange how introspective and self-aware Noah was, but it just kind of worked, especially since, for much of the book, Noah was alone and his thoughts were really all the reader had. The way it was written put me really deep in his mind, so I was ok with it.

Not only that, Noah’s psychological downward spiral, his descent into a booze/drug-induced stupor, was written amazingly well in a way that really portrayed the situation and also made me feel for him. He became a rather unreliable narrator as well, considering the haze he was living in and the constant blackouts.

Noah’s downward spiral was also where the mindfuck part of the book came into play. Generally, I’m not a fan of those types of books in which I don’t know what’s real and what’s not, and I would’ve liked to get answers to a few specific questions at the end. While it was happening though, I was completely intrigued—confused, but intrigued. That scene portrayed on the cover? It’s actually in the book, purple sky and everything. So that should give you some indication of how surreal things get as the book progresses. And eventually you will reach this point in which you stop and think, he’s finally cracked, this can’t be real… but you still won’t be sure. The author gives a little info in the afterword though, so there’s at least a definitive point up until which things happened as described and a definitive ending. Well, kind of. I guess you never really know, but I felt like I got closure.

Ultimately though, this book made me feel, and I can forgive a certain amount of grievances for that. It was dark, emotional, unsettling, and intense, and when I finished, I felt emotionally overwhelmed and not sure how to even process everything I’d read. But when a book can make me feel that way, I definitely consider it a good thing, so I couldn’t be more glad I decided to give this book a read!


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Book Blurb

“SLOWLY WE ROT blew the back of my mind out. Hands down the single best zombie novel I have ever read.”–Brian Keene, author of The Rising

“Shocking, emotional, and punctuated by moments of brutal savagery, SLOWLY WE ROT contains some of the most frightening scenes in recent horror fiction. If you enjoy zombie stories, you’ll love this book. If you believe there’s no life left in the zombie subgenre, Bryan Smith is about to prove you wrong. SLOWLY WE ROT is a searing, stunning triumph.”
–Jonathan Janz, author of The Nightmare Girl and Savage Species

Long after the zombie apocalypse wiped out most of the human race, a young man named Noah resides in a remote mountain cabin. Several years have passed since he last saw another human being. The long period of isolation and loneliness has fostered a deep despair in Noah, who also struggles with suicidal impulses. But Noah is a man who was struggling even before the end of the world, a seemingly helpless slave to his addictions. When the vindictive sister he has long believed dead unexpectedly returns, events transpire that prompt him to leave his mountain refuge and embark on a cross-country trek to find the lost love of his life. It doesn’t matter that she’s probably long dead. He just needs a purpose again and this is it. Along the way, he experiences moments of hope and profound tragedy. Soon Noah’s sanity begins to fray and his ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality starts to disintegrate. Through it all, he keeps trying to reach the one he lost long ago. And he’ll continue no matter what, even if it costs him his life, because it’s a big, empty world and this is all he has.

“Sure, there are flesh-eating zombies in Bryan Smith’s gut-punch of a novel, SLOWLY WE ROT, but in telling the tale of one man’s nightmarish journey through a post-apocalyptic landscape, Smith reminds us of the most brutal truth of all: the worst monsters dwell inside us.”
– Tim Waggoner, author of LIKE DEATH and EAT THE NIGHT

“SLOWLY WE ROT sneaks up on you like the walking dead. It opens in familiar territory, and then, slowly and methodically, sheds the trappings of the genre… piece by bloody piece. Bryan Smith’s latest is bleak and brutal, an uncompromising and completely unpredictable genre-bender. As heartfelt as it is batshit, purple sky crazy, SLOWLY WE ROT belongs on the shelf next to Brian Keene’s THE RISING.”
–Mason James Cole, author of PRAY TO STAY DEAD and BUSTER VOODOO

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  1. verushka

    Zombies = *shudder* But the rest of it sounds EPIC. Noah is absolutely compelling and the mindfuck part of the book has me SO curious, especially since the cover pic happens. So. Wait. Just how present were the zombies? And the horror part of it, because that’s what I think when i think zombies?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Seriously, the zombies are like a footnote in the story. Noah kills a few of them, but they’re just shambling and easily dispatched, not scary. Any “horror” in the book comes from how messed up the other PEOPLE are, but it was still never scary, just, you know, horrifying that people would do such messed up things. And the rest IS rather epic. Compelling is a good word!

  2. Lola

    That’s usually a good sign if you don’t know where to start with a review! I only have that with the really good ones usually. I like the cover art style for this one, not sure why, but it works. And yay for the cover actually being a scene in the book, that’s always fun. Although I don’t think this would be a book for me gauging from your review.

    Noah sounds exactly like the type of character you like to read about. And with how he’s alone for most of the book it makes sense you get to know more about him and his mind as there isn’t anyone else. It is interesting when you really get to know a character like that.

    I am usually not a fan of those books were you don’t know what’s real or not. But I’ve once read a book for literature class that wasn’t really enjoyable read, but it has an unreliable narrator and you didn’t knew what was real or not, but it was very well written. So I can see how those types of books can work. I am happy you enjoyed this book so much :)

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think it usually is a good sign too, haha. I love the cover too! And yeah, I wasn’t expecting it to actually be in the book when I started, but lo and behold, it actually was lol. I don’t think it would be a book for you either though. It’s funny how we’re bloggy friends yet we have such different taste when it comes to certain things!

      He is the type of character I like to read about, so I definitely enjoyed him as the MC.

      I’m usually not a fan of those types of books either, as I mentioned, but I just kind of got sucked into the surreal-ness of this one, and overall it was so good that I could at least accept it. Thanks! I’m so glad I read this one!

  3. roro

    I don’t know what i would to in a zombie apocalypse or after the zombie apocalypse. I would have to be mad to search for a long-lost lover. Who knows maybe i would be. Noah sounds like the character i’d root for, Sometimes you do need those dark emotional reads

    1. Kristen Burns

      Noah was kind of mad lol, but mostly he was stuck in this rut of surviving but not really *living* and needed some sort of purpose. So he went to search for her even though he knew the chances were high that she was dead already. I guess you never really know what you might end up doing in a zombie apocalypse though. (Well, I’d probably just die right in the beginning, so I wouldn’t even have to worry, haha.) Noah was a fascinating character, and I was rooting for him. I love dark, emotional reads! Sometimes they really are exactly what you need.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I absolutely loved this one! Obviously, as I’m sure you could tell from my review lol. I hope you love it too! Let me know if/when you read it, I’ll be curious to know your thoughts!