By: Ken Stark

Does the power of love and friendship really know no bounds?  Something so strong and compelling that nothing can possibly stand in its way.  A noble idea is it not?  Would you personally be willing to sacrifice your very life if it meant saving your friends and loved ones from the same fate?  What if the method of your demise involved being torn apart by a horde of ravenous zombies?  If these notions have piqued your interest, then Stage 3: Bravo by author Ken Stark is an absolute must read!  It is an action packed and exhilarating novel which explores the characteristics of friendship and loyalty amidst the backdrop of a relentless zombie infestation.  Hold onto your hat for this one!

Essentially, the novel revolves around the struggles of a band of survivors led by Hank Mason- or Mace as he likes to be called.  The world as they know it has been taken over by a viral epidemic and each passing day is a life and death struggle.  If they are not ripped apart by voracious zombies, they may very well be taken out by other survivors who will do whatever it takes to continue to live.  It is against this backdrop that Mace and his team come across what seems to be a deserted college campus.  However, they soon find out that it is far from abandoned.  Not only is it overrun by insatiable zombies, but there is also another group of survivors present… and they do not seem happy to see Mace and his crew.  Nevertheless,  before any overt conflict can occur, all sides are promptly forced to retreat to safety within the complex as a zombie horde makes a bee-line towards the fresh meat.  Now trapped within the walls, the two sides must learn how to cooperate and survive together, or become zombie fodder.  What follows is the ultimate struggle for survival in this terrifying new world.  Will the two groups do what is needed and combine as one?  Or has their fate already been sealed with any chance of escape evaporated under the guise of obstinate stubbornness and the gnashing of zombie teeth!

To say that the plot of this novel is fast moving and full of action would be the understatement of the century.  The action is relentless, carefully orchestrated and entirely captivating.  There are a great mixture of battle scenes, but there is also a variety of very clever survival scenarios.  For instance, we are able to see the group creating makeshift weapons and discovering food in the most difficult of places.  All of this is wonderfully supported by the very human theme of friendship and love.  In fact, the human relationships which exist are what make the plot of this story so strong.  Without this we lose the believability and authentic elements which are so very critical to the story development.  There can be little doubt that this tale is a gripping page turner!

Another element of this novel which receives top marks is in the area of character development.  While the protagonist is obviously Mace, there are a variety of other characters who are unique, engaging and developed beautifully.  My personal favourites were Mack and Alejandra.  The author quite capably manages to allow the readers to identify, empathize and relate to the host of characters through Mace’s perspective.  We are able to feel the emotions of love, happiness, anger and fear… and attribute them to the different individuals.  Not only that, but the characters experience significant growth throughout the story.  Some who are entirely “unlikeable” at the outset of the tale ended up revealing a whole different side to themselves by the end.  This is character development at its best.

Overall I simply loved this book and would give it my highest recommendation.  Be forewarned that there are a number of violent and graphic scenes (of course… what type of zombie apocalypse story dopes not have graphic scenes!).  If you are a fan of this genre you will be able to enjoy the smooth flowing writing and top-notch story telling which it contains.  An exhilarating and fascinating look at the human condition amidst a zombie infiltration!

5 out of 5 Captivating Stars for this one!  *****