Infected: William Vitka

Don't call them zombies. The preferred term is "mobile autonomous undead." But don't let the pedantic terminology fool you--if you are the kind of person that enjoys a good zombie novel, you should really pick up Infected by William Vitka.

The novel is written in the first person by an unnamed narrator who happens be a journalist for a news organization in New York (which echoes Vitka's current day-job). The plot is fairly uncomplicated: the narrator gets put on a story about a politician who did something nasty to a prostitute and ends up being patient zero for a z-word outbreak.

From there, the novel is concerned with two things: collecting the narrator's friends and getting a CDC scientist to a medical lab in the hopes of finding a cure. Along the way, there is ample speculation as to exactly what is causing the outbreak...and a whole lot of gunfire and property damage.

Vitka wears his influences on his sleeve and takes pains to point these out early on: Philip K. Dick, Hunter S. Thompson, Sy Hersh. It's hard to identify whether the book owes anything specific to existing zombie literature beyond the popular drinking game "what would you do if the zombie apocalypse arrived?" Vitka's answer is colored by video games (small wonder: he used to cover them for CBS.com) and produced a very entertaining page-turner.

One of the best things about the novel is that the narrator's journalistic instincts never go away, especially in the face of the walking undead. Trapped in a news building at the beginning of the outbreak, one of his main goals is to make sure that the information that has been gathered to date gets out so that people know to shoot for the head. The fight scenes as they move across Manhattan also include some ersatz photojournalism, which makes a refreshing change from all the killing.

Vitka's ability to stick to the facts and a darkly jaded worldview combine to make Infected a book that will stick with you long after you've read it. I would strongly recommend that you do not attempt to match the main character drink for drink as you read, however--that way lies madness and liver disease.