Deadheading by author Paul Cristo
This is the spoiler full review of Deadheading by Paul Cristo. If you would prefer to stay spoiler free but still want to read about how this thriller gets creative with the apocalypse please visit here.
Thank you so much to author Paul Cristo for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for this honest review.
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Deadheading is a gardening term referring to the act of removing dead flower heads from a plant to encourage further growth. In this post-apocalype thriller there will be plenty of literal deadheading as well as figuritive.
I’ve read a handful of post-apocalyptic thrillers this year and Deadheading stands out to me as the most fun. It definitely has some serious content matter but it also has wacky traps and an almost cartoonish approach to conflict.
The book opens with an unnamed man accidentally surviving the apocalypse when few others do. This introvert simply stayed in his home eating pre-packaged meals until the power went out long enough for all the frozen foods to go bad. When he finally leaves his home he discovers he is very alone in his town.
He journeys out for supplies and finds the place largely depleted. It isn’t until an aggressive stranger steals his water that he even gets confirmation he’s not the last man standing. He does find a home with a garden to claim as his own though.
The man makes use of the local library and studies his way into being a competent gardener. With a lot of time on his hands he manages to get to a point of relative sustainability.
One day, he hears trucks out in the distance and decides to investigate these other survivors. When he sees that they appear to be keeping a woman enslaved to do their most menial labor he decides that they are certainly not going to be friends of his.
Almost by accident he frees the woman and they make it back to his garden house. Finally, we are given the protagonist’s name, Lewis. The woman’s name is Frankie, she will also be an awesome protagonist, definitely not a damsel who just gets rescued and then coasts.
Lewis cannot just live in a world where these people take slaves and get away with it. He forms a plan but needs to do some more studying, this time on explosives.
With the help of a university chemistry lab Lewis successfully makes enough explosive to really do some damage. He finds the camp of the bad guys and detonates one of their trucks leading to at least one casualty. He also determines that there is a big time leader named Jarod somewhere that everyone is answering to.
Lewis gets another plan and needs to do some more studying. Something I absolutely love about this book is that it shows how you can learn to do anything with the proper materials and mind set. Even fly an airplane, as Lewis is about to do.
He spends weeks pouring over manuals and guides and doing dry runs in the abandoned cock pit of a plane at a small airport nearby. Meanwhile, Frankie is learning how to shoot a bow and arrow.
Lewis makes his first attempt at actually getting the plane off the ground and has a relatively easy go of it until the landing. The harsh landing scares the cold Frankie into almost admitting that she cares for Lewis. He’s alive but definitely not comfortable.
At some point in the weeks they’ve been together Frankie and Lewis began to have sex. It’s not talked about in a dramatic way, just a kind of yeah of course that’s going to happen way. I like this approach, the book isn’t about their romantic relationship, it’s about surviving together.
A stranger approaches them one day at the airport. Says he followed the plane. Also says that his group was raided by Jarod’s men and they took one of their women as a slave. Frankie and Lewis go with him to his group and try to rouse the starving group of half dead losers to go after Jarod with them. If they agree it’s reluctantly.
From the plane they are able to spot a promising location for Jarod. Frankie gets some good shots in on a few of the men with her now impressive bow skills. They also continue the pattern of setting unusual traps and finding ways to outsmart the enemy when they’re outnumbered.
They rescue Gina, one of the aforementioned group and take a barely breathing hostage.
Once the new additions to the group get some nutrition in them they become far more useful members of this budding society. Gina is an electrical engineer and most others have some sort of expertise that can help. They even manage to get a huge farm with running water operating!
After the weeks and weeks spent getting their community together Frankie and Lewis attempt to interrogate their hostage. But he’s not talking because Jarod has him so terrified any torture they could do is still preferable to Jarod’s wrath.
Frankie snaps during an interrogation and scares herself with how much she wanted to hurt this man. She flees the whole farm rather than face it. The prisoner kills himself rather than eventually face Jarod.
As was bound to happen, Jarod finds Lewis’ airport and ambushes him. Lewis agrees to fly for Jarod if Jarod agrees to never harms the farm and the people within. Jarod has an odd demeanor somewhere between Mafia Don and eccentric cult leader.
Frankie was hiding nearby watching Lewis without his knowledge but now she knows that he’s being taken prisoner and begins to follow.
Upon his arrival at Jarod’s camp Lewis is given a taste of the torture everyone is so afraid of. It involves a mysterious doctor and incredible amounts of agony. Lewis now understands why death would be better.
Lewis is tasked with flying the doctor to various locations. The doctor always carries a cooler with unknown contents.
The book then shifts to Frankie’s perspective. She had been wathching Lewis from afar for a while when she saw him captured. After following to Jarod’s camp she disguises herself as a slave and gets in.
She does some recon and witnesses the same mysterious doctor plunge a needle into a woman’s eye. She escapes after this and returns to the farm to recruit help. Her and Gale with the help of a few others manage to liberate a bus full of slaves.
They also take out a ton of bad guys in some more looney tunes kinds of ways before making the tough decision to take down Lewis’ plane rather than let Jarod escape. Luckily, Lewis is only injured. Frankie rescued him! She’s the hero!
It comes clear that Jarod is ill and needs some sort of hypothalamus injection from the brains of slaves to keep him alive. This is what the mysterious doctor has been up to with his cooler. Lewis and Frankie keep Jarod alive just long enough to dismantle his own empire.
They bring the doctor back to the farm where he can repent by helping good people instead of bad. He reveals that he was the only one who got the apocalypse virus and survived. And he thinks that whatever the virus was was intentional.
Bum bum bummmm…. sequel? Maybe. Pretty much everything has a sequel anymore. But if this one does, I’d read it!
I really enjoyed Deadheading and its take on the apocalypse. I liked how everyone can learn new skills and no one is worthless. I also loved that Frankie saved the day as a strong kickass lady with a bow and arrow that she learned how to use through hours and hours of practice.
Deadheading is a highy entertaining read and I fully recommend it for the current apocaplyse we’re facing right now.
5/5 sprouts 🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱
For another great post apocalyptic indie book check out Rage.
And if you just really love plants check out Finding the Mother Tree
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