Stage 3 by Ken Stark

Stage 1, you go blind. Stage 2, you are filled with homicidal rage. Stage 3, you die… and then you come back.

After being dumped by his girlfriend, Hank Mason – Mace to his friends – withdraws from the world for a week of isolated drinking and catching up on his dvr. When he finally emerges from his self imposed cocoon, he finds the city over run with blind, rage filled cannibals and the walking dead.

While trying to make sense of the madness, Mason meets ten year old Mackenzie. Despite the fact that she’s infected, having recently lost her eyesight and clearly in stage 1 of the disease, Mason decides to team up with her and help her find her aunt Sarah, who is a nurse in a nearby medical center.

Mace and Mac immediately form a strong bond, and Mace vows to protect the child for as long as she’s got left, or die trying.

Written in third person past tense, with a close point of view on Mason, Stage 3 starts with a strong hook. Part Day of the Triffids, part The Strain, Mason wakes from a drug induced stupor to find everyone else on the plane he’s traveling in – including the flight attendants and pilots – have gone blind. It’s a great introduction to the character, and a creepy and original first encounter with the disease that will soon have people turning into rage infested humans, similar to 28 Days Later, until they eventually die and return as the well known shambling dead.

After the exciting opening, the plot devolves into the usual zombies in the city territory. It’s enjoyable, but brings nothing new to this sub genre of horror. Any potential for something different that the three stages of the disease could bring to the plot is, unfortunately, not realized by the author.

As for the characters, once Mason and Mackenzie meet, he undergoes a complete personality change from a misanthropic, possible alcoholic, to an unstoppable killing machine, without any hints to a background that would explain this. His relationship with Mackenzie goes to full blown trust and father like love at the initial meeting, without any reason other than that she’s a child. Mackenzie’s abilities also stretched my suspension of disbelief. Within a few hours of losing her sight, she is able to navigate her way through a dangerous city better than those who can still see.

This is my third zombie novel of the month (fourth, if you count Canni), and I’m afraid it was a disappointment. I loved the opening chapters, and I was prepared to go along for the ride with Mason as he explored the end of the world, even if it was something I’d seen many times before, but once Mackenzie came into the story, my enjoyment of the book ended. I didn’t find their relationship realistic. Having once been a 10 year old girl, I found it hard to believe that Mac would trust Mace as quickly as she did, let alone throwing herself into his arms and snuggling into his neck. As for Mac’s character, I didn’t want to be told about how angelic and sweet she was, I wanted to read about her actions and make that decision myself. If an author tells me to love a character, more likely than not, I won’t. Having an angelic face, a tangled mop of red hair and penetrating green eyes wasn’t enough to make me fall in love with Mackenzie.

I award Stage 3

Click here to buy Stage 3 on Amazon.

6 thoughts on “Stage 3 by Ken Stark”

  1. This sounds like a disappointing one. I loved the opening of The Day of the Triffids, so at least the beginning of this story was compelling. Not that zombie stories are my usual reads… I enjoyed The Girl with all the Gifts though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it was disappointing. I love zombie stories, but the problem with loving a genre is that you get very knowledgeable in the way people write about it, and it’s easy to see references that weren’t intended or that other people wouldn’t notice. The Day of the Triffids has a great beginning. Thank you for your comment. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Iseult, I appreciate any and all criticism, good or bad, so thank you for this. I have no idea who you are, or what your writing credentials might be, but I welcome input even from those who know nothing at all about storytelling, and didn’t even bother to get Mack’s name right. The fact that the Stage 3 series has won four book awards and was a finalist in several more should in no way sway your opinion. If you or any of the other two who read your blog would like to read more from this incredibly popular series, do let me know. I’d be glad to provide all three of books free of charge. But then again, never mind. I wouldn’t want to disappointed you further. Anyone else reading this, please contact me on twitter @PennilessScribe or through http://www.kenstark.ca, add the hashtag #Iseult, and I promise to send you all three books for free so that you might come to your own decision.
    Keep up the good work, Iseult!

    Liked by 1 person

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