Is it possible that the streets of New York can be more horrifying for a soldier than the horrors of battle in Iraq and Afghanistan? To the soldiers of Charlie Company, that’s exactly the sentiment that begins to manifest every soldier’s thoughts as they try to save New York from a rabies-related virus called Lyssa which has become pandemic in a very short amount of time. The virus turns people into violent zombies roaming the street with one intent – as the virus takes over the their body, its goal is to replicate and spread the infection. This quickly turns into an exponential problem, and the government has recalled our troops from every location across the globe to help America’s population survive.
With Tooth and Nail, DiLouie manages to combine military action and horror fiction into a realistic and believable storyline. He consulted with a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division throughout the writing of the book and the military action in the book reflects that knowledge, making you feel as if you are an embedded civilian amongst the platoon. Soldiers vary in character, drive, and emotion, and DiLouie has captured a broad variety of types of soldier actions that one would expect – some soldiers will desert, some will breach the rules of engagement, some will sacrifice themselves, and many question themselves as they struggle with the horror of fighting against their own country’s people, infected or not.
The book uses a lot of military acronyms, and there is a handy acronym definition page at the beginning of the book in case you aren’t familiar with terms like RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) or SAW (squad automatic weapon). I’ve read some reviews of the book that felt that this was a distraction, but I disagree – it adds to the realism because that’s how soldiers speak – in battle you don’t have time to say “Bring your standard automatic weapon, there’s an infected combatant across the street holding a rocket-propelled grenade.” You’ll say “Mad Dog RPG 12 o’clock – hit it.” As an embedded, you better learn the lingo quick since you’ll lose your cheat-sheet eventually.
The men of Second Platoon are given what seems like a simple assignment: guard and protect a hospital where many of the infected are being treated, and where research is under way to find a means to stop the spread of the virus. Of course, we all know what happens at hospitals during a zombie apocalypse, and this one is no different as things rapidly spiral out of control. DiLouie does a fantastic job writing about the interaction with civilians, both friendly and hostile, and the reader will struggle with the attitudes and decisions of the soldiers as I did – how would I react? Is that what I would do? Again, you’ll feel as if you’re an embedded part of the platoon.
As the story progresses, the platoon becomes fragmented, smaller, and less equipped to handle the situation they’ve been placed in. Communication with the higher-ups is spotty, and it comes down to a handful of soldiers trying to escort a doctor out of the front lines, hoping against odds to make it to an evacuation site so the doctor can continue working on a cure. This isn’t just another book about the zombie apocalypse – the action is non-stop, realistic, and scary as hell. This book should be on the bookshelf of any zombie or military action fan, because it’s one you’ll want to save and read again.