Is Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead a zombie story?
Well, that depends which tropes you use to define “a zombie story”. In fact, Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead is an epic fantasy novel, albeit in a dark fantasy mode. It features a zombie-like character that isn’t the protagonist, but is central to everything that happens. His name when he was alive was Valarl.
Valarl is one of the living dead, though he’s neither cannibalistic nor infectious. He is, in fact, a corpse whose unnatural movement is driven not by infection but by what amounts to a curse, a curse that compels him to find and recover a mysterious object that was once in his hands and which he lost in a long-distant apocalyptic event. The object is greatly desired by all and sundry as it is reputed to be the source of ultimate power. The corpse (the titular Valarl) follows the path the object took through history, inexorably retracing where it was taken. Driven by the curse, Valarl only gets violent if someone gets in his way. He has no will of his own and only a faint recollection of himself as a human being. When other seekers of the object realize that Valarl will sooner or later catch up with the object in time, he becomes the central focus of their search. But of course nothing is what it seems and the problem with an Ultimate Power is that the one who finds it may discover they didn’t really want what it has to offer after all.
Naturally I think Fragments is a compelling and quite unique novel, albeit appearing at first glance to be in fairly straight-forward fantasy mode. Jack Dann has described it as “one of the strangest and most interesting visions to come out of the modern horror/fantasy genres” and I hope others will agree. I have no exact date for its release yet but there is a nascent website where anyone who wants to follow its progress can come to check what’s happening: http://fragmentsnovel.undeadbackbrain.com/. No one should expect a standard zombie story though.