Ken Stark found a unique way to introduce us to the protagonist and the plot of the book, and I found myself applauding him for it. He teases and taunts us with snippets of the world we’re about to be immersed into and then takes it away by secluding our protagonist. All the while, you know what will be awaiting you.
Stage 3 feels new and different from others like it. Yes, we have a virus that turns folks into monsters, but that’s where the similarities end. The protagonist isn’t the normal cliched protagonist. He’s not going to do what you’d expect, and I found it refreshing. Mr. Stark even goes so far as to give us an interesting sidekick who is constantly trying to steal the show. Most authors would shy away from introducing a child into a book like this. Children add a great deal of work and consideration, but Mr. Stark bravely takes on this challenge and does it well.
At first, I questioned whether a child would trust a stranger, let alone so quickly. As a parent, we tell ourselves our children wouldn’t trust a stranger so easily. I only had to consider the environment to see the truth. A child alone in a world of madness would reach out to any adult who treated them with kindness. For Mackenzie to find someone, anyone in a sea of monsters was miraculous enough, but a person willing to help her as well, of course, she clung to that glimmer of hope.
The child element to this story gave Mr. Stark a great way to throw a wrench in the “easy way out”. Every step of the way Mackenzie challenges Mason to do the right thing and to be a better person. I could see people wanting to leave Mackenzie behind, a save-yourself mentality, but I believe there’s plenty of people who couldn’t bear to leave a child alone in a world of death.
Please don’t get the wrong impression. Mackenzie isn’t solely used to make Mason’s world harder. Mackenzie has her own sets of strengths, and she does her fair share to keep the duo alive. I applaud Mr. Stark for making her more than just mere baggage to hold Mason back.
Mr. Stark weaves suspense, action, and character development into a horrific tale of survival and friendship. Stage 3 has a steady pace that keeps you turning pages without wearing you out. You’ll have your fingers crossed for our duo, but you’ll get some breathing room and some time to learn who they really are.