David Koepp's new thriller involves zombies, but its unexpected take, rooted in scientific realism, will make you rethink how the genre works
Reviewed by Reid Jowers, Fri., Aug. 30, 2019
When you hear about a new disease horror story in this day and age, often the first things that come to mind are zombies, and that's exactly what you'll find in Cold Storage, the latest thriller by screenwriter David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man). Thankfully, with this tale Koepp doesn't go down the well-worn path of brain munching and guns blazing. Instead, he tries to take the familiar genre down a road more rooted in scientific realism, through with a wealth of balls-to-the-wall suspense.
You probably don't know what an Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is, but you've likely heard of what it does. Essentially, it's a fungus that hijacks ants' minds and manipulates them into killing themselves in a way that will make the fungus spread to the greatest number of other ants – say, by dying where there are lots of ants around and then, after the spores have had time to percolate, exploding. Cold Storage creates a "what if" scenario in which a similar fungus affects humans and other creatures, resulting in a story that is somehow gorier than one with the walking dead we've come to know so well. Its zombies that climb up buildings and explode to make it rain spores, projectile vomit onto new victims, and other unexpected events will make you rethink how the genre works.
Cold Storage isn't too heavy on character development – in fact, the first three characters that are introduced don't see much change despite their abundance of flaws. (They include an unsociable solider who crunches opioids like candy, a guy who's literally perfect but just can't help cheating on his wife, and a brilliant scientist who enjoys the fine art of stealing husbands.) Fortunately, the writing more than makes up for this; Koepp has experience in the sci-fi/horror genre, so he knows how to go full throttle on the action without crashing the plot. And even with all the big science words that he throws around, Koepp keeps the story easy to follow, much like a movie (something Paramount took note of, so it snapped up the rights and has a film version in development). Koepp also throws in a lot of humor, not all of which always works, but it makes the story more interesting nonetheless. Cold Storage is a good summer read that you can knock out now and then look forward to revisiting when it comes to a multiplex near you.
Cold Storageby David Koepp
Ecco, 320 pp., $27.99