How Fragile the Soul is a zombie novella by the master of apocalyptic fiction, Eric S. Brown. The plot might seem familiar. An assortment of survivors battle the odds to find a safe place against the onslaught of undead. That is where the story’s familiarity ends. Each principle character leaves a sanctuary in search of a more permanent place to make a stand. The symbolic leap of faith is literal for Simon, a soldier hidden with his unit in a barn. Simon pitches himself from the loft, using his Lieutenant to cushion the landing blow. From that moment on, the reader’s sense of dread increases. There’s no room for faith or hope in a world of fragile souls.
Brown’s prose is straight-forward and story-driven. His characters don’t always behave logically, but he’s placed them in a world where logic disappeared, along with compassion and civility. Apocalyptic fiction serves a dual purpose, reminding us how fragile civilization is, while entertaining us with a story we can put down (it’s only fiction). And if we don’t look too closely, we won’t notice the conflict between those two purposes. (Five stars out of five.)