Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The Junkie Quatrain

Posted: 01/12/2013 in Books
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The Junkie Quatrain by Peter Clines

Junkie Quatrain

I usually don’t read books if they have a word in the title that I don’t know the meaning of (it doesn’t come up too often in zombie fiction). However, Peter Clines has won my trust with his fantastic super hero/zombie novels, Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots.  (Note:  Quatrain is a spanish word, meaning “a whale’s vagina”)

The JQ is a set of four short stories that all take place in relatively the same time and space and intertwine in some way. They were all originally bonus material for those who ordered a Permuted Press audiobook when they first made their deal with Audible.com. Each short story came with one of the featured audiobooks.

The stories take place mid-apocalypse, as society crumbles in the face of a new disease that leaves its victims crazy, vicious, and infectious. In the shorts, we’re introduced to a rugged female survivor, a band of opportunistic scavengers, a scientist searching for a cure, and a cold-blooded killer.

THE GOOD: Each story is really well-crafted and even in a short span of time each character is carefully developed. Clines has become the cornerstone of the Permuted Press brand and with good reason. The man’s got skill.

THE BAD: Since each story was designed to stand on its own, the overall novel is left feeling a bit unfinished as a whole. There’s no true resolution, as it probably would have had if it were a stand alone novel. I was left feeling like I wanted a little bit more, which I suppose could be viewed as a good thing.

THE ZOMBIES: The JQ features an interesting breed of zombies. They’re infected, not undead. At first the infected don’t exhibit violent, flesh-eating tendencies, but rather lowered inhibitions, which can lead to spreading the infection through sexual contact. When full-blown, the infected become more crazed and hungry. They eat flesh, but can die as easily as regular humans. Threat Level: 7

VERDICT: The JQ is a short but sweet series of apocalyptic zombie tales. Each story is good on its own, but reading them all gives the reader a cool look at all of the angles. I’d recommend this to any zombie fan, just don’t expect it to last you more than a few sittings. Grade: B+

Dead Frost

Posted: 01/05/2013 in Books
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Dead Frost by Adam Millard

Dead Frost

Dead Frost is the follow-up to Adam Millard’s previous zombie novel, Dead Cells. It picks up shortly after Cells conclusion. Our hero, Shane, is now out of prison. He and a handful of survivors from the first book have now settled in with a small group led by a small military force. They quickly piss off the military leader, by taking off with the group’s best vehicle in an effort to find Shane’s family.

THE GOOD: Millard is a pretty good story teller and outside of occasional typos, Frost is well-written. I read Dead Cells awhile ago, but it wasn’t long until I had a pretty good recollection of the key characters.

THE BAD: The best thing about Cells was its over-the-top nature. The prison cliches were strong and it read like a 90’s action movie. Frost is much more subdued. That’s a double-edged sword. While it achieved a smaller degree of heart, I missed the action movie pace and extremism.

THE ZOMBIES: Standard zombie rules apply. Bites turn you, the zombies are motivated, but not necessarily runners. I always find kid zombies a little extra creepy and Millard provides some of those.

VERDICT: I’ve got to say that I enjoyed Dead Cells more than its sequel. It’s still a decent read, but nothing spectacular. Grade: B-

How to Train Your Zombie

Posted: 12/09/2012 in Books

How to Train Your Zombie by Catherine Winchester

Train Your Zombie

It’s been a little while since I read or reviewed a zombie novel. (I started reading Game of Thrones. There are 5 books and they’re all really long.) I saw this one over on BuyZombie. It was on sale for zero dollars. The price seemed right to me, so I gave it a shot.

The war on zombies has been fought and is nearly won. Though the threat is still ever-present, humans are moving on for the most part. Meg trains dogs for the military while trying to re-establish normal with her boyfriend, Jim. However, when Jim gets careless and is bitten by a dormant zombie, Meg finds it hard to let go. She decides to keep him around and attempt to train him in similar fashion to a nippy dog.

THE GOOD: Winchester’s got a pretty decent idea here. This is not a gory, end-of-the-world tale. It’s more light-hearted and fairly easy to read (If you don’t mind all of the Scottish? British? slang).

THE BAD: HtTyZ does have a fair amount of flaws. It’s told as if the main character is talking directly to the reading, and I found it a bit annoying and distracting at points in the story. There’s also a good amount of typos, but not so many to make it unreadable. The biggest issue I have with the book is that things seem to go a little too smoothly for Meg. Conflicts are introduced and then quickly resolved. I think the narrative would have been improved if just one or two of the main conflicts were expanded upon and made a bigger focus of the larger story.

THE ZOMBIES: Zombies here are slow and stupid for the most part. They’ve caused a fair amount of world destruction, though they’re painted pretty tame. They’re able to be domesticated about as easily as a standard house pet. This may bother some hardcore zombie enthusiasts and I admit, I would have liked them to be a bit more dangerous.

VERDICT: I liked HtTyZ mainly as a break from your standard zombie monotony. It’s certainly a different story. With some tweaks, I think it could have been a lot stronger though. Grade: C.

How to Train Your Zombie is currently available on Amazon.com. 3 bucks for the Kindle version, 11 bucks in paperback.

The Zombie Generation

Posted: 04/28/2012 in Books

The Zombie Generation by Drake Vaughn

Warner is the last man on Earth… for the most part…probably. He spends his days venturing out of his fortified safe house scavenging for items, losing his mind, and trying to create a cure for the world’s zombie problem…with booze. Things start to get complicated for Warner after he gets infected himself, runs into other survivors who may or may not really exist, he starts bonding with a zombie he keeps locked in his garage, and his hallucinations become increasingly intrusive.

THE GOOD: TZG is, if nothing else, an interesting, different sort of apocalypse tale. Vaughn does some intriguing things with his zombies (which I’ll go into more detail later). Reading this I felt like I was consistently kept on my toes, trying to figure out what was real and what wasn’t as well as trying to keep track of the strange tendencies of the zombies and the main character.

THE BAD: Unfortunately, I felt a little let down by the conclusion of the book. Things come together too abruptly and  too late in the book. There was a lot of good build-up that could have paid off a lot more.

Vaughn also includes a lot of extended action scenes that get a little convoluted and confusing. Most of them would have been more effective if they were condensed.

THE UGLIES: The zombies in TZG are…different. To me they seemed similar to the baddies found in the movie, Demons, only with some more bizarre behaviors. They’re grotesque, with sharp teeth and claws. They’re fast, but also described as monsters so bloated that their gender is almost indecipherable. They not only sleep at night, but they do so in large piles on the side of the road. So part of the danger of traveling at night is in waking up a 10 foot pyramid of slumbering zombies. They can be distracted by flares or chattering children’s toys and they crave alcohol almost as much as they crave human flesh. Definitely not your standard undead ghouls.

THE VERDICT: I’m still trying to figure out what I think of TZG. After completing it, I found myself randomly thinking back on it. In the end, I feel like it was a good book, but one that definitely could have been better. Vaughn made a lot of unique choices and in doing so, took some risks. Some of them paid off while others didn’t. Overall, I’d give it a solid grade.

The Undead Situation by Eloise J. Knapp

“I love her, I can’t kill her…I just can’t!”

“C’mon, honey, I’m your mother. Don’t you remember me?”

“He’s my best friend! I’m not letting you anywhere near him with that gun!”

“Maybe not everyone who’s bitten turns into a zombie.”

These are the statements that get us all killed during the zombie apocalypse. It’s not our fault. We’re social beings by nature. None of us can survive completely on our own. Right?

Well apparently, Eloise J. Knapp has had enough of that crap. She’s seen enough fictional characters get taken down by their attachments to others, that she wanted to go in a new direction. In The Undead Situation she presents us with a character who’s completely anti-social, and prefers it that way. Can he survive any better than the poor schlubs fighting to protect their families? And even more important, is his story worth reading?

THE GOOD: The Undead Situation is a good read all the way around. The story is well-told and held my interest throughout. The characters, while not likable (intentionally so, I think) are well-developed. Really, just a solid story all the way around.

THE BAD: I’m sure there’s a sequel in the works, but Sitch leaves some really big loose ends flapping around. It still works as a self-contained story, but Knapp is obviously leaving some stuff for the next round. Also, if you’re not into having the majority of your main characters be complete assholes, this book might not be for you.

THE UGLIES: Knapp does something slightly interesting as she includes both fast and slow zombies. The recently turned are fast until rigor mortis sets in, then they slow down into your more classic shambler.

THE VERDICT: The Undead Situation is a solid all the way around and presents a fresh take on life after the apocalypse. Whether you think it’s better to detach from all other humans when zombies show up is still up to you to decide. This one gets a hearty recommendation from me and it’s currently available on Amazon for 99 cents. That’s a deal you can’t beat.

*Despite the misleading title, none of the cast of The Jersey Shore appear in this novel. I know, I was disappointed too.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

What is the one thing that can make hardcore, apocalypse-prepared, gun-toting, gore-obsessed, zombie enthusiasts shake in their collective boots?

Twilight.

Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a zombie fans more than the prospect of tweenage girls daydreaming about finding a zombie who will love them even though they’re not the most popular girl in school. The Twilightification of the zombie, if you will. That’s the concern over Isaac Marion’s novel and upcoming film, Warm Bodies. Is that what Warm Bodies really is though, or could it be a welcome addition in your zombie library? I went ahead and spent over my 3 dollar zombie novel comfort level to find out.

Warm Bodies is the story of a zombie named R. At least that’s what he calls himself, as he can’t remember his name proper. You see, R has a very fuzzy memory, despite being a pretty highly functioning zombie. WB is told from his perspective, so we’re in his head for the entire book. R lives in a community of zombies who reside in an airport. Most seem to shuffle around most of the day, except for R, who is pondering the questions of the world, sometimes with his chauvinistic zombie buddy, M. While out on a hunting trip, R eats the brain of some dude and inherits a bulk of his memories and feelings. He then decides to protect the dude’s girlfriend from the other zombies and brings her back to camp. There’s no pick-up line quite like “I just ate your boyfriend’s brain.” Shenanigans take place from there as the girl hangs out at the zombie airport and then things switch as R hangs out at the human safe haven. Of course, they fall in love and try to save the world in the process.

THE GOOD: If you can accept some of the basic premises of this book, then it’s not a bad read. If you can’t handle zombies who think, communicate, and evolve then you’re not going to like it right off the bat. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I have a pretty inclusive stance on zombie characteristics.

The best parts of WB are entertaining and funny, if not a little sappy. I did enjoy R’s relationship with his buddy, M, and would have liked to have seen their interactions highlighted more. This might have worked better as a zombie-buddy story than a zombie-romance.

THE BAD: A human girl is falling in love with a dirty, rotting corpse. That’s kind of hard to get past, and I have the ability to suspend my disbelief pretty far. The ending is also kind of hard to swallow and lost some points in my book.

THE ZOMBIES: WB’s zombies have an odd sense of community. They all live together in an airport. They spend most of their time shambling around though they have rudimentary school and church services. They pair off and marry and at times have unsuccessful sex with each other. There are also a portion of the zombies who are nothing but skeletons, who appear to have some type of executive control of the community. When R begins to have feelings for a human, he unknowingly starts a zombie revolution and evolution.

THE VERDICT: Is Warm Bodies bad for zombies? I don’t think so. It’s not a bad book, though it does smell of someone trying to take advantage of the popularity of zombies and Twilight. I don’t fault Marion or anyone else behind the book or movie. It’s a smart move. I hope it’s a good movie. I’m encouraged by the presence of Rob Corddry and John Malkovich in the movie, though God knows they both been attached to some stink bombs.

I do think that you have better options if you want to read a novel about smart zombies (Zombie, Ohio) or a romance set in the apocalypse (Dead Living).

And, c’mon, will it really be the Twilight of zombie movies? I mean tween girls aren’t really going to swoon over a hunky zombie are they? I’m sure the movie won’t end up looking anything like the pasty, sparkly vampires we all love to hate….right?

OH DEAR GOD! NOOOOOO!!!!!!

World War Z

Posted: 03/29/2012 in Books
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World War Z by Max Brooks

I recently deviated from personal “3 bucks or less” zombie book rule in order to check off some items on my “zombie to-do” list. The first item on that list was World War Z by Max Brooks. WWZ has gotten consistently high praise from zombie enthusiasts and combined with his previous work, The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks has reached near-Romero like status in the zombie loving community. I had read Guide way back when, I thought that  it was good, if not a little dry. At the time, I was expecting something different, something funnier. I’ve come to appreciate the humor and the absurdity of writing a book about zombie survival completely straight-faced. Of course, this has now been copied ad nauseam.

WWZ takes the same straight-faced approach. It is set-up as a journalist’s series of interviews with key zombie war survivors across the globe and occupying a number of different roles.

THE GOOD: WWZ is a really interesting read. The amount of detail is absurd and Brooks must have done a ridiculous level of research. Brooks gives as realistic account of the zombie apocalypse as could be given. What the book really becomes is a collection of short stories, as each survivors gives their own perspective based on where they were and what they were doing while the zombies took over. As is such, some chapters are certainly better than others.

THE BAD: What’s really missing from WWZ is any sense of suspense. The stories are engaging, but with the format as it is, there’s no room for suspense. You know that whoever is speaking survived or else they wouldn’t be able to a part of the interview. I know zombie web-nerds are up in arms because the upcoming movie seems to be deviating significantly from the source material, but I honestly don’t think a straight forward adaptation would translate to anything but a hardcore audience.

THE ZOMBIES: Brooks adheres pretty closely to slow Romero-zombies. The interesting twists he takes involve how human survivors react. He includes humans who pyschologically snapped and now walk around acting like zombies as well as feral children who became orphaned by zombies and grew up “in the wild.”

VERDICT: I don’t know if WWZ is as good as all of the praise it gets. There is stuff out there that is as high in quality that you can find for cheaper. With that said, it is a good book and definitely worth checking out.