Oz like you’ve never seen it before!

I have a confession to make. One that might make your blood run cold, shatter your childhood, and doubt my sanity.

I hate The Wizard of Oz.

In case I wasn’t clear the first time. I. Hate. The. Wizard. Of. Oz.

There. I said it. It’s always been true for me, even as a little child. Not even the knowledge that Toto was supposed to be a Boston terrier has made me give a damn about this absurd movie. As far as I’m concerned, there are only three good things that have come out of The Wizard of Oz.

  1. Memes. There are a ton, and they’re absolutely hilarious. They range from esoteric to the foul-mouthed. There’s something for everyone. The one to the right is one of my absolute favorites.
  2. Pink Floyd. When I was in high school, I heard a rumor that you could start up Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz together, and the album worked as an alternate soundtrack. My friends and I did it, clean and sober. And it was fantastic! (If you’ve never seen it, check out the link here.)
  3. Bloodstained Oz. Authors Christopher Golden and James A. Moore have created pure, graphic, nightmare-inducing genius.

Bloodstained Oz is an absolutely nasty take on the idea of The Wizard of Oz, but it’s not a retelling by any means. It takes place in Kansas in 1933. As happened in the Dust Bowl, a storm comes in. But this is no ordinary storm by any means. After the tornadoes touch down and wreak their havoc, the main characters are left to try and survive the horrors the storm brings with it.

There’s 9 year old Gayle Franklin and her parents, whose parents are trying to make it as corn farmers even though there is a severe drought. After the storm, Gayle finds little porcelain dolls scattered in the dirt. A dying Scarecrow warns her that they are not what they seem.

Stephan, his wife Elisa, and little baby Jeremiah are traveling Romani who sell elixirs. They encounter horrible winged creatures that shouldn’t be possible. Their only shelter is a wagon and the symbols of faith inside.

After the storm breaks, prisoner Hank finds a beautiful necklace in the irrigation ditch he and the other prisoners are forced to dig. He hides it in his pocket, thinking he can sell it and start his life after his prison sentence ends. All his hopes are shattered when terrifying vampires with emerald eyes attack the prison, searching for something.

Bloodstained Oz clocks in at 114 pages, but don’t let that fool you. Golden and Moore waste no time getting the reader acquainted with both the characters and the horrors they will face. I started this book at work on lunch, and I wish I hadn’t. All I wanted was to snuggle under my comforter at home and read it from beginning to end in one sitting. When I got home, I quickly made and ate dinner, and then climbed into bed to keep reading. I never wanted Bloodstained Oz to end. When I got to the end, I rolled over and snagged my advanced reader copy of Bloodstained Wonderland, which is the as-yet unreleased sequel. I fell asleep with the book hitting my face around page 61. You can bet once I’m done with this review, I’ll be returning to it!

I can’t say enough about how awesome and scary Bloodstained Oz is. It’s a genuine page-turner with solid characters and wonderfully twisted monsters. Golden and Moore borrowed from The Wizard of Oz, but make no mistake. This isn’t a retelling. They took well-loved characters such as The Tin Man and The Scarecrow and warped them into something out of a fever dream. I’m not a fan of porcelain dolls, so I’m going to say those were my favorite, but just barely. Everything in this book is fresh and terrifying.

It pains me not to say more about the plot and the fates of the characters, but the fun of Bloodstained Oz is wondering exactly what is going to happen next. I don’t want to deprive any readers of the scares and chills that come with exploring uncharted territory.

Before I curl up and get to reading Bloodstained Wonderland again, I want to add that you can get the first book for $2.99 on Kindle. At that price, you’re practically stealing from the authors and the publisher. Trust me, Bloodstained Oz and Bloodstained Wonderland are two books you’re not going to want to miss!

 

 

Hungry for more zombies?

I have long been a fan of Christopher Golden‘s anthologies. The man has a knack for choosing really interesting stories, by really good authors. His collection, 21st Century Dead, is no exception. I read this book, cover to 21st century deadcover, in about three days. Every story is top-notch. In some stories, people are the heroes, in others, people are worse than the living dead. Each story has something unique to add to the zombie cannon. 21st Century Dead contains stories by familiar names, as well as some that may not be so familiar. It’s always so hard to pick favorites from anthologies this good, but I will do my best.

Jonathan Maberry wows with “Jack and Jill”, the story of two twins who shared everything, until Jack was diagnosed with cancer. Jill continued with school, while Jack began treatment for the cancer. After that, things weren’t the same. Jack and Jill continued to be close, but not in the same way. They couldn’t experience the same milestones, and both knew that one day he was going to die. Enter a rainstorm that quickly turns into a flood, which is apparently not scary enough. Then, Maberry begins the zombie apocalypse. Cue images of children at school set upon by zombiefied teachers, friends, and neighbors. Continue with a family’s struggle to save both their children and themselves on their farm. And finish with forms moving through the flooded corn fields, briefly illuminated by flashes of blinding light. Holy mackeral. Welcome to Maberry’s nightmare!

Just how far will a woman go to avenge her murdered husband? “Devil Dust” by Caitlin Kittredge has the answer! Lizzie concocts a strange powder from exotic plans in a dilapidated shack in the woods. With the powder, she visits each of the men responsible for her husband’s murder, passing the powder off as homemade meth. What happens next is harrowing, but strangely appropriate. You can’t help but root for her as one by one she decimates the people who took so much from her. Her vengeance almost makes the reader sorry for the sad-sacks she takes down. Almost. Until you read what they did to her husband, Stephen.

Brian Keene brings us a story of a little girl who has always been alone. “Couch Potato” details the struggle of little Adele, whose mother is an addict. All day long her mother sits on the couch and watches TV, passing in and out of consciousness. Little Adele is left to do everything for herself, bathing, brushing her teeth, and even feeding herself. Despite the neglect, she loves her mother very much and doesn’t want to abandon her when the zombie apocalypse begins. A kind neighbor boy offers to take Adele in, but she refuses. He helps her secure the apartment, and then goes back to his own apartment with his mother.

baby girlMy absolute favorite story was “Ghost Dog & Pup: Stay” by Thomas E. Sniegoski. I’m a sucker for animal stories, especially when I suspect the hero may be a Boston Terrier puppy. (I used to be afraid of dogs until my parents got a Boston Terrier puppy, then I learned to love all dogs. Though I’m a real sucker for a Bostie! At left is a picture of Lily, my parent’s Bostie.) A boy with a special gift is guarded by his faithful dog, Murphy. One day during a terrible storm, Murphy and his boy come across a strange stone in the woods by their house. Murphy saves his boy from the spirit within, but loses his life in the process. It’s up to the new puppy to win over the grief-stricken boy and become the new guardian. I was rooting for the ghost dog and his puppy partner the whole time (while wiping away the tears, Sniegoski knows how to wring them out of you!) I suspected the pup was a Boston because of the description of the bat ears, short and stocky frame, and the penchant for sleeping under the covers. Anyone with a Boston Terrier knows that they are notorious cover-stealers!

21st Century Dead is extremely versatile, and will have you on a rollercoaster of emotions the whole time. Some stories are scary, some make you question the norm, and others are tear-jerkers. Whatever stories you prefer, I guarantee you’ll find something in this anthology!

Golden, Christoher “The New Dead”

Cover of "The New Dead: A Zombie Antholog...

Cover of The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology

This book is one of many that I read over the summer.  I’m just now getting around to blogging about it.

This book was pretty entertaining.  My favorite story was “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” by Joe Hill.  I think it’s my favorite because I started out hating it.  I don’t have a Twitter account because I honestly don’t think I do that much in a day that I can honestly put on the web and have people want to know about.  I was glad that this story was at the end of the book, because I was contemplating not even reading it.  When I did, it blew me away.  The main character is the girl who is tweeting (tweeting?  is that the right word ?) throughout a family vacation.  They stop at a circus claiming to have live zombies, and everything goes to hell.  Great story.

Brian Keene’s story “The Wind Cries Mary” was really sad.  A husband watches each night at the same time as his dead wife shambles up to the door and tries to get inside.  He wonders if she misses him, and if she has the ability to think. He feels guilt because when the dead rose he didn’t have the courage to put her down properly, and instead placed her outside on the back porch.   There’s a really good twist that I’m absolutely dying to tell, but I can’t, because it will positively ruin the whole story for you.

An old fashioned voodoo story, “Delice” by Holly Newstein, tells the story of a young girl raised from the dead by a powerful bokor.  Delice is sent to the plantation where she was killed in order to kill the plantation owners who had abused her and several other slave girls.  This story is very graphic, both in the death scenes, but also in the treatment the slaves receive.

Even though some zombie stories are sad, so far only one has made me cry.  When I was about two to three pages from the end of “Family Business” by Jonathan Mayberry, I started crying and couldn’t stop.  It got so bad my mom came into my room and asked me what if someone had died.  I couldn’t stop crying, and the story stayed on my mind for several days later.  Benny Imura hates his older brother Tom.  He blames Tom for their parent’s death and subsequent zombification when Benny was four.  He remembers fleeing the house in Tom’s arms, but not much else.  Benny and Tom live in a gated community and when Benny comes of age he has to choose a trade.  He tries many jobs, and finally decides reluctantly to be apprenticed to his brother.  The community regards Tom as a hero because he goes out into the wastelands inhabited by the dead and puts them down at the request of the families.  When Tom takes Benny out into the wasteland to show him the job, everything changes.  Ok, so I might have lied earlier, this is my favorite.  “Twittering” would then have to be my second favorite.

There was only one story that I wasn’t really a fan of. The story  “Lazarus” by John Connolly was told from the point of view of Lazarus after he was resurrected from the tomb.  I’m sometimes at a loss as to what to think of zombie stories that get mixed too heavily with religious themes.  As I’m writing this review I’m paging through the story trying to remember what it was that I didn’t like about the story.  I think part of it was that I can’t remember the actual account of Lazarus in the Bibile, and so I know I’m missing out on something.  Anyway, the story itself wasn’t poorly written, it just “didn’t do anything for me”, if you’ll pardon the expression.  However, in the future I will not hesitate to read another story by John Connolly.  It’s not right to judge an author solely on one work, especially if you are like me, and can’t really remember why you didn’t like it in the first place.

All in all, “The New Dead” is a great book and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a variety of stories.  The authors are all top of their game.  This book makes a good zombie introductory book for someone who isn’t quite head over heels for zombies yet.  The stories are accessible to most readers, although I would caution giving this book to a reader who is very young.  Although the language isn’t very difficult, some stories contain themes that may upset a younger reader, such as rape.  If you’re giving this book to a younger reader, I suggest previewing it first and deciding whether or not the themes are too adult.  If you are an adult – have fun !  It’s a great book.