A Strong Finish

Disclaimer: I pride myself on being an honest reviewer. In that vein, I’d like you to know before reading this review that I had the pleasure of copy editing the piece before publication. As a copy editor, I didn’t change anything in the story, just made sure the events were consistent with the first two books, and sussed out any spelling or grammar errors. I neither made nor proposed any other changes to this story.

 

Having given you my disclaimer, let’s get into the fun part! Afternoon is the third book of The Daylight Cycle. Initially Kody Boye wasn’t sure he wanted to release it, because he wondered how it would stack up against the other two books. He was looking for another pair of eyes, and I volunteered. Afternoon picks up where the previous two books left off, and serves to tie in two seemingly unrelated storylines in a believable and exciting way. Rose, from First Light, meets up with Dakota and his crew of survivors from Sunrise. They band together with other survivors they have come across and on the surface everything seems safe, or as safe as it can be given that they’re living during the zombie apocalypse. They spend their time fortifying their space, scavenging for supplies in the surrounding houses and shops, and getting used to life after the fall of civilization.

Everything is going well until the survivors run into trouble during a supply run. One of their members is taken down by a vicious pack of zombies. Of the three that survive, one is scratched. What’s worse is that the injured survivor is Erik, Jamie’s childhood best friend. It’s just a small scratch and doesn’t even break the skin, but nobody knows whether or not it will cause infection. Jamie is desperate to believe that Erik will be ok since there was no blood. Dakota and Steve, as much as they’d like to hold onto hope, are skeptical. Jamie’s hope is put to the test as Erik’s health begins to spiral. Fevered, bedridden, and incredibly miserable, nobody can deny he’s sick. But the signs of infection aren’t presenting themselves quickly enough. Is it the zombie virus, or something else?

Steve and Rose manage to repair a radio enough they they can make contact with other survivors, if there are any left alive. As luck would have it, they manage to contact a college in Boise, Idaho whose science department is still laboring away at curing the disease. The decision is made to take Erik to the university, because his condition isn’t getting any better. Erik also feels a sense of duty – if he can be any help in curing the disease for others, than he wants to do what he can.

I’m going to be the first to tell you that I’m hoping Kody doesn’t stop with a trilogy. I understand authors want to expand, create new worlds and characters, etc. To that end, I’d be happy with a short story collection down the road sometime. I’m not quite ready to be done with Steve, Dakota, Jamie, Rose, and the other survivors.

Not to mention Kody has given the zombie apocalypse a wild spin that I’m craving more of – the plant walkers. You read that right. They’re dried up prune-looking zombies that smell like fruit, and undoubtedly dead, but maintain a small amount of intelligence and seem to abhor the zombies. It’s a concept I’ve never come across before, and I have to admit that I’m super curious. I’m anxious to see if the plant walkers are the gentle shepherds they seem to be, or if they’re something more sinister in disguise.

I found Afternoon to be a great way of tying the first two books together. It was great to catch up with Rose and several other survivors and see what they’d been up to while Dakota and his friends were traipsing across the country. I blew through Afternoon, despite editing it for spelling and grammar, because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Particularly when the group was at the university watching the doctor perform tests on Erik. I was tense the entire time, waiting to see what would become of Erik. Whether he’d be a glorified guinea pig in a dead world, or whether he’d be the answer to their plight.

Whether or not Kody decides to continue with this series down the road, or if this is the last book he’ll write with these characters, I’m 100% on board. The same goes for any other series he writes or has written. Kody has the ability to create characters who are realistic and varied. Some of the characters may more closely resemble the asshole sitting next to you in the cube farm than they do Mother Theresa, but regardless, they’re realistic. As are the relationships between the characters. Whether friends, partners, siblings, or strangers, Kody deftly navigates the different interactions without weighing down or taking away from the action.

Do yourself a favor and go pick up The Daylight Cycle, because each book only gets better!

A Strong Start for an Amazing Series

I recently read Kody Boye’s First Light, and I absolutely loved it. It’s book one of The Daylight Cycle series. (I’m currently reading book two – and whoa! Does he amp up the scares!) The central characters, Rose and Lyra, are flatmates in England. It’s Lyra’s home country, and Rose’s adopted country. They are typical college best friends, and their third flatmate Mary is the overly dramatic third musketeer.

The zombie takeover is well underway when First Light begins, although nobody knows that quite yet. The news stations are using words like “riot” and “civil unrest” to describe the outbreaks of violence in major cities. Rose and Lyra are worried that their proximity to an airport will cause them to encounter the violent protestors. Only a few pages into the book, Mary stumbles into the flat bawling her eyes out and bleeding. Apparently her on-again off-again boyfriend not only proposed, but proceeded to bite her. The girls hear a terrifying screech from the hallway while they are trying to calm down their hysterical friend. Moments later her boyfriend throws himself against the door and claws his way in. For Lyra, Rose, and Mary it’s a battle to the death. And it’s only the beginning.

As the story progresses, the girls find themselves in a variety of situations that they had no way to be prepared for. Including floating on a boat that neither of them knows how to sail, and fleeing from a country that’s using deadly force on anyone looking for asylum. Neither of the girls can really blame the country, because by then they know it’s a virus that spreads through bites and scratches.

First Light is an amazing book, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what exactly about the book is my favorite. Kody’s apocalypse is all too real. The freshly dead run, the long dead shamble. And the girls are forced to survive by whatever means they can.

I also really love how Kody portrays the friendship between Rose and Lyra. They’re incredibly real. They argue over what the best course of action is, and where they will be safest. They wind up eventually talking out their points of view, and though they have their rough moments, they are always fiercely loyal to each other. They are strong in their own ways, but also show their weaknesses.

The end of First Light finds Rose and Lyra making a choice that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Rose doesn’t believe they are safe in their current location, despite fortifications. Lyra, however, doesn’t believe that they are any safer outside the walls. The decision is a heavy one, and could possibly split them apart for the rest of their lives.

First Light is an amazing read from start to finish, and showcases Kody’s unique writing style. I recommend this book (and series!) to anyone looking for a solid story with relatable characters, realistic situations, and a helluva scary zombie element! (If you like what you read, I’d also recommend checking out his other books. He writes more than just horror!)

 

 

A great addition to an amazing series!

I’ve spent the last few days living in zombified Texas with Rhiannon Frater’s Zombie Hunters Club. I finished the second book in the series (Lost in Texas) in anticipation of reading the third book in the series. I was given an Advanced Reader Copy, and couldn’t wait to start.

While I was reading Journey Across Zombie Texas, Rhiannon released a short story called “Sam Versus the Zombie”, which takes place during the events of the third book. At one point, Sam is separated from the group and he takes shelter in a barn. The short is the story of him fighting for his life during a hellish hailstorm against a very persistent zombie.

Journey Across Zombie Texas is every bit as good as the first two books in the series. In fact, if I had to make a choice, I’m not sure I could give a preference to any of the books over the others. Rhiannon excels at putting her characters in very realistic threatening situations, which makes the reader worry for everyone’s safety. There is no such thing as a safe encounter with a zombie, and sometimes not even with other people.

This third installment finds Josh and the Zombie Hunters Club trying to cross Texas to get to a FEMA camp. The convoy that they had been travelling in has been compromised, and it’s up to Josh and his group to make it on their own. Unfortunately zombies aren’t their only obstacles. Well-meaning adults who don’t quite understand how the zombie apocalypse works inadvertently make their journey more dangerous. Not to mention a familiar and unwelcome face in Chad, the group’s living adversary. As if being doggedly followed by swarms of the living dead weren’t bad enough!

Journey Across Zombie Texas was a difficult book to put down. I started reading it over the weekend, and unfortunately for me, I had to sleep sometime. I didn’t want to put the book down ever, because it was so exciting. Josh and his friends were adept at getting out of most of the situations unharmed, but there were a few that I was positive there were going to be casualties. Despite my love for all things zombie, I’m ashamed to say that I probably wouldn’t have been able to be that level-headed.

The other aspect of the book that I want to point out is how realistic the kids’ reactions to the events were. Some were traumatized, some panicked, others put their heads down and thought things through. The range of emotions and responses was realistic, but also was another way for Rhiannon to show the reader the growth that the characters experienced throughout their journey. The reader can see each character progressing in terms of complexity with each passing page. I am really impressed with the overall result.

I hate to pressure Rhiannon, so I will just say this. I would love for the series to continue. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the adventures of the Zombie Hunters Club. Also, there are a few unanswered questions that I have after finishing the current last book in the series. Although she hasn’t announced anything (to my knowledge) in terms of where she wants to take the series, I would be happy with a book of stories about the characters set in that universe. She’s done that for other series, so I’m holding out hope. Especially if this series becomes as well-read and well-known as it should be.

On that note, you need to read this series. It doesn’t matter if you’re normally a zombie fan or not. It doesn’t matter if Young Adult Literature is your thing or not. If you are a person that enjoys horror, excitement, and great characters, then you need to read The Living Dead Boy series. Trust me. You’ll thank me later!

 

Long overdue praise…

Cover of "Down the Road: On the Last Day&...

Cover of Down the Road: On the Last Day

There are multitudinous zombie books on the market.  They fill every shelf, nook, cranny, and niche that exists.  You can bake them, cook them, sew them, crochet them, knit them, take social and business advice from them, wear them, and draw them.  Apparently, there’s even a matching pillowcase and bedspread set for your bed replete with reaching zombie hands.  There is a veritable horde of cutesy zombie books for children.  Its plain to see that zombies can be enjoyed by a variety of different people.

It would seem that even the authors are no exception.  Bowie Ibarra, for one, certainly doesn’t pass up his chance.  In the second of the Down the Road Trilogy, titled “Down the Road: On the Last Day“, he gleefully butchers and terrorizes his way through the book.  I got the distinct impression that he had a hell of a time while writing the book – and that’s not an impression I get very often.  I could imagine him sitting at his computer, laughing hysterically at the antics of his characters.

The story is based on a host of characters trying to fend of zombies, which is essentially the story of most zombie novels.  Ibarra adds an extra element of on-going stress by introducing a few United Nations crazies into the mix.  One in particular, is hell-bent on the subjugation of every person he comes across.  Not exactly fitting company for a town full of people who are just trying to survive.  The resulting clash is one of the greatest endings that I have read to date.

If you get this book I promise you three things.  The first is that you should probably be prepared to cry.  Often.  The first chapter sucked me in, and then had me bawling like a baby.  There is also an unconfirmed rumor that the last fifty pages or so may have had me bawling.  Again, unconfirmed.  The second thing you should know about this book is that you will laugh yourself silly.  Ibarra has a knack for knowing when the subject matter gets too heavy.  A little bit of humor goes a long way to letting the reader know that the people in the book are multi-dimensional.  Yes, it’s the zombie apocalypse, and yes that sucks.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have a few laughs while you’re waiting for your number to be up.  My last promise to you is that you are sure to lose sleep.  Some of the images and scenarios are so disturbing that it was all I could do to lay down and not see them play across the dark of my eyelids.  I’m talking about truly horrific stuff, not just the usual “oh it’s a zombie – watch it eating guts” kind of thing.  Ibarra seems to be able to reach into your subconscious, take the most terrifying aspect of the zombie apocalypse, and drag it screaming into the light where it follows you into your dreams.

“Down the Road: On the Last Day” sees the return of characters Alex and Red, who were friends of the central character of “Down the Road”.  Alex and Red are back in all their conspiracy-theory glory, and having a great time with a host of new characters.  I’m hard pressed to find a favorite character, because each member of the cast is interesting, unique, and important in their own way.  They have very tangible weaknesses and strengths.  What makes them even more special is the fact that they are relatable.  They suffer our same perils.  They have affairs, get into arguments, fall into irrevocable lust, and learn to forgive.  Each character is so real that I couldn’t help but relating them to people I know in my own life.

“Down the Road: On the Last Day” ends just as it should, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fair.  If you’re looking for the zombie feel-good book of the year, you should probably look somewhere else.  If on the other hand you’re looking for a fast-paced and entertaining read, then you need this book in your hands right this minute!  I liked it so well that before I had even finished, I went over to amazon.com to pick out the next book, “Down the Road: The Fall of Austin“.  If pass this by, I guarantee you will regret it!

Don’t forget to hop on over to YouTube.com to see the exclusive book trailer for “Down the Road: On the Last Day”.

 

It’s genre-bending madness!

It’s hard to believe that so much horror and gut-wrenching sadness could ever originate from the likes of the cherubic-looking gentleman featured in the picture to the right.  He could be your next door neighbor or the teller at a local bank.  Luckily for zombie aficionados, he’s neither.  In fact, he’s none other than the celebrated zombie author, Craig DiLouie.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I just got around to reading “The Infection”, which has been on my To Read list for some time now.  Had I known what kind of tale was in store – I’d have picked it up sooo much sooner.  In fact, I’m so excited about this book, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve written and rewritten this review to try and get it right!

DiLouie’s greatest strength is in his ability to move the story along at a fast yet organic pace.  There isn’t a single spot of unimportant or boring information, and the characters develop on their own without DiLouie playing God and throwing random obstacles at them for the sake of their growth within the story.  Each character seems real from the first time the reader meets them, and they stay that way until the very end.  There’s Kid, who spent his whole life being bullied at school only to find he was tailor-made for the apocalypse.  We have Wendy, the she-cop who’s too beautiful to be taken seriously, but ultimately finds her way to acceptance.  Anne, the enigmatic group leader who never lets her guard down.  There are others in the ragtag group, each as important as the last.

The actual zombie infection is multi-faceted as well.  It starts with an event called The Screaming, which is the sudden and agonizing death of a large percentage of the populace, and eventually moves on to The Children of Infection.  The Children of Infection are horrific abominations that are  driven out of hiding when the cities begin to burn.  They include my personal favorite, the Hoppers.  They are naked monkey-like organisms that end in grasshopper legs.  DiLouie deftly blends modern zombie and apocalyptic fiction with the 50s style monster genre, creating infection vectors that are, quite literally, larger than life.

As if DiLouie weren’t talented enough, he’s also able to elicit a visceral reaction from his readers.  I found myself inadvertently yelling at my Kindle while my favorite character was devoured by one of the Children of Infection.  I hadn’t seen it coming, and I knew it wasn’t a crack shot from the author.  It was, unfortunately, what was to be expected of any zombie novel worth the paper on which it’s printed.  Characters must die, whether they’re the hero or the scumbag.  Everyone alive during Infection is living on borrowed time, and nobody knows it better than the characters.

I was so impressed by “The Infection” that I almost flipped to the first page to read it again.  While I’ve already discussed DiLouie’s writing style, there is one more very important tidbit I’d like to leave my readers with.  DiLouie handles flashbacks and character back story in a unique way.  He titles his chapters after the pertinent character, and makes sure that anything that happened in the past is written in past tense.  That sounds easy enough, but then when the reader is immersed, the story is written in the present.  This causes the reader to feel as though they’ve been swept along into the story with the characters.  It also builds a sense of urgency and fear that moves the story along.  Instead of experiencing the story as a casual observer, the reader is forced to take greater interest because the story is taking place in the here and now.

Thankfully, this book will appeal to readers of all levels of zombie experience, from the die-hard survivalist who is counting the days until the apocalypse, to the closet-zombie reader.  Whatever you do, go and purchase this book RIGHT NOW!  Especially because rumor has it (as in, craigdilouie.com has it) that there will be a sequel entitled The Killing Floor out sometime early this year.  I promise you – this book needs to go straight to the top of your reading list…right now!

(You can view the ultra-creepy book trailer on Youtube.com here!)

 

 

 

 

Brian Keene – part 2!

Cover of "City Of The Dead"

Cover of City Of The Dead --> This is the cover of my book as well 🙂

I finished “City of the Dead” on the car ride to Maine the other day, and I figured I should write about it now.  In another week or two things will get very hectic.  I will hopefully be returning to school to get my master’s, and I will have other things taking up my limited time.  Therefore, while it’s still fresh in my mind, I’m going to write as many reviews as I can remember (I’m fairly behind in my reviews).

“City of the Dead” is the thrilling conclusion to “The Rising“, both of which are written by Brian Keene.  I’m not going to go into detail, since the last book ended so abruptly, and this book starts right away with the story.  What I will say is that we lose some good characters, and we gain a few along the way.  Character growth for those still (un)lucky enough to survive continues at a natural and realistic pace.

This book finds the demon-lord Ob continuing to amass his forces for the war against all life forms and their Creator.  He continues to have dry, morbid, and sarcastic humor.  I’m not going to lie – I really do enjoy his quips.  Some people have criticized Keene for it, but I have to admit, it really does enrich the story.  I wouldn’t figure that a timeless demon-lord would always speak in an older style, especially when you figure that the bodies these demons are possessing are full of our current language and skills.  It stands to reason that they would update their language as well.

This book finds a group of survivors trapped in an impregnable New York City skyscraper.  The skyscraper was designed to withstand any kind of biological, terrorist, or natural attack/disaster that could ever happen.  The designer, Ramsey, has locked himself up inside the skyscraper, and he sends out forces to look for survivors daily.  Unfortunately for everyone else in the tower, he has a messiah complex, which I guess isn’t unusual since his building is named Ramsey Towers.  He fancies him their ultimate savior, and comes to think that they adore him.  Most of the people living in the skyscraper are very diverse, with their own tales of woe and their own characteristics.  It’s fun to guess who will be a main character, and who will become zombie fodder.  Keene writes so convincingly and with such back story that it’s hard to decide who is a main character and who is not.

The climax of the story is truly unforgettable.  The zombies pitch and epic battle, and humanity’s last struggle is no less epic.  The stories of all the characters intertwine, and you find yourself rooting for almost everyone.  Since the situation has become more dire in this book, there are virtually no rape scenes, which makes it an easier book to read.

Again, the book is a work of pulp fiction, so please don’t expect it to be a classic for the ages.  “City of the Dead” is highly entertaining and worth reading, and I suggest it to anyone who wants to read something that isn’t the usual zombie book.  Take nothing for granted, and make sure you have a few hours to spare – once you pick this book up you won’t want to put it down!

Since I’m on a roll…

Recent paperback cover

Image via Wikipedia --> This is the cover of my book. 🙂

…I figured I’d write a review.  Before leaving for Maine, I decided to start Brian Keene‘s “The Rising“.  It was recommended to me by a patron of the gym where I used to work.  Unfortunately it’s taken me some time to not only find decent copies of the books, but to read them.  The person that recommended them to me said that they weren’t a typical zombie story, and that I should have an open mind.  That was certainly the understatement of the year!

“The Rising” is the story of a man named Jim who sets out to save his son from sentient zombies.  The zombies are just human bodies inhabited by the Siqqusim, a  special type of demon with a vendetta towards God.  Apparently they were upset about being thrown out of Heaven and wanted to make God pay by wiping out all of creation.  At the outset, that seems like a really difficult undertaking.  However, the Siqqusim are led by a stylish leader named Ob, who happens to have two other brothers in the Void who are dying to get out and wreak havoc.  The destruction of the Earth is supposed to happen in three waves: Ob comes along and possesses/wipes out humans and animals, when that is done his brother Ab is free to take over plant and insect life, and after that their third brother (forgive me for forgetting his name) and his demons walk across spreading a killer fire.

It’s alright that I’ve spoiled the demon take-over plot for you, as there is plenty of excitement to be gleaned from the characters themselves.  There’s Jim and Danny – father and son, but also the main driving characters.  Danny is locked in an attic and his father is rushing to save him.  Jim meets Martin the preacher along the way, and Martin serves as his companion and spiritual guide along the way (but in a good sense – not annoying).  Baker is a scientist that was responsible for the scientific experiment that let loose the demons from the Void.  Along the way Baker becomes the guardian of a deaf man named Worm.  Frankie is a hooker trying to kick a heroin habit, and she’s plagued with memories of her still-born child.  There are some rather sick military men that the characters run into, but in keeping with my usually PG-rated reviews, I will leave it at that.  There are many other interesting characters, and nobody seems superfluous.

I enjoyed the book overall, however there were a few things I could have done without.  Keene seems to go out of his way to showcase just how many bad men appear to be left after the initial zombie rising.  There are far too many rape scenes and general abuse scenes.  I understand that it was commonplace in the universe he created, and it certainly gives an added emotional aspect, but I think in some ways it wasn’t necessary.  To be honest, that is my only criticism of the book.  (I read the second book, and it didn’t continue into “City of the Dead”).

On the good side, Keene’s characters are well constructed, and show a natural growth progression.  Each character develops as the series goes on, some in good ways, and others in bad ways.  In other reviews that I have read, the dialog has been criticized as being juvenile and predictable.  I have spent the last few days listening closely to those around me and have come to the conclusion that there isn’t really that much original language.  Most people seem to have communicative patterns, phrases that they repeat or words that they use often.  People who are around each other tend to pick up on that language.  My boyfriend Chris uses “Riight?!” all the time.  When we were first dating, I thought I would go mad if I heard it one more time.  Guess who also says it now?  Keene picked language and phrases that fit the characters.  For instance, there is a scene where the pimps are chasing Frankie through a zombie zoo (literally, all the animals are dead).  Of course the pimps aren’t going to be yelling, “Wherefore art thou, o strumpet?”  They’re going to be using regular old language from our current century, and befitting their status as pimps.

“The Rising” was very much in the pulp style.  Using the definition at TheVintage Libarary, it is “entertainment for the masses”.  That’s right people – it’s not meant to be used in a college class.  The average reader is supposed to be able to pick up the novel and enjoy it – and that’s just what I did.  If you’re looking for an deep and meaningful look at human nature in a time of stress, pass this book on.  However, if you’re looking for a book that’s pure zombie-bashing fun, pick up Brian Keene’s “The Rising” today!

P.S.  At the end of this book, I wound up yelling, “What?!  You can’t end a book like that!  That’s not fair!” (even though I had the sequel on the table next to me).  Just be warned.  It’s one of the most gut-wrenching endings I’ve read so far.  It’s also the reason why I wait for multiple books to come out in a series before I read them.

Zombie 5K ?!

Original caption from American army: "Cam...

Image via Wikipedia

As none of you are probably aware, I am on a kick trying to lose some weight.  I find it hard because there really isn’t a goal other than “stop being unhealthy and big”.  Pretty nebulous, isn’t it?  Today my boyfriend showed me a website that has me thinking in terms of a reachable goal: survive a 5k populated with zombies, that also happens to be attached to an obstacle course.

If you’re like me, those last few words most likely dropped your heart into your stomach, and your stomach somewhere in the vacinity of through the floor and out the other side of the world.  The website with all of the information is http://runforyourlives.com/.  It posts information on when the run is, and where it will be.  This year’s run is October 22 in Baltimore, Maryland.  I live in New York State, so I won’t be present.  However, don’t give up hope!  The website states that “the infection is spreading in 2012”, so maybe I will be able to drive to the nearest location.  Let me know what you think !

Severe story withdrawal…

Different ways of wearing a balaclava.

Image via Wikipedia - Throughout the book series I kept reading about a "balaclava" but had no idea what it was. Apparently the versatile piece of headgear in these silly pictures is a "balaclava".

I don’t know which is worse – waiting for a new book to come out in a series, or having a great book end and wishing for more.  I guess it all depends on how close you are to the release of the next book, doesn’t it?  I was lucky enough to find Joseph Talluto’s “White Flag of the Dead” series early enough to not be too far behind, but late enough to get in two volumes before the third came out.  (Another caution:  If you bought the self published version – you’re waiting for the second book.  If you’re like me and you own the Severed Press editions, you are going to read “White Flag of the Dead”, then progress to “Taking it Back”, then progress to nail biting and anticipating until the third volume comes out.)

I finished “Taking it Back” a few days ago but haven’t gotten a chance to really post about it until now.  “Taking it Back” continued the story of survivor John Talon and his band of allies as they try to establish a network of surviving towns along a train track.  Talluto surprises and delights with several close-calls and the usual band of miscreant survivors who seem hell-bent on causing as much additional misery as they possibly can.

Talluto’s growth as a writer is heavily evident in this section of the book.  Not only does he expound on previously created characters, but introduces an interesting array of other survivors.  I was pleased to see the addition of a femme fatale, just because it avoids the usual stereotype of the woman as the helpless wench that just gets in the way.  Sarah, John’s closest female ally, is also another nice stereotype killer.  Along the way we lose a few established characters – not too many, but just enough to make the story believable, which is always a good thing.  (Relax – it’s nobody you’ve probably become terribly attached to anyway…or is it?)

The action begins and doesn’t stop.  My favorite part is the roaming, ravenous, grey cloud that comes sweeping towards an unsuspecting town.  What is it?  A hoard of dead.  When do they reach the town?  TOO SOON.  The obstacles that the townspeople and other survivors concoct for the dead are really fascinating – I’m absolutely positive that I’m doomed if there is a zombie apocalypse.  I am bereft of certain common sense, let alone using boxcars to create a fence!  Let alone having the skills to operate heavy machinery…

“Taking it Back” is by no means devoid of creepy moments.  I chuckled out loud when John went walking with (Tommy I think?) through a recreation center that was turned into a first aid station.  Obviously there would be zombies…but still they continue deeper into the building.  They find about a hundred or so cots and a mess of blood, and they respond by flashing their lights around…only to illuminate about 100 starving ghouls who proceed to give chase.  Thrilling scene, but by no means the best!

If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon and started reading these books, you really need to!  They are fascinating and intriguing.  Joseph Talluto is a great story teller that never ceases to surprise.  Any self respecting zombiephile needs to add “Taking it Back” to their collection.

Zombie Pulp (fiction – not puree)

Cover of "Down the Road: A Zombie Horror ...

Cover via Amazon

It seems to me that while teachers may not garner the respect they deserve in every arena in life, they are standouts in the zombie genre. Bowie Ibarra gives us yet another tale of an educator surviving the apocalypse long enough to be the main character of a book.

I had heard about Bowie Ibarra’s “Down the Road” awhile ago, and it had been on my list to read.  It kept getting pushed back (I’m not sure why) until one day when I was looking at my e-mail.  Low and behold !  There is a second book.  My first thought was:  Damn.  I’m behind on yet another series.  Then I figured it didn’t matter and purchased it – and I’m super glad I did !

The story follows the trials, tribulations, and heartbreak of George – a teacher desperately trying to reach his family.  The fact that he’s stuck in a zombie apocalypse in the first place is at once unfair considering he has just lost his fiancee to a brutal murder a few months prior.  Things only seem to get worse just when they get better.  Eventually he gets stuck in a FEMA camp when he comes to a checkpoint in the road and is told if he doesn’t comply he will be “neutralized”.  At the FEMA camp, the people segregate by race and create gangs.  Amidst the chaos, several soldiers who were supposed to protect the people actually begin killing them as “examples”.  It seems there are no end of tragedies in this camp, including rape, murder, massive fights, and the obvious – zombie outbreak.  (Apparently nobody in charge is smart enough not to admit those who have bites.  Go figure.)

I should also note that the sex in this book didn’t seem out of place or unneccessary.  It fit the story, especially considering that according to David Moody on the cover it’s “zombie pulp fiction”.  The book isn’t overly showy with scenes of daring kung-fu or anything like that.  It’s simple and resonates with the reader.  If I were good with a gun, I could almost see myself in a similar situation (clumsiness and end-of-the-world panic aside).

One of my favorite aspects of Ibarra’s writing I can’t even really write about as it gives away too much of the ending.  What I can tell you is that the ending of the story is very unusual in that it looks at two different character’s perspectives almost simultaneously.  If I wanted to recreate the same effect, I know I could’t do it.  Ibarra has absolutely perfected the technique.  Another unique trait was the speed of the book.  Most books in the zombie genre either have a frantic pace or they change paces from relaxed to the-horde-is-on-your-doorstep panic.  For the most part, “Down the Road”  was evenly paced, with a few curve balls thrown in to remind the reader it was still the zombie apocalypse.  If I didn’t know better (and maybe I don’t) I would say Ibarra was using the zombie genre to critique human nature, and our priorities during a crisis.  A prime example would be the FEMA camp and the drug infested safe zone in which George is later invited to take shelter.  Honestly – who has time for drugs when the world is crawling, shambling, and slavering at your doorstep?

I was pleasantly surprised with “Down the Road” and I look forward to purchasing the next book and reading it soon.  I’m also looking forward to reading any other material Ibarra puts out on the same subject.