Monday, December 27, 2010

The Burrowers



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="283" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]The Burrowers[/caption]


The first time I was aware of "The Burrowers" came from watching a movie trailer.  It looked really good - American settlers being terrorized on the open countryside by burrowing monsters that attacked from underground.  My kind of movie !

Last night my boyfriend and I found it on Netflix and decided to watch  it.  It was an awful movie.  Before I tear the movie to shreds, I want to state its good qualities.  First and foremost, the acting was good.  Not award winning, but good enough to make me believe in the characters.  The costumes were authentic looking for the time period as well.  Nothing too flashy, nothing too drab.  Even the costumes of the American Indians didn't look over dramatized.  The music worked really well for the film.  It was dramatic when it had to be, but otherwise helped keep the period feel of the movie.  The locale was convincing as well - no specific place I could point to, but understandably American.

Please be advised that the next part of the review will contain spoilers.  If you want to watch the movie without knowing how it ends, stop reading here, go rent it, watch it, come back here and let me know what you think.

"The Burrowers" lacked a good many things.  My biggest complaints about the movie concerns the monsters.  Its alright not to show the monster fully until the end of the movie, but make sure its worth seeing.  The monsters in this movie were part worm, and part human (but with the torso twisted so the legs were up like a grasshopper).  Either tell the whole back story on the monster, or don't tell any.  Telling part of the history of the monster and not finishing it is incredibly irritating.  I kid you not, the only thing that you find out about them through the flash back is that they predate humans and eat buffalo.  When the flash back ends, you find out that without buffalo (the white man's fault) they now come after another food : humans (also noted as the white man's fault).  No other explanation - mutation, alien, demon, spirit, nothing.  Towards the end you find that they liquefy their prey with some kind of acid or poison that they put in their victims and then they come back later and eat them like some kind of worm or spider.  Oh, and sunlight kills them, only nobody has figured this out even though the monsters have been around for so long.  The monsters are killed by accident when they are left staked to the ground and the sun comes up and the light shines down in the forest.

The movie feels like it drags along mercilessly.  (While looking up the running time on IMDB.com I stumbled on the fact that "The Burrowers" is also, incidentally, a seven part series online from 2007.  The movie followed in 2008.  Oh my.)  The movie itself is 96 minutes but feels lengthier.  This is due in no small part to the buildup of characters such as the military leader who is integral to the movie in the beginning, disappears for most of the action, and then comes back in the last few minutes only to hang two characters, kill one by blood loss during an unnecessary amputation and then walk away.

The ending was really confusing.  My boyfriend explained that the main character was marked for death by the Burrowers when he fell into the chest cavity of another person who was marked, and his broken fingernail allowed the poison to seep into his body from the other body.

My last complaint - not one scene that made me jump.  Even if a movie is awful, that can usually be at least one of the saving graces.  This movie offered no surprises.  But a few cut scenes of ants, which I'm not sure how that pertained to the movie.  Although there were some redeeming qualities, this movie could have been so much better.  Its a decent movie to show to someone who is terrified of scary movies, since it most likely won't scare them.  Its also a good movie to watch if you're doing something else at the time like homework or crochet.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Serpent and the Rainbow



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="209" caption="Cover of The Serpent and the Rainbow"]Cover of "The Serpent and the Rainbow"[/caption]


The Serpent and the Rainbow will always be one of my favorite movies.  The movie itself is loosely based on a book by the same name, by a gentleman of the name of Wade Davis.  (I have read the book and will be posting a review on it later, fear not!)  On the drive to my family's house in another town on Christmas, I started to wonder what my first encounter with zombies was - a movie, book, song, or something else.  I'm not entirely sure, but I believe The Serpent and the Rainbow was my first encounter.

There is one scene in the movie that I truly believe I will take to my grave.  Wade Davis (as portrayed by Bill Pullman) is asleep at a vodoun holy site.  He awakes to find a corpse in a wedding dress staggering towards him.  Everyone around him is fast asleep, impervious to its high pitched screeching.  It keeps reaching out towards him and he can't seem to get away from it fast enough.  Here's the real kicker - the corpse was sent into Davis' dream for the purpose of warning him away from his inquiries.  Scary stuff.  That scene out of every other in the movie terrified me to the core.  The first time I watched the movie I was very little, and it kept me from sleeping for at least a week.

Another sequence of interest is the making of the zombie powder.  Craven treats the cultural and medicinal aspects of the mixture with respect.  He doesn't overly embellish the cultural part for the sake of the movie (even though other parts of the movie are certainly not direct from or based on the book).  Careful explanation is given as the zombie powder is mixed and later used.

Nostalgia aside, The Serpent and the Rainbow is a great film.  Even though it was released in 1988 I believe it will continue to be a classic.  Wes Craven proves his horror mastery once again.  The film sets and locale are very convincing, as are the characters.  All of the actors are top-notch.  The storyline compliments the effects nicely, as neither overpowers the other.  The effects aren't flashy and done just to draw movie crowds, but flow seamlessly with the storyline.

Solely considering plot and storyline - nothing is left to be desired.  The movie draws the viewer completely into the world of Haitian voodoo.  Explanations of unfamiliar terms such as bokor (think of him as the zombie keeper - he takes your soul and uses you for his own purposes), and loa (the general term for the voodoo gods and goddesses) are all explained within the movie and in the context of the scenes.  That is to say that you know as much as you need to know at any given point, regardless of your own religion.

If you are looking for a good, old-fashioned zombie movie then I suggest you pick up a copy of The Serpent and the Rainbow.  It is an interesting and exciting tale of Haitian zombies and the culture behind them.  It is well acted, well filmed, and will easily stand the test of time.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Recht, Z. A. "Thunder and Ashes"

I posted my R.I.P. for Z.A. Recht on December 21st.  Technically it's December 26th, and yesterday I finished "Thunder and Ashes", the second book in the Morningstar Strain.  The marathon reading session was brought on by the amazing content of the book.  I still can't believe that the author passed away and his literary voice has been silenced.  His books are without a doubt my favorite zombie books out of all that I have read in my lifetime.  During his short writing career, he wrote two amazingly powerful books.

I have no idea where to explain how amazing the second book was.  "Thunder and Ashes" picked up the storyline seamlessly from where "Plague of the Dead" left off.  The transition was so smooth that it felt like one whole book instead of two.  Recht showed his writing prowess in that he didn't waste space in the book giving too much background information on the established characters, but rather moving the book forward.  That's one of my peeves in book series - the paragraphs and paragraphs spent reminding the reader about the character.  (Just a hint - if the character requires that much explanation in the following novels, they were most likely a forgettable character anyway.)

Recht's strongest talent as a writer was to be able to produce living, breathing characters.  I found it hard to believe that the characters weren't real people.  Their words, actions, lives, and deaths all felt realistic.  Not a single moment went by in "Thunder and Ashes" where I felt that the characters had acted strangely.

Similar to the first book, "Thunder and Ashes" was full of action.  Firefights, undead hordes, and malevolent humans are in abundance in this novel, and all have perfect timing.  This novel was every bit the page-turner that I was expecting from Recht.  This book was also the second piece of zombie literature that has caused me to cry while reading.  I had to say goodbye to one of my favorite characters.  Recht let the character go with dignity and heroism (I'm not telling you whom - go buy the book!).

"Thunder and Ashes" is an absolutely phenomenal book and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an exciting novel.  Incidentally, although the book deals with military terms, it is not overwhelming.  I am not familiar with very many military terms but still found the book enjoyable, and even learned a few new terms while reading.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Spradlin, Michael P. "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies!"



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="198" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Li...[/caption]


Since this is Christmas Eve I figured I'd thrown in a similarly-themed post.  I was re-arranging my books on my shelf tonight removing the ones I'd read to put into a box until I can get more shelves, and I came across this one.  I read "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies!" at the start of December but hadn't thought to place it in my blog yet.

This book is a true gut-buster.  Some of the carols are somewhat of a stretch, such as "We Three Spleens", but otherwise a great book.  Other carols such as "Snacking Around the Christmas Tree" are quite singable.

I absolutely love the illustrations !  Their most chilling quality is their first-glance resemblance to normal holiday art.  Generic holiday scenes are replaced with melting faces and gaping maws.  There is one illustration in particular that I have to pass by because it's a little too much for me to take.  It's opposite the carol, "Here We Come A-Garroting" and it features a zombie surprising Santa on the rooftop.  The look on the creature's face gives me the chills !  It's filled with a hunger and glee rarely seen in the vacant faces I've become accustomed to seeing in zombie artwork.

Of course, I'm writing this review in the relative dark of my house and I'm paging through it again before bed, which is probably the worst thing I can do with regards to a peaceful sleep.  My overall impression is that "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies!" should be kept mostly for adults.  Even at my age I find the pictures are disturbing (in a good kind of way) and the rhymes are very gory (as they should be).  In short, this book may do for children and Christmas what Chucky did for dolls.  Even the age-old idea of getting a puppy for Christmas is warped, in that a zombie child receives a zombie puppy.  Go figure.  All in all a great book to have handy for the holidays !

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Adams, John Joseph "The Living Dead 2"



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Traffic sign alerting drivers for Amish Buggie...[/caption]


I usually don't buy a book solely because it received good reviews.  However, based on how much I loved the previous book (The Living Dead), combined with Simon Pegg's rave review, I bought the book without a second thought.  Add to this the fact that the cover of "The Living Dead 2" is seriously scary with its horde of zombies.

All of the stories in the book were thought-provoking, once again proving that the zombie story can aspire to be more than just a flesh fest.  (Though I'd be lying if I said I was above that kind of story as well...)  In any event, The Living Dead 2 is a perfect follow-up to the first book.

The stories range from really sad to really humorous.

Author Brian Keene delivers a wild mash-up in "Lost Canyon of the Dead".  I know I promised I wouldn't give away any spoilers but this is too good to pass by !  A group of fugitives is running from a horde of zombies.  So far so good.  They find a canyon that isn't on the map and decide to take refuge.  What they find there is a lost world complete with dinosaurs, an oasis, and no zombies.  That is, until the dogged undead decided to enter the canyon.  Several are devoured by dinosaurs along the way, which results in...you guessed it...zombie dinosaurs.  Very cool.  At first I thought it might be a terrible premise, but it is surprisingly good.

Bret Hammond's "Rural Dead" takes a look at culture clash and the zombie apocalypse.  An Amish community must come to terms with the new change in the world, and adapt to the zombie plague.  Interestingly enough, I think if the plague were to ever happen, the Amish would actually come out mostly alright.  (They certainly would have a better directional and geographical sense, which would put them ahead of me by a long ways.)  The Amish also have to deal with humans who come to hurt them.

Do not, under any circumstances, let anyone under the age of 17 or 18 read "Zombie Gigolo" by S. G. Browne.  It has to be the grossest and most horrifying story I've read yet.  It's indescribable.  And yes, the zombie really is a gigolo.  It is an interesting commentary for non-curable diseases though.  And I guess if you were short on material it could act as a cautionary tale.  But for what I'm not exactly sure.

"The Living Dead 2" is a great anthology book.  The stories are well-written and they are all top-notch.  I didn't find a single bad story in the book.

R.I.P. Z. A. Recht



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="197" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "Plague of the Dead (The Morning...[/caption]


Yesterday I finished an amazing book, Z. A. Recht's Plague of the Dead.  It was phenomenal, to say the least.  I started straightaway on Thunder and Ashes, which is unusual because I usually prefer to space sequels, especially when the next book hasn't been announced yet.

Later last night I decided to look up how soon I would be able to purchase the third installment of the Morningstar Saga.  What I found on many websites severely saddened me.  Apparently, author Z. A. Recht passed away a year ago.  I haven't been able to find the cause of death.

What I do know is that his death at age 26 is tragic.  I feel we have lost a writer of surprising and early talent, who may have gone on to author many more superb books.  Even though his notes have been given to Permuted Press and a third book will be issued, it will still lack the special way he had with words and storytelling.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Z. A. Recht, "Plague of the Dead"



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="197" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "Plague of the Dead (The Morning...[/caption]


What a book !  I just finished Plague of the Dead today - and it was one of the best books I've ever read in the zombie genre.  Recht's book is fantastic !

The characters in the book are very believable.  None of them stand around and whine about their situation, or give superfluous background information that isn't necessary.  I think its' better not to know too much about the characters.  When something like a zombie apocalypse occurs, things tend to change.  For that matter, people tend to change.  When the only motive is staying alive for another minute, people show more of who they are, whether its in caring for other people or putting themselves first at all costs.

The characters are not stereotypical by any means.  In fact, they are quite the opposite.  Heading the survivor camp is General Francis Sherman, a man who likes the civilians he protects, and in some cases even allows them to fight alongside the enlisted men.  Julie Ortiz, an investigative journalist, holds for weeks against mental and physical torture when being held captive for leaking vital information to the public about the Morningstar Strain.  There are more characters, but I refuse to spoil all the fun - go read the book !

Recht is very detailed about the virus, to the extent that often it becomes hard to remember that the Morningstar Strain does not exist.  When someone is first infected they experience severe flu-like symptoms which turn into a kind of mania.  The mania phase causes them to sprint after uninfected persons (attempting to find more hosts for the virus).  When the host body dies, the virus takes over fully and propels the bodies along as "shamblers".  The transition from sprinter to shambler is a great way to bring together two ends of the zombie spectrum - those that think zombies should run, and those that think zombies should shamble - thereby having something for everyone.

Plague of the Dead was really difficult to put down in order to do other things.  Every page seemed to teem with a relentless assault from the living and (truly?) dead.  I get irritated when zombie books act like the apocalypse contains isolated, infrequent zombie attacks.  When I think about the population of the United States, and the world, I find it impossible that the streets wouldn't be filled to the brim with carriers, zombies, and people dying.  Plague of the Dead depicted this kind of anxiety and adrenaline filled world.

Overall it was a phenomenal book !  I highly recommend that you go and pick this book up NOW.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Strange and Fulfilling Story

I bought this book from a discount rack at a local bookstore solely because it was a graphic novel with zombies.  I was standing in line to purchase an armful of other zombie

books when the yellow-orange cover caught my eye.  I have mixed feelings about this book, and will probably read it again very soon.  In fact, to be honest I absolutely hated it the first few times I read it.

I liked the general idea of the story, but even then I couldn't be sure because of the erratic drawing style.  I wasn't sure if I understood everything I was meant to because I couldn't follow the drawings.  Even after reading it a few times, while I think I understand most of it I still have a nagging feeling that something is missing.  I kept the book because I'm a zombie fan and I don't like to give up on something zombie-themed.

.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

After my latest reading, I realized that I did understand what I was meant to.  The art even became easier to understand as well.  I recommend this book to any graphic novel fan, as well as any artist.  They may have an easier time from the outset.  To anyone else who wants to give it a go, I give you this advice: don't read too much into the novel.  Sit back, relax, and let it take the course it was meant to.

(Just as an aside, it took me forever to finish this post because I kept wondering what to write.  At the outset of starting this blog I promised myself I'd never tear another person's work completely apart, especially since I don't have anything published myself.  Therefore, even though I may not give something a rave review, I still want to make sure that I find positives in the media I review.)

Spears, Rick (Rob G) "Dead West"

I bought this book from a discount rack at a local bookstore solely because it was a graphic novel with zombies.  I was standing in line to purchase an armful of other zombie books when the yellow-orange cover caught my eye.  I have mixed feelings about this book, and will probably read it again very soon.  In fact, to be honest I absolutely hated it the first few times I read it.

I liked the general idea of the story, but even then I couldn't be sure because of the erratic drawing style.  I wasn't sure if I understood everything I was meant to because I couldn't follow the drawings.  Even after reading it a few times, while I think I understand most of it I still have a nagging feeling that something is missing.  I kept the book because I'm a zombie fan and I don't like to give up on something zombie-themed.

.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

After my latest reading, I realized that I did understand what I was meant to.  The art even became easier to understand as well.  I recommend this book to any graphic novel fan, as well as any artist.  They may have an easier time from the outset.  To anyone else who wants to give it a go, I give you this advice: don't read too much into the novel.  Sit back, relax, and let it take the course it was meant to.

(Just as an aside, it took me forever to finish this post because I kept wondering what to write.  At the outset of starting this blog I promised myself I'd never tear another person's work completely apart, especially since I don't have anything published myself.  Therefore, even though I may not give something a rave review, I still want to make sure that I find positives in the media I review.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Golden, Christoher "The New Dead"



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="204" caption="Cover of The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology"]Cover of "The New Dead: A Zombie Antholog...[/caption]


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.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A super strange and exciting anthology...

I bought "The Best of All Flesh" at a local bookstore because I wasn't ready to start another book series, but I was running out of zombie material on my bookshelf.  I like to alternate book series with anthologies so that I don't get bored with either book style.  Anyways, this book sounded interesting because it was selected material from all three of the Books of Flesh Anthology Series.  I still want to get the other three books, but I figured it would be a nice way of finding out if the books were worth getting immediately, or worth holding off on buying.  After reading the composite anthology, I really do want to track the other books down !

The book was astounding !  I loved almost every single story in this book, and I found that the ideas were all fresh and new.  The zombie types ranged from voodoo to modern and everything in between.

One of the stories by Myke Cole, "Shouting Down the Moon", was really sad.  It's about two lovers who are separated by their enemies and attempt to reunite after death.  This story is also about two warring tribes, and features voodoo-infused zombism.

Barry Holander's story "Familiar Eyes" deals with a husband who cannot accept the fact that the mud-covered corpse that keeps coming after him is just a shell, and not his wife.  He repeatedly defies government orders and does not burn her body.  An interesting twist on the zombie myth - the longer the bodies are exposed to the air and not cremated, the more indestructible they become.  Another twist is that the zombies come back for the person they loved the most when they were alive, once that person is dead, they go back to their graves.

"Sitting with the Dead" by Shane Stewart explores the idea of speaking with the dead.  In the story, a man sits with his grandmother in the funeral home and talks with her and waits for her to turn into a ravenous cannibal corpse.  Meanwhile they say all the things that should have been said when she was alive.

I don't like tight spaces and crowds make me nervous, so the story "Charlie's Hole" by Jesse Bullington was really terrifying for me.  During the Vietnam War, a small group of soldiers are forced to go down into a tunnel presumably made by the enemy.  While down in the tunnel they are pursued by creatures, and cross paths with a terrifying old sage.  While every story in this book was amazing, this is probably the scariest (for me personally).  The ending is a real surprise too !

Immediately following Stewart's story is Jeremy Zoss' offering, "Electric Jesus and the Living Dead", which I was apprehensive about at first.  I'm not overly religious to the point of being preachy, but I do get nervous about how some authors portray God during the zombie apocalypse.  Despite the fact that Jesus is a talking electrical statue in Las Vegas, this story wasn't offensive.  Actually, it was pretty funny.  During the zombie apocalypse this stereotypical fat, spoiled, video gaming teenager is stranded in his house.  After a little while with no food he begins to hallucinate that his mother's cherished Jesus statue is answering his prayers and discussing a means of escape.  Instead of finding a patient, loving savior, the teen finds that the statue is cheeky. In one of my favorite scenes, the statue tells the kid to stop carrying on because he never prayed before and that if the kid doesn't like it, Jesus will move on and tend to the members of his flock that prayed to Him before everything went down the drain.

I don't want to give you a synopsis of all the stories in the book, but I am deadnut serious when I say that you absolutely MUST have this book.  The stories are very interesting and well thought-out.  This is also a rare book in that all of the stories are worth reading.  There wasn't a single story that I disliked or thought was less interesting than the rest.  No, the authors aren't very well known but they still have talent.  I would not hesitate to read another story written by any of them.  Seriously - go out and buy this book.  You won't regret it !  "The Best of All Flesh" will not be a disappointment !

Lowder, James "The Best of All Flesh"

I bought "The Best of All Flesh" at a local bookstore because I wasn't ready to start another book series, but I was running out of zombie material on my bookshelf.  I like to alternate book series with anthologies so that I don't get bored with either book style.  Anyways, this book sounded interesting because it was selected material from all three of the Books of Flesh Anthology Series.  I still want to get the other three books, but I figured it would be a nice way of finding out if the books were worth getting immediately, or worth holding off on buying.  After reading the composite anthology, I really do want to track the other books down !

The book was astounding !  I loved almost every single story in this book, and I found that the ideas were all fresh and new.  The zombie types ranged from voodoo to modern and everything in between.

One of the stories by Myke Cole, "Shouting Down the Moon", was really sad.  It's about two lovers who are separated by their enemies and attempt to reunite after death.  This story is also about two warring tribes, and features voodoo-infused zombism.

Barry Holander's story "Familiar Eyes" deals with a husband who cannot accept the fact that the mud-covered corpse that keeps coming after him is just a shell, and not his wife.  He repeatedly defies government orders and does not burn her body.  An interesting twist on the zombie myth - the longer the bodies are exposed to the air and not cremated, the more indestructible they become.  Another twist is that the zombies come back for the person they loved the most when they were alive, once that person is dead, they go back to their graves.

"Sitting with the Dead" by Shane Stewart explores the idea of speaking with the dead.  In the story, a man sits with his grandmother in the funeral home and talks with her and waits for her to turn into a ravenous cannibal corpse.  Meanwhile they say all the things that should have been said when she was alive.

I don't like tight spaces and crowds make me nervous, so the story "Charlie's Hole" by Jesse Bullington was really terrifying for me.  During the Vietnam War, a small group of soldiers are forced to go down into a tunnel presumably made by the enemy.  While down in the tunnel they are pursued by creatures, and cross paths with a terrifying old sage.  While every story in this book was amazing, this is probably the scariest (for me personally).  The ending is a real surprise too !

Immediately following Stewart's story is Jeremy Zoss' offering, "Electric Jesus and the Living Dead", which I was apprehensive about at first.  I'm not overly religious to the point of being preachy, but I do get nervous about how some authors portray God during the zombie apocalypse.  Despite the fact that Jesus is a talking electrical statue in Las Vegas, this story wasn't offensive.  Actually, it was pretty funny.  During the zombie apocalypse this stereotypical fat, spoiled, video gaming teenager is stranded in his house.  After a little while with no food he begins to hallucinate that his mother's cherished Jesus statue is answering his prayers and discussing a means of escape.  Instead of finding a patient, loving savior, the teen finds that the statue is cheeky. In one of my favorite scenes, the statue tells the kid to stop carrying on because he never prayed before and that if the kid doesn't like it, Jesus will move on and tend to the members of his flock that prayed to Him before everything went down the drain.

I don't want to give you a synopsis of all the stories in the book, but I am deadnut serious when I say that you absolutely MUST have this book.  The stories are very interesting and well thought-out.  This is also a rare book in that all of the stories are worth reading.  There wasn't a single story that I disliked or thought was less interesting than the rest.  No, the authors aren't very well known but they still have talent.  I would not hesitate to read another story written by any of them.  Seriously - go out and buy this book.  You won't regret it !  "The Best of All Flesh" will not be a disappointment !

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Smashing Anthology!


If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a big fan of Kim Paffenroth’s writing style.  My next step was to see what stories he would pick if left to his own devices.  My prayers were answered with his anthology "The World is Dead".  Paffenroth chose to divide his book into four categories : Work, Family, Love, and Life.  There are four stories in each category, excepting the last which has six stories.

I read this book in a weekend, while I was on vacation with my boyfriend.  I was up all night long with a ferocious cold and had brought "The World is Dead" in anticipation of having time to read.

All the stories were really good, and at the end I wound up feeling more sad about the end of the world than terrified.  The stories dealt with life after the dead had risen, and how we as a society would adapt to the new living conditions.  Some stories described people who went insane and became murderers, others lived their lives as though nothing happened.  More than a few people found ways to creatively join their loved ones in death.

David C. Pinnt’s story “Working Man’s Burden” is set in a meat packing factory where the dead are employed in the killing, cutting, and packaging of the meat.  [This story made me think twice about my chicken finger sub dinner, that’s for sure!]  The catch is that the dead are controlled by remote, and when they’re about to go homicidal, a person in a control room is warned.  Apparently there really is no substitute for an old-fashioned workforce.

Gustavo Bondoni’s “Bridge over the Cunene” is a story in the Family category.  A village has learned that they must make a sacrifice to the dead in order to preserve the well-being of their village.  The sacrifice is usually an animal, but things go wrong one day when the sacrifice is left behind and a young mother must decide who to give to the dead: herself or her son.  [I wound up crying at the end of this story.  Don’t think you’ve guessed the ending – I guarantee whatever you guess isn’t as sad as the actual story.]

If the world in David Wellington’s “Dead Man’s Land” ever comes true, we’re all in deep trouble.  In this story, during the outbreak people took refuge in stores like WalMart and Home Depot.  The managers of these stores became the kings of a feudal kingdom.  The people who were refused shelter in these stores met one of two fates.  Either they were eaten and joined the undead horde, or they were employed as runners between the other stores.  In short, goodbye democracy and women’s rights.  Even though this story is found in the Life category, I’m not sure if its much of a life to lead.

"The World is Dead" is a good book for anyone looking to escape the gore of the usual zombie story and gain some humanity.

Paffenroth, Kim “The World is Dead”



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia.  I guess I'd take shelter in a WalMart.  I'm there enough with my friends buying video games and office supplies.  But it would have to be a Super WalMart.  What good are tools if you have nothing to eat ?"]Wal-Mart location in Moncton[/caption]


If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a big fan of Kim Paffenroth’s writing style.  My next step was to see what stories he would pick if left to his own devices.  My prayers were answered with his anthology "The World is Dead".  Paffenroth chose to divide his book into four categories : Work, Family, Love, and Life.  There are four stories in each category, excepting the last which has six stories.

I read this book in a weekend, while I was on vacation with my boyfriend.  I was up all night long with a ferocious cold and had brought "The World is Dead" in anticipation of having time to read.

All the stories were really good, and at the end I wound up feeling more sad about the end of the world than terrified.  The stories dealt with life after the dead had risen, and how we as a society would adapt to the new living conditions.  Some stories described people who went insane and became murderers, others lived their lives as though nothing happened.  More than a few people found ways to creatively join their loved ones in death.

David C. Pinnt’s story “Working Man’s Burden” is set in a meat packing factory where the dead are employed in the killing, cutting, and packaging of the meat.  [This story made me think twice about my chicken finger sub dinner, that’s for sure!]  The catch is that the dead are controlled by remote, and when they’re about to go homicidal, a person in a control room is warned.  Apparently there really is no substitute for an old-fashioned workforce.

Gustavo Bondoni’s “Bridge over the Cunene” is a story in the Family category.  A village has learned that they must make a sacrifice to the dead in order to preserve the well-being of their village.  The sacrifice is usually an animal, but things go wrong one day when the sacrifice is left behind and a young mother must decide who to give to the dead: herself or her son.  [I wound up crying at the end of this story.  Don’t think you’ve guessed the ending – I guarantee whatever you guess isn’t as sad as the actual story.]

If the world in David Wellington’s “Dead Man’s Land” ever comes true, we’re all in deep trouble.  In this story, during the outbreak people took refuge in stores like WalMart and Home Depot.  The managers of these stores became the kings of a feudal kingdom.  The people who were refused shelter in these stores met one of two fates.  Either they were eaten and joined the undead horde, or they were employed as runners between the other stores.  In short, goodbye democracy and women’s rights.  Even though this story is found in the Life category, I’m not sure if its much of a life to lead.

"The World is Dead" is a good book for anyone looking to escape the gore of the usual zombie story and gain some humanity.

Lindqvist, John Ajvide "Let the Right One In"



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Cover of Let the Right One In: A Novel"]Cover of "Let the Right One In: A Novel"[/caption]


I read this book in preparation for the two movies.  My friends gave rave reviews to the movies ad I truly want to see them, but I believe that stories that come in multiple forms should be experienced in that order.  In this instance, read the book is followed by see the Swedish film, and ended with a viewing of the American film.  There are a few different reasons I follow this method.  One is that I’m already losing some richness of meaning and story by not being able to read it in the original language, and then secondly that I want to know what the author had in mind before I see other interpretations.  I don’t like reading a book and already having someone else’s ideas of how it should look in my mind.  I found that when I saw Vanilla Sky it made no sense whatsoever.  Then I found the original Spanish version, Abre los Ojos, which made infinitely more sense.  That was the defining moment in my philosophy.

The story itself is very interesting.  A little boy named Oskar is tortured by his classmates.  One night he meets mysterious Eli, a child his own age that lives in his apartment complex.  Eli lives with a man named Hakan, who incidentally, does Eli’s dirty work and murders people to bring Eli blood.  As Eli and Oskar become closer friends, Oskar learns Eli’s secret and has to decide whether or not to continue being friends with the vampire.

The story is a welcome change from the usual vampire mythos.  Instead of being the sex symbol that Anne Rice and Stephanie Mayer have written, Eli is a sexless, shape-changing vampire.  Eli also is repentant about having to kill in order to feed, and takes pains to make sure that the victims are not turned into vampires themselves.

The murder scenes in the book were certainly scary, but overall I thought that the characters were sad and pitiful.  It seemed like everyone in the book was really screwed up and had to overcome obstacles they placed in their own way.  I felt sorry for Oskar, who was the target of bullying and virtually ignored at home [excepting when his mother was nagging him], Eli was alone and due to being a vampire couldn’t ever have a normal relationship with anyone, Oskar’s father was a hopeless drunk, and other minor and major characters also had a myriad of problems.  The element of sadness in the book made it realistic.  People have problems, and when a writer includes the problems in the book, the characters have more personality and depth.

This book was an amazing read, and I’m looking forward to the two movies that have followed.  In addition, I’m looking forward to reading Lindqvist’s next novel, Handling the Undead.

Matheson, Richard "Hell House"



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="192" caption="Cover of Hell House"]Cover of "Hell House"[/caption]


Recently I started getting interested in haunted house stories, which represents a break in my usual zombie-filled reading list.  I read “I Am Legend” and absolutely loved it, and I wanted to see what Matheson could do given a haunted house theme.  I was in no way disappointed !

A scientist, his flaky wife, and two mediums are charged by a dying millionaire to investigate the phenomena of Belasco House.  Over the years, Belasco house has earned the reputation for being fiercely haunted, and is therefore also referred to as Hell House.  The four people are supposed to survive a week in Hell House, recording data and coming to a solid conclusion of whether or not the soul persists after death, and whether or not the house is actually haunted.

At times it was hard to remember that the book was set in the 1970s, because the language was modern.  Or, I suppose it could be said that the writing was ‘timeless’.  Don’t misunderstand me, I love disco, but I don’t want to read a ghost story in 2010 and constantly be reminded of the time period.  This attribute has kept Hell House a novel for the ages.

The haunting itself was masterfully written.  In the beginning I was afraid that the haunting phenomena would be tame and sparse, but in actuality Matheson was taking his time establishing the characters.  Once the haunting began, it was page-by-page madness.  I didn’t know from one moment to the next what to expect.  There was no predictability, and every time I thought I had figured out the haunting I was wrong.  Matheson’s greatest strength was in his ability to keep the reader in the perspective of the characters by never giving too much away at one time.

Towards the end of Hell House, I became worried that Matheson had written himself into a corner and wouldn’t be able to give the story the strong finish it deserved.  Thankfully, I was wrong again.  The ending had the right amount of suspense as well as closure.  The ending definitely ‘fit’ the book, both explaining the haunting as well as showing character growth.  By the final page, the characters had progressed in maturity and understanding in a natural way, almost as if they were real people.

Hell House is a great introduction to the works of Richard Matheson, but is also enjoyable to anyone who likes scary stories. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stephens, John Richard "The Book of the Living Dead"



[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="110" caption="Image via Wikipedia.  This is Mark Twain, one of the authors featured in the book."]Mark Twain 2[/caption]


I bought this book on impulse while browsing a local bookstore.  The subtitle, “Explore the other side of mortality with the world’s greatest authors” caught my eye.  I realized that I had read new stories from authors like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, but I hadn’t read anything before that.  The book contains stories from Washington Irving, H.P. Lovecraft, Mark Twain, and Jack London.  It never occurred to me before that some of those writers had delved into the dark side of literature.

The book opens with W. W. Jacobs’ offering “The Monkey’s Paw”.  This story has always been one of my favorites because of its simplicity.  It is a terrifying story and is told in a way that causes the imagination to run wild.

Theophile Gautier’s story “The Amorous Corpse” tells the story of the courtesan Clarimonde who is in fact a vampire.  I also think that she can be described as a succubus, because she comes to her victim in his dreams, even though she has an actual physical body as well.

“The Ghoul” by Sir Hugh Crawford deals with death rituals, and what happens when one is not mindful of another culture’s way of life.  It also deals with a hideous creature with a hunger for not-so-fresh human flesh.

Years ago, I had come across a version of “The Vampire of Croglin Grange” in a children’s book.  The story, written by Augustus Hare, was toned down so as to appear less frightening.  In the story, three siblings rent a house, and the sister is viciously attacked by a vampire.  After reading that story, I had trouble sleeping for a few nights.  I guarantee you will too.

Mark Twain’s social commentary “A Curious Dream (Containing a Moral)” was one of the more light-hearted stories.  In the story, a man spends his night on a park bench conversing with skeletons who are leaving their current cemetery for a better dwelling.  As with most Twain stories, it is thought-provoking and very enjoyable.

The book was a welcome change from the usual carnage in the zombie books I have read.  The stories were creative, insightful, and also invited the imagination to take part in the story.  Sometimes its nice to sit back and imagine what the monsters look like instead of being explicitly told.

Oh !  Last but not least the book contains the first mummy story that I've read.  I'm not going to tell you which one - I want you to find out for yourself.  It was one of the best stories in the book !

Brooks, Max "The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks"



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia.  This author Max Brooks - creator of one of the most believable zombie series ever."]Max Brooks shows off his Rocket Llama patch at...[/caption]


This book is very thin but very well written and illustrated.  The book examines 12 noteworthy incidents in zombie history and brings them to you in gory black and white.  One of my favorites is the explanation for the mummification method in ancient Egypt as a means to prevent the undead from rising.

The real strength of the book lies in its believability.  Every story in the book is believable.  For example, Brooks examines the plight of an African slave ship.  He explains that the slaves trapped in the hold were taken, one by one, by the zombie virus as one chained person leaned over and bit the other person.  Knowing about the conditions on the ships at that time from history class, I can easily imagine that a zombie virus would spread in a similar manner.  The drawings in the book are really well done, and actually cause the heart to quicken when anticipating a zombie attack.

This book is an excellent companion to Brooks’ other zombie works and I highly recommend it.  As an aside, when trying to persuade a zombie-phobe to actually give the monsters a try, it’s worthwhile using this book.  It’s a quick and engaging read.

Protter, Eric "Monster Festival"



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia.  This is a picture of the cover of Jacobi's work."]Revelations in Black[/caption]


Before introducing "Monster Festival", I’d like to mention that I have always been fond of it.  I first encountered it at my school library in elementary school, and read it in middle and high school several times after.  At one time, I could tell you every story (in order it appears in the book).  It also introduced me to my favorite illustrator, Edward Gorey.

The opening story, “What Was It?” by Fritz James O’Brien, is absolutely amazing.  The inhabitants of a boarding house are plagued by the arrival of an unseen assailant.  By unseen, I mean totally invisible.

“Revelations in Black” by Carl Jacobi, is an unusual vampire story.  It’s also very hard to find.  Most of his work (from what I can tell) is out of print.  In short, a man meets a woman vampire who lures him away.

When I was a kid in high school, I made a movie for a creative writing class based on “The Thing in the Cellar” by David H. Keller.  Until I made this story into a short film and really started to think about what the story meant, I was never afraid of basements.  Now I won’t go downstairs unless my dog is with me.

There are other stand-out stories in the book as well, but I’d like to discuss Edward Gorey for a moment.  He is the illustrator and author of many books and works of art.  His drawings are easily recognizable by the elongated forms of the people and animals, as well as the wild patterns.  Gorey’s drawings contain a plethora of patterns, on anything and everything.  Clothing, animals, wallpaper, and vases all have intricate designs.  Another recognizable aspect of his work is the eerie subject.  Most of his art is unsettling.  One piece that I have is a scene from the doorway of a large mansion.  In the middle of the picture is a baby, floating between the top and bottom floors of the house.  You can’t tell if the baby fell from the arms of the person above, or was being tossed in the air by the person on the first floor.

This book is a great introduction to many authors (Jacobi, O’Brien, and even Stoker), as well as to Edward Gorey.  If you’d like to get a book for a younger horror enthusiast, this book is appropriate.  "Monster Festival" was one of my first horror books and will most likely continue to be a favorite for as long as I live.