Monday, January 31, 2011

Cute crochet minions in every size...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="160" caption="Image by SewPixie via Flickr"]Creepy Cute Crochet[/caption]


Now, I know what you're thinking.  Yes this is a media review site.  However, this book is fairly important to me because it was what got me to start learning to crochet.  I was searching for "Cthulhu" one day when I was bored and I came across "Creepy Cute Crochet" by accident.  I went out and bought it the same afternoon (you should have learned by now that I am in impulse buyer of zombies, and anything book related.)

The patterns are ranked in terms of ease, but since I'm still a beginning I haven't done any of them yet.  The patterns are really nice and cover tons of ground with regards to the subject matter.  There are even wizards, Trojan warriors, and Amazonian women to crochet.

This book is a must-have for any crafty zombie lover !  In fact, I was perusing another blog and found out that windgie79 at craftster.org actually used the patterns as the basis for a whole set of Left 4 Dead zombies.  She made the specials, and they all look pretty cool !  If you want to check them out, go here: http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=286431.msg3245554#msg3245554

By the way - for those of you who are not familiar with amigurumi, they are cute Japanese crocheted dolls / toys.  They have branched out into all sorts of things such as ornaments for Christmas trees.  Amigurumi started out being animals, but the art form has taken on inanimate objects.  The key word being cute...just look at the figures on the book above.  Cute.  You can look up all sorts of patterns if you like, including one I just got a few minutes ago that features an eyeball with a nerve ending.  (http://www.instructables.com/id/Crocheted-Eyeball/ if you're looking for the pattern.)

Mel Gibson and the aliens...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Signs (film)[/caption]


Sometimes its interesting to look back over the years and see where certain people have found themselves.  Mel Gibson, for example, has been through numerous scandals since "Signs" was first released in 2002.  He has battled abuse, drug, alcohol, and other allegations.  Joaquin Phoenix supposedly tried to start a career as a rapper.  Rory Culkin, brother to Macaulay Culkin, recently appeared in the film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim vs the World.  Abigail Breslin grew up to become the witty girl who survives the zombie apocalypse in "Zombieland".  Last but not least, M. Night Shyamalan has had mixed reviews for his films, some being successful, and others not so much.  Its funny where life takes you sometimes.

"Signs" is my go-to scary alien movie.  There are very few scenes in which you can see the actual aliens, and I think that makes the film all the more special.  What's worse than fighting an enemy that you know nothing about, including the appearance and motives?  When we do catch glimpses of the aliens, they are reptilian, color-changing, and equipped with the ability to emit poison.  And they sneer (seriously - look in the reflection of the tv at the end - pause it and you'll see exactly what I'm saying !)

The acting was superb.  Mel Gibson plays Graham Hess, a reverend who has lost his faith following the death of his wife in an accident.  Joaquin Phoenix shines as Graham's brother Merrill, a baseball player who never made it into a professional league.  Abigail Breslin and Rory Culkin are better performers than their years would suggest.  Both affect a calm maturity throughout the film that is in keeping with losing their mother and living with a devastated father.

There is a scene in this movie that never fails to frighten me.  Its the main reason why I don't watch this movie at night, and why I keep my curtains closed when I go to bed.  In the very beginning of the movie Mel Gibson is awakened by Abigail Breslin, who is complaining that there's a monster outside her window.  So far its a normal exchange between a parent and a young child.  Gibson follows her into her room to tuck her into bed, and they begin discussing how the loss of Colleen (Gibson's wife, Breslin's mom) has affected them both.  When Gibson is getting ready to leave his daughter's room, he glances outside the window at the adjacent room.  Silhouetted on the roof in the moonlight is a tall, dark, inhumanly slender figure standing stock still.  I think that scene will haunt me for the rest of my life.  There is something malicious in the way the alien is standing there just watching.  Standing so still you can't even believe at first that its alive.

The film focuses on the interaction between the characters and the depth of the plot.  There are some philosophical bits in there too, about what kinds of people are in the world and how they react to a crisis.  Far from being preachy, this enhances the viewing experience because it leaves you with something deep to think about long after the credits have rolled.  Seeing little of the aliens during the film also makes them that much more terrifying when they're glimpsed.  You don't get time to get used to how they look.

"Signs" was and is a great film.  As alien movies go, I think its the best I've ever seen.  Its certainly the most scary - because it deals with an alien invasion on a human scale.  And honestly, if that were ever to happen, you'd be worrying about how to take care of your family and what comes after, not worrying about it on a global scale.  When all is said and done, the invasion in your front yard is more pressing than what's happening elsewhere, and that's exactly why this movie is terrifying.

A stylish update...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="204" caption="Cover of The Haunting"]Cover of "The Haunting"[/caption]


"The Haunting" is based on an unremarkable book by Shirley Jackson.  The movie, on the other hand, is very enjoyable.  Liam Neeson is a great asset to the film as always, and Catherine Zeta Jones is a great supporting actress.

"The Haunting" has an interesting plot - Liam Neeson plays Doctor David Marrow, a man intent on finding evidence of the supernatural.  Catherine Zeta Jones, Owen Wilson, and Lili Taylor are study subjects picked from a vast survey for a study on sleep health.  As can already be suspected, things go poorly for all involved.

The haunting phenomena is different from the book - it's more agressive, dangerous, and frightening.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the lion-shaped draft dodger in the fireplace.  It seems to drop out of nowhere at first and scare Lili Taylor (who plays the mentally unhinged Eleanor).  When the huge metal lion makes its second appearance, it takes Owen Wilson's head completely off his shoulders !  Word to the wise - stay out of fireplaces that are so big you could host a tea party in them.

The story is greatly enhanced by the addition of a pedophile angle regarding Hugh Crain (the man who built the mansion).  He brings children up from the factories and has them live with him, and its found out that the children disappear.  Anytime children and weird people with terrible motives are combined, its sure to be frightening.  Other haunting phenomena include moving walls, angry bedposts, blood writing on the walls, and a veritable host of other supernatural goodies.

Each of the actors and actresses played their parts well.  No one stood out as being out of character - everything was believable.  The sets were lavish and creepy, which was what you'd expect from such a large house with a terrible history.

"The Haunting" is more enjoyable and scary than the book on which it was based ("The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson).  If you're the kind of person that likes to read the book and watch the movie - read the book first - no matter what !  I really enjoyed watching "The Haunting", and I think you will too.

Thoughts on a mediocre haunting...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="208" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]The Haunting of Hill House[/caption]


At the outset, I'd like to say that I read Richard Matheson's "Hell House" just before I read "The Haunting of Hill House", which was probably the biggest literary snafu of my life.  It's far better to read Jackson first, because its an older novel and in many ways, more of a subtle haunting.

"Hell House" comparison aside, I thought "The Haunting of Hill House" was a tad boring.  The haunting phenomena was subtle (as in some pounding on the doors, holding hands with what you thought was a friend but was a ghost), and very spaced out in the book.  I prefer haunting stories to take you by the scruff of your neck, drag you to hell and back several times, and leave you begging for mercy at the end.  I didn't feel that way about "The Haunting of Hill House" at all.  This is one of the only times that I have said in my life that the movie was better.  (The movie made in 1999 with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta Jones.)

One of the biggest problems I had with the book were the characters.  In the beginning I liked Theo, the mostly cheerful and witty assistant who has a slight inclination towards a sixth sense.  As the book progressed, I found that Theo was selfish, annoying and catty.

As for the character we take as our main, Eleanor (Nell), she's a loon.  I can't tell what's actually happening to her versus what's going on in her own mind.  She's a weak character who keeps reminding herself that she's "really here, really doing this" since she's broken out of her mother and sister's control.  Her suicide at the end of the book is no real surprise.  Despite the fact that the curve she crashes the car into is supposed to have caused many deaths, I think Eleanor would have found a way to kill herself at some point.  She wasn't used to having the freedom to run her life, and as the novel progresses I see that as being what causes her to go mad, not the influences of the house.  Perhaps the house did a little prodding, with writing messages in blood on the walls saying "Welcome Home Eleanor" twice, but I still blame her weak mind instead of the house.

The opening sentence was so frightening, so promising that the rest of the book couldn't be anything but disappointing.  Starting off describing a house where "whatever walked there walked alone" and ending it in a predictable suicide by an already unstable character is not the stuff of a literary classic.  Perhaps when it first was published it was terrifying, but now it feels outdated and boring.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Whatever you do, don't yank his chain !


Trilogy of Terror


Ok - so apparently this is what I do at night when I need to go to sleep before work but can't - I blog.

Anyhow, about "Trilogy of Terror".  I first saw the second movie on TV when I was a kid, and that was when I was introduced to the main attraction of the movie - a little Zuni Fetish doll named He Who Kills.  (If you're wondering what he looks like, he's on the cover of the DVD...)  Nasty little guy, isn't he ?  All the stories in the movie are based on Richard Matheson stories, and all star Karen Black, as are the stories in "Trilogy of Terror II".

I decided to buy "Trilogy of Terror" since I'd never seen the first movie.  The movie was filmed in 1975.  The effects are very much on par with the time period - but I think they're still relevant today.  The little Zuni Fetish doll looks frightening when he is first taken out of his box, silly when he first starts running around, and is the epitome of a nightmare when he begins wielding kitchen knives.  (Apparently his name is not a misnomer.)

The other two stories in the film, "Julie" and "Millicent and Therese" are alright.  "Julie" deals with a psycho teacher who somehow cons her students into falling for her, with mortal results, and "Millicent and Therese" deals with two polar opposite sisters who can't get along.

By far the most memorable vignette in the movie is the last, sporting my favorite Zuni Fetish doll.  If you're wondering about the title, the vignette is called "Amelia", after the woman who is the central character.  Apparently I'm not alone in my abject terror of the doll because on an IMDB.com forum, I found a post entitled, "That mother f'ing doll!!, which can be found here   http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073820/board/nest/113227049.

On a side note, apparently the Zunis are a Native American tribe from the western United States, and the dolls they make are of cornhusk, NOT African wood.  I will be reading Matheson's short story "Prey" to see if these details are there.

What a great movie !  Karen Black is a versatile actress who can play many characters in the same movie without seeming ridiculous.  Her signature hair will always give her away, but nonetheless, her acting is superb.  The vignettes in the movie are all original and very entertaining.  If you are looking for a seasoned classic, I would suggest "Trilogy of Terror".

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A "Hell" of a movie...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="210" caption="Cover of The Legend of Hell House"]Cover of "The Legend of Hell House"[/caption]


Usually I am not thrilled about movies based on books.  The 1973 version of "The Legend of Hell House" was an exception.  It is based on the book "Hell House" by Richard Matheson, and I wanted to see it primarily out of curiosity.  At first I thought Vincent Price was in it, until I realized what year it was filmed, and then I decided I'd watch it to see how close of an adaptation they had made.  Generally speaking, adaptations aren't as good as the book.  I was also interested in what kinds of special effects were utilized, given the year.

"The Legend of Hell House" was a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel.  The special effects were good - used sparingly and in the right places.  There were a few scenes I thought could have been included, including Doctor Barrett's struggle in the steam room with an unseen, gelatinous-feeling monster.  However, even without this scene the movie was effective.

The dialog was in keeping with the book - there were some lines that sounded as though they came straight from the book.  (Which, given that the book was published in 1971 and adapted into film in 1973, makes it not only possible but likely.)  The house and characters were also straight out of the book.  The only incongruency was Doctor Barrett's age.  Although I thought he was slightly older in the book, Clive Revill was still a very convincing Doctor Lionel Barrett.

The movie tastefully included some parts of the book which I thought would be impossible to render in 1973.  The movie treated the subject of Emeric Belasco's sexual deviancy in terms of innuendos and suggestions.  With regards to horror movies, I prefer a more roundabout sexual approach - I don't like mixing sex and horror.  If its a contributing factor to the house being evil, so be it.  I don't care to be subjected to 20 minute scenes proving the point.

I suggest reading the book first, but thats standard advice I'd give anyone.  The movie is very enjoyable to watch - even though I'm seeing it in 2011 for the first time.  For me, "The Legend of Hell House" lives up to its name.

A knockout book from a new author...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="183" caption="Image by Buz Carter via Flickr - that's the zombie mask from Tripp's site.  Isn't it cool !?"]"Rise Again" Zombie "half-mask&...[/caption]


Ben Tripp's "Rise Again" is a relatively recent addition to the annals of gore-encrusted zombie literature.  Before I get into the review, I have a terrible thing to admit.  Its absolutely unforgivable, but its true.  I wasn't even aware of the existence of "Rise Again" until I went searching on google for "zombie bookmarks".  Ben Tripp offers not only these, but other goodies on the novel's website (riseagainthenovel.com).  After having downloaded the bookmarks and that insanely cool mask pictured at the left, I had to buy the book.  I'm not a freebie-seeking-heel you know.

Anyhow, I went straightaway to a bookseller because I had to have the novel in my hands that instant.

"Rise Again" is on my favorite zombie novels list.  This book seems to have it all !  The rag-tag group of survivors is lead by Danny, an Iraqi war veteran with mental and physical scars who is pursuing her runaway sister when the crisis breaks out.  The other characters are just as strong - as are the emotions you feel for them.  All of the characters have unique quirks that make them seem like real people.  For instance, there's Danny's best friend Amy, the veterinarian.  She has a knack for stating things that at first may seem obvious, but is in fact very deep and purposeful.

You may think me awful for my next point, but I assure you, its very true.  Its nice to know that sometimes books estimate physical damage correctly.  Danny goes through so many dangerous situations and has her body wracked by adrenaline, impacts, pretty much anything you can think of (and one or two I'd bet my life on you wouldn't see coming).  The amount of injuries she suffers only adds to the realism.

The zombies themselves are terrifying.  At first, the spread of infection seems rather lame.  People running around screaming and then falling dead.  The next step is that the begin to rise.  They wander around and bump into things (still not entirely frightening).  The attacks don't happen all at once.  Rather, one zombie decides to bite and then the feeding frenzy begins.  The zombies also evolve as the story continues.  The zombies evolve in waves - each new wave of infection creates more adept zombies.

I was unable to put  Ben Tripp's book "Rise Again" down for any significant length of time.  The characters and story were interesting, as was the portrayal of the zombies.  I really hope there is a sequel some day.  The ending almost killed me - it was poignant and terrifying at the same time.  The best part ?  I have no idea what the ending meant.  The ending is beautifully ambiguous - it can be interpreted in at least three different ways.  I love endings like that, where the reader is carried away on a tidal wave wondering what happened !  Even if you're not the type that likes that kind of ending, I assure you - this book is not to be missed !

Monday, January 24, 2011

Support our Authors !



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]A participant of a Zombie walk, Asbury Park NJ...[/caption]


Drop everything and go right now to http://www.nightshadebooks.com/editorials and vote for your favorite stories !  Most of the stories are from "The Living Dead 2".  There are some really good entries in the contest and it will be hard to pick, but don't let yourself go uheard !  The deadline is March 26, 2011 at 23:59 PDT so you've got some time to go back and reread the stories before you make your decision !

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The [Undead] British are coming !



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Shaun of the Dead[/caption]


"Shaun of the Dead" came out in American theaters when I was a senior in high school.  At the time, I was heavily obsessed with Stephen King and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I saw a trailer for "Shaun of the Dead" and knew I had to track it down, at all costs.

When I finally found (and rented) it, I took it to a friend's house.  We sat in her room watching it in the dark, with her pet ferret running around biting our pants legs and scaring us to death.  It was such a well-done movie - we didn't know whether to scream in terror or die laughing.

The chemistry between actors and actresses can make or break a movie.  Audiences can see right through the actors if they aren't really enjoying the project.  Conversely, if the actors have bonded with one another, the world movie  transcends the screen and becomes real.  The audience becomes one with the story, and they become emotional participants.  "Shaun of the Dead" is a movie in which the chemistry between the actors is apparent.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are believable as best friends, with Kate Ashfield adeptly playing the girlfriend wanting more from life.  Bill Nighy appears to genuinely love his life-after-death transition.

The movie was sparse in dialog, which I believe to be a good thing.  Rather than getting caught up in chatter that was either painfully obvious or superfluous, the dialog was witty and recurring.  Lines that were used innocuously in the beginning came back to haunt the characters later in the story.  The dialog was very witty - often offering puns on everyday phrases and situations.  I have no idea how the cast and crew survived the filming without laughing during every scene.

Humor aside, "Shaun of the Dead" shines as a true horror film in its own right.  The blood and gore effects were extremely convincing, and contributed to more than a few nights of missed sleep on my part.  One scene in particular was upsetting - a certain cast member is dismembered limb by limb, with an added emphasis on the removal of the guts.  Egads but it looked so real !   Careful attention was paid to all of the supporting zombie horde members as well.  While on the subject of the zombie horde, its worth noting that "extras" used in the earlier parts of the film came back for another appearance as zombies.  This seemingly little touch only served to heighten the experience as it was a grim reminder that in a zombie apocalypse, you don't have the luxury of dispatching random strangers.  Those zombies will be friends, family, neighbors, lovers, acquaintances...real people that you knew.

This film was an all around pleasure to watch, and had rewatch value.  Every time I watch "Shaun of the Dead" I discover a detail which I hadn't noticed before.  If this DVD is not in your collection (or on whatever media you use) then you need to rectify the problem.  This is clearly a must-have movie !

Saturday, January 22, 2011

YAY ! At last - zombie poetry !



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="213" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "Zombie Haiku: Good Poetry For Y...[/caption]


Finally !  Zombies are shambling into the world of poetry !  "Zombie Haiku" by Ryan Mecum was more entertaining than I had first expected it to be.  I thought that the book would be a disembodied jumble of different haiku versus dealing with zombies.  Apparently I was wrong.  The book follows the journey of one man during the apocalypse.  The book begins with regular nature-themed haiku (which are written well) and progresses towards the apocalypse and one man's fall from human to undead.  Even as a zombie he dutifully records his experiences.  (Another plus is that the poetry changes noticeably as the man slips deeper into becoming a zombie.)  The book is interspersed with pictures and blood splotches which add to the creepy mood of the book.

More than once I found myself laughing out loud at the true absurdity of the haiku verses.  This book was written to be read aloud !  I love watching the reactions of people who have absolutely no idea what I'm reading.  The looks on their faces are hysterical !  "Zombie Haiku" is a welcome change from the usual hard-core gore and sad stories that I'm used to reading and reviewing.  If you're looking for the lighter side of being dead - look no further !  (I'd like to include a verse or two in here, but I don't want to run the risk of copyright infringement - trust me - it's worth reading so go out there and buy it !)

Blog-turned-book...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Cover of Day by Day Armageddon"]Cover of "Day by Day Armageddon"[/caption]


When I was perusing the shelves of a local bookstore this summer, I accidentally bought the sequel to this book before buying "Day by Day Armageddon" by J. L. Bourne.  Those of you who know me might not be surprised, because when it comes to zombies I literally voraciously acquire any material I can.  I went back the next day and not only purchased the first novel, but three other zombie books as well.  The lesson being that fewer trips to the bookstore equal more money in my pocket.

It has taken me awhile to write this review because I wanted it to be a fair review, both to the author, and to whomever reads my website.  Please, keep in mind that the faults that I found in this book are due more to my preference than in any shortcomings of the author.

I'm going to start by saying that this book is not for everyone.  While I wasn't impressed with it, my best friend read it and the sequel twice back to back within two weeks of me giving him the books.  (Don't be alarmed - I loan my books all the time.  That's why I'm divided on the new ereader craze...)  Both points of view will be discussed in this review.

I wasn't thrilled with "Day by Day Armageddon" primarily because I'm  an optimist with experience (also known as a cynic.)  The characters were able to escape too many situations that should have ended in death.  However, it seemed that at the last moment all necessary conditions would be met.  Conditions such as, there's a girl stuck in a car who just happens to be noticed by the main character who just happens to be able to lure the zombies away, and she just happens to be on the verge of death but not die and is able to fully recuperate.  Miracles like this are good in a book, but not on every page.  Also, if memory serves correct, none of the main "good guys" die in the first book.  To me, that's a little unbelievable.  Even with having read so many zombie books, I give myself about two weeks during a real zombie apocalypse (2 weeks after everything goes totally to hell) before I make a mistake or my luck runs out and I'm dinner.  So for me, it's hard to imagine all these people managing to survive for so long without a loss of a person.

That being said, there were some really outstanding qualities in "Day by Day Armageddon".  The first being the characters.  Each character is interesting and brings a new point of view to the book and a new skill to the entourage of survivors.  The main character is a military figure who is a strong leader, as well as a pilot.  The format of the book is also intriguing - I like books that are set up as journals and diaries.  This book format helps me keep track of just how quickly (or slowly) the zombie apocalypse actually occurs.  It also keeps the reader more intimately associated with the characters, because there is no omniscient narrator describing the whole scene.  The reader is experiencing everything from the direct point of view of another person and what is important to that person.  This approach makes the characters of this book much more real.

I said earlier in the review that my friend loved the book and its sequel.  He loves playing flight simulator games, and uses pilot language like "check 6" before getting off the telephone.  For him, this book was like a dream come true - it had all the heroic trappings of a good military novel, and had zombies to boot.  (The main character knowing how to fly military aircraft didn't hurt either !)

As I bring this review to a close, I would like to strongly urge you to buy this book and make your own opinions.  Previously stated, and now stated again, the issues I had with the book are due to my own perception of a zombie apocalypse and not to any faults of the author.  I view it as being chaotic, with little chance for luck.  J.L. Bourne is a great author, and I am looking forward to reading other books he writes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Death's Eye View of the Apocalypse



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - majestic when living - unsurmountable when undead..."]Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), Is...[/caption]


I was in a local bookstore itching to buy a new zombie book to add to my collection.  (It will be permanently stated that at no time do I need a "new book" as I always have at least 10 waiting to be read...but when I feel the urge to buy a new book, there's no logical way of stopping me.)  Anyhow, I was perusing the shelves and I stumbled on "Empire" by David Dunwoody.  The cover is green with a huge silhouette of the Grim Reaper and the title written sideways, subtext neatly boxed in with bones.  All in all a very handsome cover.

Dunwoody is a master storyteller - he managed to juggle a mess of characters with ease.  I always knew who was who in the story, and he didn't have to keep reminding me every time I encountered a character.  The character's personalities were all very intriguing, and each was distinct.  The story had an effect similar to the movie Crash, if you've ever seen that.  The characters were all inter-connected and every one served to move the plot forward.  Dunwoody also played with the stereotypes of the characters - often revealing surprising (and horrifying) secrets at the perfect moment.  I think my favorite character is Death himself, but we'll touch on his role later.

One of the most chilling scenes was a recollection from the mind of a police officer.  He recalled an epic struggle against an undead great white shark (a 12 footer that he and a fishing crew pulled up onto the deck during a routine fishing run).  Of course, the shark is attacking in the teeth of a rainstorm.  That scene is sheer perfection !  I've always loved shark stories and sharks in general, and I think few things make a person feel more insignificant than the idea of a great white, more so if the beast is undead.  Yeesh !

Dunwoody comes up with a really unique way of explaining the start of the plague.  It starts out as dark energy seeping from places in the Earth, back from when the universe came together.  Humans experimented with the energy and the way it brought back all dead life forms and accidentally gave the undead the ability to spread their disease.  Before human interference the dead could only eat the living, but afterward...well, all hell broke loose.

"Empire" is a thinker's zombie novel.  It made me consider the apocalypse from a whole new angle.  What exactly would Death do about zombies ?  Would he even care ?  If Death regulates the passing of living souls, what about husks without souls ?  Reading from Death's perspective is always interesting, and this is no exception.  It's interesting to see things from the point of view of a personification who has seen ages go by.  (If you don't mind humor and satire, try the Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett - they feature Death heavily.)

I'm not going to give away anything else about the plot or the characters, other than to say that this book truly shows the polarized nature of humans.  There are characters who are truly good, some who pretend to be good, and some who are so evil its almost incomprehensible.  David Dunwoody's "Empire" was a page turner !  This is the kind of book you read and then loan to friends so they can marvel at the story too.

Undead gone wild !



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia (voodoo zombie - I couldn't find the book's cover)"]A zombie in Haiti[/caption]


"Zombie Zoology" is just about as wild as it gets.  All puns aside, I am really impressed with this book.  I was a little skeptical at the beginning when I bought the book, because I wasn't sure how many zombie tales could involve animals and yet still be fresh and exciting.  Although the movie was a little monkey-heavy, it was still really interesting.

I don't think there is a story that I preferred over any of the others.  Each story was unique and memorable.  However, for the sake of tradition (and to hopefully get you to buy this book...) I will mention a few.

It's a good thing I'm not so much of a cat person as a dog person, or else "Yule Cat" would have me rethinking my choice of pets.  Ted Wenskus really knows how to stick it to naughty children, but I think the idea of an ancient, legendary, zombie cat is a little much punishment (which only serves to amplify the effect of the story.  So much horror for so little a transgression.)  The story goes that on Christmas Eve in Iceland, you need to wear something new or else the Yule Cat will get you.  One young man learns the hard way when his petulant little sister is snatched that some legends are not meant to be messed with.  The story was well written - and believe me, you will never look the same way at a cat !  To say the least, the imagery of the Yule Cat itself was very effective and creepy.

"Loss of Vector" by William Wood is a particularly freaky tale.  It details the voyage of some astronauts trying to recover a set of experiments from a defunct shuttle.  What they find isn't what they expected.  A still-alive (sort of) chimp is only the first of their worries.  The atmosphere of the story is very effective and chilling - I had to sleep with my light on for most of the night over the next week or so.

J. Gilliam Martin's  "Gift Horse Mouth" was absolutely crazy.  Reading this story is not unlike being flipped upside down and slammed repeatedly into the floor.  Every time I thought that the kid's life couldn't get worse (what's worse than a dead father, a drugged-up mother who sells herself in town and is never around, losing your best friend, etc.) something else happened.  Adding to that a Satan-crazed friend who decides that there is no other course of action than demonic resurrection and possession and you have a hell of a tale.  I think the worse part of the story is that throughout, you know that every decision that the characters are making is terribly wrong, and the outcomes are worse than you expect.

Bryan Pinkerton certainly knows how to draw a morbid laugh from his readers.  "SWAT" follows an elite group bent on keeping the zombie plague contained.  There's just one little obstacle.  Or, a million little obstacles, depending on your point of view.  Finally, a story that addresses the idea that blood-borne pathogens such as a zombie virus should be carried by mosquitoes.  The story is hair-raising, nerve-wracking, and will cause you to laugh at the sheer absurdity of the idea of humans surmounting the plague.

This is an excellent book !  It's a really nice detour from the usual zombie tales, and packs a punch.  My only complaint is that there are a few more editing errors than normal, and while that didn't hinder my comprehension of the stories, it was irritating at times.  That being said - you need to have this book on your shelf !  An extra plus is that the cover of "Zombie Zoology" sports one of the nastiest looking zombies ever.  You can almost hear the shrill screaming of attacker and victim...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Yet another great anthology if you're looking for something new...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Cover of The Undead: Zombie Anthology"]Cover of "The Undead: Zombie Anthology"[/caption]


Yet again another gem of a book from Permuted Press.  "The Undead Zombie Anthology" is a really great anthology.  I'm not familiar with many of the authors, but I wouldn't hesitate to read anything they write from now on - every author is top of their game.

Usually when reviewing anthologies, I pick a few stories that I showcase based on a variety of factors.  As I was reading this anthology, I kept trying to figure out which stories to showcase.  I just finished this book about three hours ago and I still can't decide what to include!  Do I include the story about the lycanthrope who can't decide what to do about his zombie father?  Or maybe the story about the zombie squid - that was a doozy!  Or perhaps I should mention the one where Frankenstein's monster joins the fray against the undead, or the woman who falls through an abandoned mine shaft and into the middle of a reality TV show where contestants battle for their lives against the undead.  The story about the two scientists (read: virus-creating-suckers) stranded on an island with the ravenous and oh-so-dead bodies of their research crew?  Maybe the story that teaches us that just when it can't get any worse, it does because you get possessed by an evil force during a zombie apocalypse?  No, I think in the end I will just say that you absolutely have to read this book.

All of the stories are well written, taking only about four or five pages to make you wet your pants.  Each author's voice is distinct, with a unique style and perspective on what it means to be a zombie.  Some of the stories are traditional, featuring hordes of starving shamblers.  Other stories feature zombies who are cognizant of the impending change.  I guarantee this book of horrors has something for every zombie fan.