Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Before "The Walking Dead"...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - not quite "DEADWORLD" but better than I can draw !"]Zombie[/caption]


...there was "DEADWORLD" (or so they tell me).  I bought the DEADWORLD OMNIBUS a few months ago based on the strength of the cover - it looked awesome.  There are a horde of water color zombies whose features are just barely recognizable.

Immediately "DEADWORLD" distinguishes itself from the typical zombie story.  King Zombie is free from Hell and looking for a specific man and a specific book that can help him to open wide the gates of Hell.  When that task is complete, all the horrors of Hell will walk the Earth and they will kill everything in their path.  Each book in the series adds new characters and new plot twists that keep the story engaging, and the reader guessing.

"DEADWORLD" really shines in its different artists.  Each book has been inked and created by a different mix of people, and the vast differences in styles are strangely complementary.  Some drawings are frantic and sparse and others use more contrast between stark white and deep black.  The different drawings assist the reader in switching from viewpoint to viewpoint within the story.

King Zombie is drawn mostly the same in each book, but with enough differences to fit in well with the overall art.  My favorite part of King Zombie is his attitude: fully badass and cheeky.  He hides beneath shades, and rides around on a motorcycle with a bandanna on his head.  His lines are occasionally amusing - yet I found myself feeling guilty for chuckling along with him.  Admittedly, sometimes I wound up rooting for the old sack of bones (oops - I know I should have like the survivors more, but King Zombie definitely has more interesting moments).

The zombie formula is also different in "DEADWORLD".  The zombies have added power and a definite hierarchy, in part from their book, and also in part from their direct link to Hell.  They are able to transfer into different bodies, mind-talk from far away, and all heed the call of King Zombie.  Definitely good stuff (from a literary point, anyway).

"DEADWORLD OMNIBUS" is a fairly quick read (named OMNIBUS because it contains all the DEADWORLD books to date), so if you like graphic awesomeness you need to add this to your collection.

 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Severe story withdrawal...



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="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".  "]Different ways of wearing a balaclava.[/caption]


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.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Abounding Disappointment



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Anthony Hopkins[/caption]


I have been looking forward to "The Rite" since I saw the first commercial.  Anthony Hopkins doesn't make bad movies...nor does Alice Braga (loved her in "Predators" and "I Am Legend").  This will be the first time I completely give away everything about a movie.

Based on the previews I thought it was going to be amazing.  Terror, possession, deep soul rending spirituality...the actual movie?  Not so much.  It took absolutely forever for the movie to get rolling.  I never thought it would end.  At first, I thought it was the kind of movie that you put on while cooking or doing homework, then I decided there wasn't enough plot to actually do that.

Here's the plot - kid with baggage grows up in his father's house which is attached to a funeral home (the family business).  His mother died when he was young, and he decided he didn't believe in God anymore.  He doesn't want to be a mortician - so he becomes a priest.  His lack of faith and an accident cause him to go to Rome to study to be an exorcist.  He is introduced to Alice Braga (a journalist in his exorcism class) and Anthony Hopkins (the best and most prolific exorcist in all of Italy.)  There, he apprentices with Hopkins and sees a variety of phenomenon (strange bites, horses with red eyes, demon infested individuals telling the unknown).  In short order, Hopkins becomes possessed and it's up to the unbelieving rookie to exorcise him.  The unbeliever finds faith in what is probably the best ten minutes of the whole film, and then...wait for it...wait for it...he becomes a regular priest post-exorcism.  Seriously?!  You regain your faith, become an awesome exorcist - and that's what you do with yourself?!  (Oh - and Hopkins recovers, and Braga writes an article on exorcism.)

Oh, it should be mentioned that Rutger Hauer had a hand in the movie (he starred in it).

Overall, it wasn't that great of a movie.  The ending was good, but not enough that I want to buy the movie.  The special effects were ok, but the crew overlooked many opportunities for a cheesy jump from the audience.  To be fair, Colin O'Donoghue was pretty good as the unbelieving priest-in-training.  "The Rite" certainly wasn't the worst movie I have ever seen, but it was by no means the thriller I was expecting.  Better luck next time!

 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Zombie Pulp (fiction - not puree)



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="198" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "Down the Road: A Zombie Horror ...[/caption]


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.

Death falls



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Cover of Empire: A Zombie Novel"]Cover of "Empire: A Zombie Novel"[/caption]


I finished reading David Dunwoody's "Empire's End" a few weeks ago but haven't been able to post anything because I've been so doggone busy writing exams.  I feel rather bad about this because it really is a great book.

The first book, "Empire" was an impulse purchase at a local bookstore.  When I saw online that the second book had come out, my eyes bugged out and I immediately bought it.  It arrived in the mail pretty soon and I was able to start it tout suite.

I was surprised at how easily I was able to pick up on the story again, after having read the first story so long ago.  In many ways, "Empire's End" feels more like a prequel than a sequel.  There is more background on Eviscerato, the circus ringleader who becomes infected, as well as on the plague itself.  My edition of the book also included a story about how the plague began and a re-print of Grinning Samuel.  I think the coolest part was how the supplemental material connected to the first and second books.  Everything made sense.

Dunwoody explores the origins of Death and what happens when it becomes more than an anthropomorphic personification, as well as what happened to some of the original survivors.  There is a boat-ton of gore and zombies (just how I like it!) as well as some new interesting characters.

If I were to pick the scariest thing about the book - Eviscerato's band of miscreant circus performers turned zombie horde.  Think Left 4 Dead - only worse.  There's a flame-thrower, a petrified man, and all sorts of others.  Scary stuff - especially considering that head honcho Eviscerato is a sentient zombie, capable of consciously amassing a zombie army and laying siege to a city.

There was one problem, however.  At the end of the book, I didn't understand Lily's relationship to Death.  (I'm sorry, Mr. Dunwoody - sometimes I miss things.)  That didn't deter me from enjoying this book.

On the other hand, I really loved how easy it was to transition from one set of characters to another within the story.  Dunwoody wrote about the characters long enough to advance the plot, and then when he reaches a cliffhanger - it's off to another set of characters.  In some books it's hard to keep track of who people are, and why I should care about them, and by the time I know it's time to read about other forgettable characters.  This certainly isn't the case with "Empire's End".

I haven't heard any news yet about a third "Empire" book, but I'm really hoping that one is written.  And soon!  I think even though the loose ends were tied up, there is still room to move within the "Empire" world.

"Empire's End" was a fitting and natural continuation of the first book, and I highly recommend reading both (and then joining me in bugging the author to write a third!)

Sometimes a poor review is better than a good one!



[caption id="" align="alignright" width="245" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]The typical zombie.[/caption]


A little while ago I was reading an e-mail from Severed Press (I get them from time to time), and I noticed an author had started a conversation about a poor review he had received for his book "White Flag of the Dead" (Book 1).  I went and read the review, and I decided that since the reviewer disliked it so much that I just couldn't not read it.  I like to be in the middle of the fray anytime that zombie literature is concerned, so I replied to the thread and straightaway went to purchase the book from amazon.com.  The book arrived quickly, which was good because I was just finishing the last few pages of "Down the Road" by Bowie Ibarra and was ready for another read.  (Despite the dozens of zombie books I have laying around already.)

I have not been able to put the book down!  Thanks a bunch, Joseph Talluto, I'm now averaging about 3 hours of sleep an evening because I can't stop reading the book.  That won't be changing anytime soon, either, because I just picked up the second book.  (Yes people - don't flip.  I bought the Severed Press edition, which means I need the second book, titled "Taking it Back" - by the same author.  If you purchased the original self print, you won't need another book until book 3.  Took me forever to figure that out online.  People on message boards - post the whole story or nothing at all!)

The story centers around a man named John who happens to have the perfect life:  newborn son, loving wife, and a home.  All of these things change when the ravenous dead begin to stagger around the  world.  John is faced with some very tough decisions and soon finds himself at the head of a group of survivors.  Since he was a school administrator, he certainly isn't a stranger to responsibility and his comfort with making important decisions quickly saves the group more often than not.

The story is fairly normal in the zombie genre - the zombies walk, the humans run, hide, fight, and try to stay alive.  What sets this book aside from the others in the genre is the characterization.  There are a myriad of realistic people all throughout the novel.  The opportunistic thugs that get between John and a little girl he wants to protect, the malcontent whose selfish ways place people in danger, and the wingmen who help the main character to get the heads rolling (so to speak).  The conversations in the book are also very realistic, and it's easy to get lost in the dialogue and the descriptions.  In fact, the first night I was reading the book I set out to "test the waters" by reading a chapter or two.  34 pages later it was 2:00 am and I had to get up in three hours to go teach school.  I probably didn't get very far because on page 29 I may have burst out crying (though I will neither confirm nor deny this).

I have two complaints about this book, and one is minor.  There are many typos in the book.  Sometimes they get in the way of the story, but mostly they don't.  The typos are either spelling, sometimes a word is missing, or the verb tense is off.  Being a teacher, that sort of thing bugs me - but the book was so good that I couldn't hold the typos against it too much.  (I wouldn't mind editing for a press house since I spend so much time reading the books anyway...hint, hint...)

The second complaint is that apparently I have to wait for the 3rd book.  That's tearing me apart !  True, I ordered the second book (part 2 of the Severed Press edition) and it should be here this week but still...I don't like waiting for book series.  It drives me crazy wondering what happened to the characters!

What an amazing book!  I just finished "White Flag of the Dead" yesterday, and luckily the second book arrived in the mail!  I'm now starting on the (shorter - but not by much) second book.  I'm totally in love with the series and will be watching it closely.  As the story progresses, the characters become reasonably better at their survival skills, but not to a point where it becomes realistic.  Their relationships grow, and the reader meets a host of new and interesting characters.  A few are lost along the way, but that's how it goes during the zombie apocalypse, right?

If you are looking for a fun summer reading book this would be it - with the added bonus that when people see you reading zombie literature in public they don't tend to make conversation.  "White Flag of the Dead" is perfect beach reading material - or anytime material!  Oh, and Joseph Talluto brings another element into zombie stories that I wouldn't wish on even my worst enemy - how do you make it through the zombie apocalypse with an infant child?!  Read "White Flag of the Dead" and see how it's done!

 

P.S.  Pit full of zombie heads.  No lie.  Now go read it!