Category Archives: zombies

Wish List Wednesday #104: Rhiannon Frater’s "The First Days"

Zombies, man.Velvet Reads spentSeptember shining the spotlight on the undead buggers, and one of thebooks that was featured was The First Days byRhiannon Frater.
This book is the first in a trilogy (As the Word Dies)published by Tor. But before Tor got their hands on it, Rhiannonself-published all three books. It was actually through her doggedpromotion and dedication to her craft that made the books the initialsuccess they were, thus garnering attention from Tor anddemonstrating she wasn’t some hack with some first drafts for sale. Ishould be sick of zombie novels, I really should. That said, thething that keeps me from declaring a moratorium on that particularmonster is the fact there are quite a few authors who don’t writeabout one-dimensional characters blasting their way through shamblinghordes. They leave that mindset to the video-game industry. AndRhiannon strikes me as an author who writers about characters, notzombies.
Here’s part of the write-up from Goodreads:
The morning that the world ends, Katie is getting ready for courtand housewife Jenni is taking care of her family. Less than two hourslater, they are fleeing for their lives from a zombie horde.

Throwntogether by circumstance, Jenni and Katie become a powerfulzombie-killing partnership, mowing down zombies as they rescueJenni’s stepson, Jason, from an infected campground.

Theyfind sanctuary in a tiny, roughly fortified Texas town. There Jenniand Katie find they are both attracted to Travis, leader of thesurvivors; and the refugees must slaughter people they know, who havereturned in zombie form.

Sounds good to me. What do you think?
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Filed under Rhiannon Frater, Wish List Wednesday, zombies

Rabid Rewind: The Walking Dead (Season One)

I was late to the dance when it came to The Walking Dead. I didn’t start reading the comic books until this year, so I had no clue what to expect when in the hype machine began at ComicCon 2010 for the TV series. And when the show finally premiered on AMC, a channel I don’t have, I had to wait for a chance to see it as a DVD collection. Well, this past summer I finally got the chance to see it, and now I can appreciate what all the hype was about.
As the first episode, “Days Gone Bye,” starts with Sheriff Rick Grimes crossing paths with a little girl turned zombie and roundly blowing her brains out, Frank Darabont lets the audience know that this is not going to be run-of-the-mill popcorn fare. Within the first two minutes, it is about as bleak and violent as it can get. But, it does get more bleak–and most certainly more violent. And, while the whole waking up from a coma to a post-apocalyptic landscape is far from original, like the graphic novel, it worked in setting tone and the stage for which the story would play out. Plus, taking a bicycle from a legless zombie offered its own macabre spin.
There were only six episodes to this first season, which seems really strange in the world of American TV, but the concise nature of that first season gave it a potent vibe, forcing the creators to pack a lot of punch in those episodes and get the audience hooked, not to mention willing to wait an entire year for the second season. The show seems to spend even more time getting to know each character than the graphic novels, and there are even a couple of characters I don’t recall seeing in the first few volumes of the books. The show effectively strikes its own chord and sets itself apart from not only the source material, but anything you can find on television.
In fact, there are moments through this series that feel like they slipped under the censors radar. Yeah, CSI and other forensic shows have some gruesome scenes from time to time–poking around inside cadavers isn’t pretty business-but The Walking Dead has to be the first time I’ve ever seen characters smear their clothes with zombie guts to camouflage their scent. The gruesome appearance of some scenes with the zombies are not the focus of the show, which is important if the show is going to survive with a mainstream audience. It’s the brutal nature of the relationships, and how some endure while others disintegrate over the course of events, which really acts as the heart of the show and keeps it moving forward.
The cast seems pitch-perfect. Andrew Lincoln captures the frailty and resilience of Sheriff Grimes, and disguises his English accent really well. I had no clue he wasn’t American until I watched the DVD extras. Sarah Wayne Callies is superb as Frank’s wife, Rachel. Jon Bernthal seems to be the guy of actor born to play the conflicted heel, as he portrays Shane, Rick’s best friend, and Rachel’s secret lover in the wake of the apocalypse. An added treat was seeing Michael Rooker as Merle, the hard-nosed bigot biker, since he is always fun to watch in films and television.
The second season starts very soon, but I won’t be able to see it until it comes out on DVD. Ah well. But if you have a chance to watch it, I say do it. And go find the first season on DVD somewhere, and watch that. It ought to be very easy to get caught up on what has happened so far, and the cliffhanger at the end of the first season promises to give some even more brutal storylines heading into the second season. It’s just a shame that Frank Darabont has walked away from the show. I don’t know why that is, but I really hope The Walking Dead doesn’t go the road of NBC’s Heroes, which fell apart at the seams after its first season.

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Filed under Frank Darabont, horror, Rabid Rewind, Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, TV show, zombies

Getting Graphic: "The Walking Dead Vol. 3" by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

The Walking Dead Vol. 3: Safety Behind Bars
written by Robert Kirkman
illustrated by Charlie Adlard
Image Comics (2005)
ISBN 9781582404875
At the end of Volume 2, Rick Grimes and what remained of his get-along gang had left Atlanta in search of safer ground from the zombie hordes, and had discovered an abandoned prison. But, as Volume 3 begins, it turns out the prison isn’t entirely abandoned. Once inside they find four people remaining–prison inmates, no less.
Tensions mount despite the new barrier in place between them and the zombies outside, as one prisoner admits to murdering his wife for cheating on him. The group stays and starts to make themselves at home behind bars, sorting out supplies and bedding arrangements, clearing out the dead and undead from the unoccupied areas of the prison. Rick even travels back to the farmhouse they’d left to encourage Hershel and his family to join them and turn the prison into a community, pooling their resources.
But, threats loom.
Despite the iron bars, concrete walls, and barbed-wire fences, the zombies are still everywhere, and everyone has to stay on their toes since warm weather is returning and the things seem to be getting a little more active. Then there is the whole shacked up with convicts dilemma. Plus, Tyreese’s daughter and her boyfriend are still plotting something behind everyone’s back and see the prison as the perfect place to carry it out.
The characters ring true on just about every page, though some of the dialogue is tiresome with its exposition and info-dumping. The motivations and conflicts between many of the characters feel genuine, and once again the dread of bad things to come germinates with them rather than the shambling corpses that surround them. The backdrop of a prison has been used in a lot of different movies and books, but this had its own vibe and felt brand new.
But, holy moly, is it bleak. Robert Kirkman et al show no remorse and just when you catch of whiff of contentment or happiness, the rug is pulled and the horrors awaiting them are even more gruesome than the last time. I loved this book, and feel kind of guilty for it, because the story as a whole is still so depressing. The characters persevere, however, and I’m looking forward to what lays in wait for them in the fourth volume.

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Filed under Charlie Adlard, comic book review, Getting Graphic, graphic novels, horror, Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, zombies

Getting Graphic: "The Walking Dead Volume 2: Miles Behind Us" by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead Volume 2: Miles Behind Us
written by Robert Kirkman
illustrated by Charlie Adlard
Available via: Amazon / Book Depository
After reading the first volume, Days Gone Bye, in the wake of the fanfare over the TV series, I came to appreciate Kirkman’s approach to the Romero-esque zombie, even though I didn’t find the story to be terribly different from other zombie tales I’ve read or viewed. In the series’ second volume, Miles Behind Us, it becomes more clear how Kirkman is differentiating his franchise and how it is shaping up to be a genuine gem. In other words, I find myself hopping on the bandwagon.
Rick, the sheriff who woke from a coma in the first book to find himself hip-deep in a zombie apocalypse, has been reunited with his wife Lori and their son Carl. The bad news is that they, and the motley crew of survivors they’re traveling with are getting low on supplies and need to move on from the outskirts of Atlanta to find a safer place to make camp–possibly to call home. The nerves and emotions are already frayed on most everyone in the group, especially after Rick’s best friend went homicidal, after starting a relationship with Lori in Rick’s absence only to see it disintegrate once Rick returned.
To make matters worse, it’s winter, and I wouldn’t have guessed Atlanta to be a place that attracts much snow, but they sure have a fair bit to contend with while trying to traverse the roads and stay warm at night in their crowded RV. A lot of twists and roadblocks, both literal and proverbial, are thrown in their path, but all of it feels organic, not the least bit contrived despite the fact they are in a wasteland of the walking dead. They are joined by a trio of stragglers, Tyreese and his teen daughter and her ill-tempered boyfriend. Their presence throws a whole new dynamic into the mix, and seems to setup something surprisingly ominous in later volumes.
The mere story of wandering a zombified Georgia landscape is enough to satisfy the most ravenous readers, looking for zombie action, since there is plenty of them to shoot, smash, and slice. But it’s the whole interplay and development of each character and the relationships that grow between them that is where the real draw for this series resides. This second volume exemplifies that, and I’m officially a fan of the series now, eager to sit down and watch the televised adaptation (should be able to borrow the first season on DVD relatively soon).
There is a great pseudo-cliffhanger to the end of the book, which has me keen on diving into the third volume and seeing where this lot ends up–and who will survive.

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Filed under Charlie Adlard, comic book review, Getting Graphic, graphic novels, horror, Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, zombies

Rabid Reads: "The Zombie Feed Volume 1" by Jason Sizemore (editor)

The Zombie Feed Volume 1
edited by Jason Sizemore
an imprint of Apex Publications

ASIN: B004URS0VA

Available via: Amazon / direct from Apex
A few years ago, I was pretty sure the zombie phenomenon had run its course. I think it’s safe to say I was way off. But in 2011, you’d think now the zombie trope was worn out. The publication of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies should have made that clear. But, like vampires and other long-running creatures of the night, the walking dead are continually dusted off by authors and thrown into new stories, to explore multiple facets of the human condition. Zombies are here to stay, and as such, Jason Sizemore has plumbed some of the more engrossing stories from burgeoning authors of every stripe.
The Zombie Feed Vol. 1 offers up seventeen short stories, each with its own variety of zombie, and each with its own way of looking at the characters who must either contend with the undead or with being the undead. The table of contents looks like this: “Not Dead” by BJ Burrow; “Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” by Monica Valentinelli; “Cold Comfort” by Nathan Tapley; “This Final December Day” by Lee Thompson; “Broken Bough” by Daniel I. Russell; “The Sickness Unto Death” by Brandon Alspaugh; “A Shepard of the Valley” by Maggie Slater; “Twenty-Three Second Anomaly” by Ray Wallace; “The Last Generation” by Joe Nazare; “Bitten” by Eugene Johnson; “Lifeboat” by Simon McCaffery; “Rabid Raccoons” by Kristen Dearborn; “Zombies on the Moon” by Andrew Clark Porter; “The Fare” by Lucien Soulban; “What’s Next?” by Elaine Blose; “Goddamn Electric” by K. Allen Wood; and “Hipster in Love” by Danger_Slater.
Rather than dive into every story, I’ll simply highlight a few of the stories from which I gleaned the most enjoyment.
“Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” involved a blue-collar kind of guy working for a company tasked with disposing of zombies as if he were a termite exterminator. He’s called to a wealthy family’s home to exterminate a child zombie sheltered by her parents who insist she’s not infected. She is though, but that’s not the real problem. The exterminator will have a harder time dealing with the father than the daughter. I really liked this one for taking the zombies, making them seem mundane in a sense, then twisting the story into something else just as disturbing.
In Lee Thompson’s “This Final December Day,” Frank, a former police officer, is on a journey to rejoin a woman he loves, yet abandoned in a sense to go off on his own crusade amidst the zombie uprising. Along the way, he joins forces with a young photographer who helps him navigate through the ruined streets and ravenous hordes. There was a bleakness to this story that felt very familiar compared to other stories, but really resonated as Frank struggled through. And the ending packed a real punch, in my opinion.
“Shepard of the Valley” by Maggie Slater might be my favorite of the bunch. A man of faith makes his home in a desolated airfield, undisturbed by any savagery from other survivors in a desperate situation. He’s gather a dozen or so zombies and “saved” them, so to speak, fashioned them in restraints and electronic devices that essentially domesticate them–keep him company. A young woman he mistakes for a shambling zombie at first, one more to his collection he initially hopes, offers the first sign of real companionship. She’s a bit rough around the edges though, and is pretty handy with a shotgun when pushed. I loved this story for its tragic strangers in the night tale, with tinges of I Am Legend and other tales that show how deep loneliness can go.
Then there was “Lifeboat” by Simon McCaffery, which shows a view of a viral zombie outbreak from the view of a cruise ship’s deck, as they meander the Caribbean and south-east American coastline for safe harbor. There’s not a lot to be found though, as the outbreak has gone global, and docking for supplies is done in short, harried bursts. Even worse is that other human survivors off-ship see them as one more prize of resources to be hunted down. The ceaseless danger of the zombies, the high seas, and other ships is captured very well and made for a really good story.
I’ll also offer a nod to a couple of quirky tales, “Rabid Raccoons” and “Cold Comfort”, for their humor interspersed with horror.
I’d say seventeen stories is enough to offer variety to any zombie fan. And for those who haven’t dipped their toes in this genre could find a nice sampler with this volume. You aren’t likely to enjoy all of the stories, but I’ll bet you’ll find a couple with which you can warm up to the undead. For me, it provided a great window into the worlds of some authors I was otherwise unfamiliar, as well as get a little more goodness from a few whose names I’m already aware (Lee Thompson and Daniel Russell to name two). I’ll be interested to see what The Zombie Feed Volume 2 has to offer someday, but for now I’ll simply recommend this first volume.

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Filed under anthology, book review, Jason Sizemore, Rabid Reads, The Zombie Feed, zombies

Getting Graphic: "The Walking Dead Vol. 1" by Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore

The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye
by Robert Kirkman
illustrated by Tony Moore
Image Comics (2005)
ISBN 1582406723
Last year’s ComicCon was abuzz with the impending debut of The Walking Dead television series, based on Kirkman’s comic books. I don’t follow the goings-on of the comic book world, so this was definitely out of the blue to me, though the rapacious appetite that exists for zombie fiction it was unsurprising. I mean, film and literature have fully embraced the shambling hordes, but television hasn’t been in a big hurry to hop on that bandwagon–until now.
I haven’t seen the series yet, though. I wanted to check out the source material first. Now that I’ve read this first volume, here are my thoughts.
To look at the story, I really don’t see a whole lot that is different from ninety percent of the zombie stories I’ve read or watched. The zombie apocalypse has happened under unexplained circumstances and civilization has crumbled. In a direct borrowing from 28 Days Later, the protagonist Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma in an abandoned hospital weeks after the apocalypse started. He then goes on a search for his wife and son towards Atlanta, hoping they went there to be protected by the military who has concentrated their efforts in the major cities. Sufficed to say, Atlanta is overrun with zombies.
With so much familiarity going on with the zombie aspect of the book, it’s the characters and their interactions that drives the story. Here, Kirkman offers something a bit different. Rick Grimes and the other survivors he meet are genuinely frightened, confused, and desperate. There’s hardly any pithy one-liners or tongue-in-cheek references, as it dedicates itself to telling these characters’ stories. And thankfully, the characters aren’t rehashed incarnations of other characters we’ve seen battle the undead. The back-stabbing racist isn’t to be seen, nor the damsel-in-distress prostitute, or the all-too-noble hero. Every single character, including Grimes, is flawed and imminently unheroic. That’s makes the story a whole lot more believable amidst the preposterous.
As for the artwork, Tony Moore has a style that seems reminiscent of those Saturday morning cartoon adventures. Heck, there are a couple of scenes where Grimes reminds me of a buttoned-down Shaggy from Scooby Doo. But the tone of the story, and the black-and-white presentation give the cartoonish aspect of the characters a more human quality. The zombies look like your everyday, slowly shuffling brain-eaters, but the way in which they decay and even continue to “live” when they’re decapitated added just enough uniqueness to set them apart from every other generic zombie.
It’s a very good story told in this first volume, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading the second. I’m just not sold on the immense hype that this series has received over the past year. It doesn’t strike me as a “game changer” and I wonder just how long the interest will last. For now, I’m on board.
CymLowell

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Filed under comic book review, Getting Graphic, graphic novels, horror, Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead, Tony Moore, zombies

And the winners are …

Yes, you read that right. There are TWO winners to my WIN THESE FIVE Zombie Books Giveaway.

The first winner is Moll89 who will be receiving the five zombie books from my own collection: Max Brooks’ World War Z, Briane Keene’s The Rising and City of the Dead, Tonia Brown’s Lucky Stiff, and the audiobook version of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

However, Moll doesn’t follow the blog, which means the sixth BONUS zombie book went to someone else. And that lucky someone was Twitter follower @Qweequeg. She will have the opportunity to choose a zombie book via Book Depository.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway and visited my blog. I greatly appreciate it. In the meantime, I’ve contacted both winners and await their replies. Congrats again to both winners.

My bookshelves are still pretty stacked, so don’t be surprised if I hold another giveaway later in the spring. I’m thinking that one will be an urban fantasy themed one.

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Filed under book contest, book giveaway, winner, zombies