Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for January, 2012

Review of Carlos Sisi’s “The Wanderers”

The Wanderers is a translated version of a Spanish zombie novel brought over to the United States by Permuted Press.  This is a fairly traditional zombie tale that takes place in Malaga, Spain, a city on the Mediterranean coast.  It has an ensemble cast with several key characters that are focused on.  The tale covers the initial rise of the dead and carries through to when the city is controlled by the dead and very few of the living remain.  The zombies are a mix of slow and fast but I would say they are very traditional-they reaction to visual and audio stimulus and require that you do trauma to the brain to put them down.

While the zombies are the main obstacle for the living, as is the case with most quality zombie tales a human nemesis becomes the real problem.  In this case, it is a priest who has tortured himself while locked up in his church trying to find the meaning behind the dead rising and has naturally interpreted it as a clear sign of the Apocalypse.  Still, he doesn’t know why he has been spared, and in the madness that ensues, he submits himself to the zombie hordes outside the church, prepared to bring things to an end.  This is when he discovers that the undead have no interest in him.  They do not attack or try to eat him, but move past him, oblivious to his existence.  Taking this as the sign he has been waiting for from God, along with a note from some survivors pleading for help that blows by where he is standing, he sets out to become the Angel of Death.  He will use the undead to send the rest of the living straight to hell.

While the use of clergy who align themselves with the undead, or use them to defeat the living is nothing new in zombie storytelling, I think this is the first instance I have come across where a religious figure is given a genuine, if perhaps misguided, sign that they are special, and that God has granted them special powers.

The translation of this story from Spanish to English has a few hiccups, though none that really confused me.  There are perhaps a few words missing and some awkward translations, but overall it was good enough.  The story itself is solid enough, with a few characters that had a genuine feel to them that allowed me to grow attached and saddened by their loss, though there a decent amount of what I would call “cannon fodder” characters that were less interesting.  The priest is somewhat one dimensional, with a madness that I have seen before in other stories-they have been chosen to destroy the sinners.  This priest does so without question and with no doubts.  Don’t get me wrong, the result is a loathsome and vile character that you love to hate, and want to see perish.  The author does a good job making things interesting here, since this character you wish to see dead might also hold the key to survival because of his unique immunity to the undead.

Overall, this is an entertaining zombie tale.  That it takes place in Spain gives it a bit of a different flavor than what I’m used to, and everything about the priest character made him quite intriguing.  While there are murmurs of a possible sequel or trio of books in this saga, this story stands completely on its own, with no real loose ends that had me begging for more answers in the end.

The Wanderers can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Wanderers-Carlos-Sisi/dp/1618680145/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328063284&sr=1-2


Review of Kevin Burke’s “The Last Mailman: Neither Rain nor Sleet nor Zombies…”

The Last Mailman is, as others have discovered, not a really accurate title for this book, given what actually happens in this tale, but it does introduce us to the main character and what his job essentially is, with some caveats.  DJ is the hero of his world, which is four years past the onset of the zombie apocalypse.  He lives in a walled in, protected city that is a stand-in for New York.  Other stand-ins are out there for other cities-the real cities fell to the undead and the survivors that managed to get to the barricaded bases nearby named them in honor of the fallen.  So new-New York has a population of a little over 800 people.  DJ has been nicknamed the mailman, though he doesn’t deliver packages between cities, as you might suspect.  Instead, he is the guy who goes out into the wilderness (which is everything beyond the walls) and searches for people that were left behind, as well any mementos for the survivors who made it to New York and left those others behind.  He brings closure, because the majority of the time he finds no survivors, just their corpses or the zombie versions of them, and gives them their final rest.  The story leaps from this concept, which would have been an interesting one on its own, to a mission the President of New York has called DJ in to be involved with: Atlanta has indicated that they have discovered a cure for the plague, and they are willing to swap several women for doses of the cure.  That is another key element of this story: women are asked to volunteer to breed so the human race can continue to grow.  They are not forced to; it seems that most women are willing to do so, at least in New York, and apparently in Atlanta as well, though not everyone is happy with the concept.  Despite his better judgment about trading women for a cure, DJ is willing to hop the flight to oversee the trade.  The plane ends up crashing, and the survivors land out in the wilderness, which is DJ is at his best.  Together, those that survive the crash decide that they’ll try to make the trip to Atlanta instead of heading back to New York, with the hope of somehow completing the mission.  The book tells the tale of DJ and the other survivors and their adventures out in the wild, facing both zombie and living perils along the way.

Overall, this was an entertaining zombie read, with ample gore and action.  DJ is a man’s man, but he makes plenty of mistakes along the way, which lends a human quality to him, along with the fact that he always seems willing to do what he can for his friends and other survivors.  It was hard not to like him as a character.  This story is told in first person from DJ’s perspective, and for the most part, that works in this tale.  Overall, the story was fun, though I felt that some scenes were sped through that could have been drawn out with more detail and more nuance, but that is a minor complaint.  As to other concerns I had with the story, there were a few I feel it only fair to point out.  One is that the author swaps perspectives briefly-for about the length of a chapter or two, to two characters besides DJ.  It is a bit disorienting in a first person tale, and I don’t think it was necessary here (the author could have figured out another way to share that same information we get from these other people).  I also felt that one particular character changed their personality late in the game in a way that didn’t really make sense to me.  It felt forced-an attempt to make things more interesting, I suppose.

Even with these quibbles, this was a fun, enjoyable zombie tale with an interesting take on what the future might hold for the long term survivors of the zombie apocalypse.

The Last Mailman can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Mailman-Neither-Sleet-Zombies/dp/1934861979/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327281351&sr=8-1


Review of Kody Boye’s “Sunrise”

Back in October of ’09, I wrote a review of Kody Boye’s Sunrise.  Kody, who was under the age of eighteen when he wrote his book of the zombie apocalypse, clearly had talent, but his story was somewhat raw, which was something I expected from such a young man still learning his way in the world.

At that time, I stated that the criticism I would have of the story would go hand in hand with what I find appealing about his writing style: his youthful idealism and exuberance.  He wrote of romance in the time of the world ending with a great deal of zeal and perhaps with what some might call immaturity, although when seen through the perspective of someone who was not yet an adult, the perceptions he had should be understandable.

Kody Boye has changed since then.  Now, as an adult, he has taken the time to revisit his first novel and revise it in ways that are more in keeping with his increase in adult experiences and relationships.  In its earlier version, I would have been very comfortable stating that the story was all about gay characters and their experiences during the zombie apocalypse.  Now, with the revisions that Kody has made, I would say that this story is about the experiences a group of people have during the zombie apocalypse.  Some of the characters are gay, and it remains a theme in this book, but while it remains a key part of Dakota and Jamie’s experiences and their existence as main characters, it doesn’t detract from a story of the apocalypse, of human relationships, and how people manage to not only survive, but to thrive during times of great peril and tragedy.

Essentially, this story starts out with Dakota, a boy who has just turned eighteen, hiding out with his friend Steve, an Iraqi war veteran, in Steve’s apartment in the weeks following the start of the zombie apocalypse.  With their supplies running out, they are forced to find a way out of their town with hopes of finding a safe haven.  They end up at a modified apartment complex with several members of the military and several civilians there, including Jamie, a corporal who forms an almost immediate bond with Dakota.

Several key characters are introduced and developed within the pages of this book, and much is revealed about them as they fight and struggle to survive the undead…and the unique, intriguing new creatures that appear later in the book that may or may not be a new hybrid creation.

Kody’s writing has matured, and while some of his youthful abandon and exuberance has perhaps disappeared on these pages, it has been replaced by a sure hand that understands more about how adult relationships work, grow, and evolve.  No, how some of them evolve is perhaps not perfect, but nothing ever is.  Some of the imagery Kody creates seems a bit extravagant here and there, though he does paint a vivid picture that allows you to feel that you are a part of the landscape he is creating.

Sunrise is a tale of the apocalypse, of relationships, and of the struggles we all face to find love, understanding, and a place to call home in a world filled with death and destruction.  Kody Boye has matured as a writer and is someone to keep an eye on.  I see great things in his future.

Sunrise  can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Sunrise-Kody-Boye/dp/1468149652/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326921549&sr=8-1&tag=vig-20


Guest Blog from author Kody Boye!

Every once in a while I get the chance to do something fun because of this writing and reviewing gig I have created for myself.  No, I haven’t gotten a space on the next commercial flight up to the international space station, but that would be cool, wouldn’t it?  But unless I become a bajillionaire, or they start giving those away for free, I am out of luck on that account.

Nope, that ain’t happening, but something pretty cool is occurring here on my blog.  Kody Boye, a young and talented author who has impressed me with his skill with the written word (well, part of it is jealousy, since he is less than half my age and probably has written three times as much stuff as I have thus far in his brief career), suggested that we do a blog swap to promote the release of his new book.  What is a blog swap?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  It is just what it sounds like.  One blogger writes a post for the other blogger and vice versa, and then they post them on their respective blogs.  So Kody has handed off a post that he wrote specifically for me, and I have done the same for him.  I can’t tell you when my babbling will appear on his blog, but you should definitely pop on over there and check it out, and not just for my words, but for his, because Kody is a diverse talent who has written horror, fantasy, and in plenty of other genres.  Most recently, Kody’s book, Sunrise, has been re-released after he did some major overhauling of this zombie apocalyptic tale.  I read the original version and had the privilege of  reading the reworked version not too long ago.  Let me just state for the record that Kody wrote Sunrise originally well before he was eighteen.  In many ways, it was obvious with that first version how young he was.  Kody saw things in a certain way that I think was unique and was coming from the mind of someone who had experienced a lot in a short time, but still had some growing up to do.  But don’t we all, even into our forties and beyond?  In some ways, losing the haze of youth is both sad and necessary, and as such, the changes with the revised version of Sunrise reflected those changes in Kody.  Compare the two versions side by side and you will see how Kody has changed as an author and as a person over the past few years.  His writing is crisper, sharper, and inevitably, filled with more of the harsh tones of reality we face in this world and the world of adults.  My review of Sunrise will follow this post later tonight, but for now, please enjoy Kody’s simple and eloquent analysis of zombies below, along with the cover of his book.  -PD

 

 

Zombies: What they Represent and How They Parody the Living

                There is much debate as to what zombies represent in the media and fiction. Some say they are a result of our lesser reptilian conscience coming to life in the most stressful of situations; others say that they are meant to reveal the most intimate flaws that exist within each and every one of us. To a writer, zombies can mean many things. Life, death, the present, the future, the past, what happens to us after death and just where our minds (or our ‘spark’) go—we have begged to question just what it was that happens when our physical bodies cease to exist for millennia. Why, we would not be human if we did not think on such things, as it was with higher conscience we evolved to walk as we do now.

To me, zombies are simple.

Zombies represent the most primal instincts within humanity. The animalism presented in their actions, their conscience and desires are what take us back to that fateful age when, thousands of years ago, all we craved was food and survival. We were, however, driven by instinct to protect ourselves. Unlike zombies, we have always had fear to inhibit and hold us back. It is not without reason that as children we are afraid of the dark, as during the night it is said that monsters will rise from under the bed to destroy all that it we feel is safe, and it is not without consequence that we are afraid to commit actions that would otherwise land us in severe trouble. That is perhaps the most terrifying thing about the zombie. Their no-holds-barred, unrestrained behavior when they attack their prey is akin to a predatory instinct that we have long since evolved away from. Sure—we may still hunt our prey on occasion, but we most often do so with simple guns and ammo, possibly even bows and arrows should we be willing to return to our former roots in our ways of hunting. There are very few occasions when we actually physically hunt our prey with tooth and claw—which, to the rest of the animal kingdom, seems outrageous. We were created as omnivores for a reason, to find and seek and hunt and kill the prey and foods that we eat. It is terrifying to think that, once upon a time, we were no more than animals, which is why, in my opinion, people are afraid of zombies. It is not about a lack of conscience, the loss of memories or even the desire to kill those we love—it is the return to animal roots that make them the most frightening.

 

Kody Boye’s zombie novel, Sunrise, is now available on Smashwords.com and on Amazon in paperback formats (with Kindle forthcoming.) You can find more about him and his future projects by going to KodyBoye.com.


Review of Jeff Kinley’s “The Christian Zombie Killer’s Handbook”

I will freely admit that when I first heard of The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook, I presumed it would be along the lines of the Zombie Survival Guide or perhaps a tongue in cheek guide like the ones created by Scott Kenemore, such as “The Zen of Zombie.”  So even after I had read a few pages into the book, I was still waiting for the punch line or the snarkiness to come out.  I guess that despite expecting something different initially, I can’t say I’m surprised that a Christian minister has embraced the concept of zombies in an effort to use the rotting buggers as a euphemism for original sin.  The proposal here is that each of us has an inner zombie-an evil that dwells inside that is genetically encoded into our DNA. It isn’t something we can get rid of, because it’s been there since Adam and Eve ate the apple.  This zombie makes us pull away from God-we are driven to pull away because of the lusts and desires that we are always battling with inside.  The zombie is our dark passenger that rides with us everywhere we go, and is always urging us to step away from the light and the promises for salvation that Jesus offers.

In tandem with the extended sermon that Jeff Kinley serves up, he gives us the story of Ben, who lives in an alternate universe filled with real zombies.  They crop up every so often, killing the innocent, before they are put down by the police or other authorized execution squads.  Ben’s story is doled out in bits and pieces, between each chapter of the sermon, and it really doesn’t go anywhere.  It might have been more interesting had it come to some sort of conclusion that allowed it to be a stand alone tale, but since its whole purpose is to create parables for each individual chapter of the book, it is sorely lacking.

I don’t think it would be fair for me to judge this book based on my misplaced expectations when I first opened it up.  I think it better that I stress something to anyone who has not yet read the book: this book is a sermon that strives to make you accept that if you are a Christian, you are undeniably weak and fallible, but that Jesus loves you like that, and expects you to be strong, and resist the temptations put to you by your inner zombie which manipulates and twists you into wanting to serve your own needs above all else.  It is that simple.  The author uses the increased popularity of zombies in our society to drive home this point.  Jeff Kinley recognizes that zombies, since they first appeared in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, have been used as symbols in one form or fashion both in books and on the big screen.  We are the zombies-drones who robotically go about our routine, driven by lust and greed and undeniable urges to do evil.  With that said, I don’t necessarily buy into the author’s analogy here.  I think vampires would be a more apt representation of our dark, greedy, evil side.  Because while zombies do represent undeniable urges in us, they are mindless feeding machines that (for the most part, in most movies and literature) are not evil, but just forces of nature.  Evil requires thought, and zombies do not have thoughts.  They just do what they are designed to do.  If each of us had an inner zombie, I seriously doubt we could resist its urges, since they are not based on any sort of debate on whether we should be good or bad people.  Zombies just do what they do, with no compunction and no guilt.  Again, I would propose that the vampire-tormented by its desire to drink blood and to kill, while at the same time corrupting others as it does so, is more of an apt metaphor for original sin.  Doing battle with our inner vampire makes more sense to me.

This was not a book for me, thought I might find it interesting to discuss the concept of the inner zombie with the author, as well as zombies in general.  This is a book that can and will find the right audience, though I suspect that quite a few people will never be attracted to its message.  Even so, for the right person, this book has a very compelling message.

You can find the The Christian Zombie Killer’s Handbook here: http://www.amazon.com/Christian-Zombie-Killers-Handbook-Slaying/dp/1595554386/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326852129&sr=1-1


Cover of “Before Plan 9: Plans 1-8 From Outer Space” revealed!

A while back, I had the opportunity to write a story for a new anthology based on an old movie.  Let me correct myself.  It was an old, bad movie.  Not just any bad movie, but THE bad movie.  The one that is so bad it has gotten awards for being the worst movie ever made, and because of that, has become a cult classic in the minds of people everywhere.  Heck, they made a movie about the guy who made this movie because this movie was so bad, and this guy was so good at making bad movies and THAT movie even won an academy award.  Strange, huh?  A movie about a movie that is bad winning an academy award.  Go figure.

Well, I’m not trying to keep any secrets here, since everyone can guess based on the title of this post what movie I’m talking about.  It is Ed Wood Jr.’s classic Plan 9 from Outer Space.  Tony Schaab, who runs Twinstar Media, as a huge fan of the movie and someone who is involved in the novelization of the script as well as a remake of the movie, came up with an intriguing question: if the movie shows what Plan 9 was from the aliens, which failed so miserably, what were their first 8 plans to conquer earth?  Well, maybe not to conquer earth, but to prevent us from making a solarnite bomb.  And if you don’t know what a solarnite bomb is, go look for Plan 9 on Youtube-you can watch the entire movie in all its wretched glory free of charge.

Thus was born the idea behind Before Plan 9: Plans 1-8 From Outer Space.  I’m proud to be a part of this project and to have the chance to pay homage to one of the worst movies of all time with what I hope isn’t one of the worst short stories of all time, heh.  My little story has the honor of being Plan 1, if you can believe it!  It is entitled: Plan 1 from the Lesser-Heralded Parts of The Odyssey.  Yep, these aliens have been bugging us humans since the days of Greek heroes like Odysseus.

Here is the full table of contents:

  • Plan Zero from the Mesozoic Era by Tony Schaab
  • Plan 1 from the Lesser-Heralded Parts of The Odyssey by Patrick D’Orazio
  • Plan 2 from Ancient Egypt by D.A. Chaney
  • Plan 3 from the Middle Ages of Hamelin by Greg Carter
  • Plan 4 from the Clockwork Country by Tonia Brown
  • Plan 5 from the Depressing Depression by David Dunwoody
  • Plan 6 from the Nazi Regime by Rob Silvera
  • Plan 7 from Sin City by Jonathan Maberry
  • Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 1 by Craig DiLouie
  • Plan 8 from the Fantastic Fifties, Phase 2 by Joe McKinney and Michael McCarty
Before I reveal the cover of this beauty, done by the wonderful artist who did the covers of my three books (Philip R. Rogers), I want to show the original movie poster for Plan 9, just to give you more of an appreciation for what Philip managed to do here.
Now check out the book cover.
Pretty cool, huh?
This book is scheduled for a late March release, so you won’t have to wait long to check out all this Plans 1-8 goodness!  More details to come!

Review of Jessica Meigs’ “The Becoming”

The Becoming tells the tale of three people in the early days of the zombie apocalypse. Brandt is a military man who flees Atlanta not long after the start of the Michaluk virus.  He was at the epicenter, having volunteered to be one of the guards at the CDC when the plague first broke free from one of the labs.  As the city crumbles and the dead begin to rise, he heads west to Alabama while the virus spreads further out from the city at the same time.  Ethan and Cade, two friends living in Memphis, are swept up in the story not long after as the virus plows through the entire southeastern United States.  Ethan is a Memphis police officer who just got promoted while Cade is his next door neighbor and a former member of the Israeli Defense Force, or IDF, who has immigrated to the United States.  Things hit the fan pretty fast in this tale, with the bulk of the early story dealing with Ethan and Cade coping with their first horrific exposure to the virus and then hitting the road, trying to figure out how to survive as everyone around them turns into flesh eating monsters.  They hook up with Brandt while trying to see if Ethan’s mother is still alive in her small Alabama town, and together the three decide to head back west, toward Mississippi and with the hope of outrunning the fast moving virus.  Naturally, there are interpersonal conflicts between the three, and they also end up meeting a few other survivors that add to the intense interpersonal relationships.  This tale is the first of what I believe is a trilogy, and focuses quite well on the key things that tend to work well in zombie apocalypse novels: strong characters, lots of action, and a healthy dose of gore.  It doesn’t break new ground in the zombie genre, but while stories like that are always welcome, it isn’t necessary when a story is filled with compelling characters and a solid plot.

This story has both of those, and its focus on the three main characters serves it well.  They are well drawn and fit well into the survivor roles with their skills and training in the military and police force.  But despite those talents, they are just as human as anyone else and coping with such incredible tragedy is quite difficult for them.  The good, the bad, and the ugly of their personalities rear their heads when they are dealing with one another, the undead, and the other survivors that appear in this story.  While the characters each ticked me off in turn and made me want to slap each one of them for acting the way they do, they were all also trying to do their best to remain human and doing what they can to help each other out, giving me reason to like them at the same time.  Their reactions to the tragedies that unfold around them were real for the most part, though a couple of instances bothered me: Cade’s overall reaction to what happens to her niece and Ethan’s lack of urgency in getting to his wife-when they are first separated and later on in the story, when he wants to return to Memphis.  Even with those minor complaints, the characters have a realness to them that helped me feel comfortable rooting for them to survive.

Overall, the writing in The Becoming is solid and the editing is excellent.  The author tended to use eye color a bit much to reference particular characters and also used the word ‘smirk’ a lot, but even with those quibbles, it was clear that she is a talented writer who should continue to get better the more she puts pen to paper.  I look forward to seeing what Ms. Meigs comes up with next for the compelling characters she’s created in this story.

You can find The Becoming here: http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Jessica-Meigs/dp/1934861855/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1326433053&sr=8-2