Kings of the Dead came out six years ago, and as was quite popular at that time with zombie genre books, was written in a journal format. The popularity of that format has died down in recent years but with my attempts to read many of the books I failed to read in years past, I am reminded once again how many authors chose to go this route. I’ve shared the advantages and disadvantages of this format in prior reviews, and of course, this book is no exception. I do give credit where credit is due, of course. Author Tony Faville remains true to the format, not moving to a third person narrative at any point, which some authors tend to do when they feel the relentless need to reveal things the narrator doesn’t know and thus can’t share with the reader. To avoid this pitfall, Cole’s journal is written in by others when he is not available at certain points in time, which fills in those gaps in the story there would otherwise be if limited to his perspective alone. This adds a few interesting twists to the story as Cole himself reads these entries, left as notes for him upon his return to his journal. It serves as smoother tale because the author didn’t suddenly change writing styles, which I appreciated.
The story is fairly standard zompoc fare, told from the perspective of a man with former military and medical experience, who has prepared with a group of friends for the end of the world as we know it for several years as a hobby. Zombies crop up when the vaccine for a new strain of the flu ends up reanimating those who have taken it. The zombies are mainly the slow shamblers here, with a mix of faster undead joining the fray as the story and timeline moves forward.
This is a fairly personal story. Like some of the other journal written sagas, there is a good chunk of the author’s personality shining through the narrator. This is a story of someone who is a fan of the genre writing a story of survival they have envisioned for themselves and their friends. It does add something to the telling of the tell-a pseudo autobiography envisioned by the author were there a zombie apocalypse. Authors are guided to “write what you know” and Tony does so here, having the personal knowledge related to weaponry, medical skills, and other related topics that would have an impact on survival in an undead world. Credit to the author for not ‘over doing it’ as I have seen a tendency of some to do when it comes to slathering their pages with an excess of demonstrated expertise in a particular area that rapidly turns into overkill. The flow here is more natural and the while the reader will know the author knows his stuff, they won’t be blasted with it on every page.
While the survivors hunker down, attempting to build a new home in their region of Oregon for much of the first half of the book, the story becomes, in time, more of a road trip as Cole, the narrator, ponders the meaning of existence in a dead world and chooses to take a journey of discovery. Cole struggles with the loss of friends and trying to find a reason to carry on, but there are also glimmers of hope that give him, and the reader, reasons to carry on.
There are some rough spots in the story and some of that comes from the format-we don’t get to discovery something happening as it happens, but written as a report done the following day or in the hours following the actual event, which dilutes some of the emotional resonance. Still, there is definite emotional potency here, especially as related to the people Cole deeply cares for and will do anything to try and keep safe, which in the an undead world is a very difficult thing to do.
As is the case with many journal oriented zombie tales, there is not necessarily a main focus outside of survival written on its pages-survival of the body as well as the spirit. As such, it meanders a good bit, but the ending was quite satisfying and unlike many of the books of a similar make and model, the author doesn’t demand that you read three or four more entries in a series to make his point. This book does so succinctly and with quiet grace.
Overall, if as a zombie genre fan you aren’t burnt out on the diary approach to zombie fiction, Kings of the Dead is a solid addition to your library.
Kings of the Dead can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Kings-Dead-Tony-Faville/dp/1934861839/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8
It has been several years since I read the two prior entries in this trilogy of zombie books, so Dying To Live: Last Rites gave me some vague recollections of the four main characters reintroduced here when I started reading this one, but fortunately, this book in many ways is a standalone novel, separate from the other two books with the story it tells.
Two characters, Will and Rachel, are living, while Truman and Lucy are zombies who have worked to retain and regain elements of who they were in life-they can speak and interact with humans. Most importantly, they can refrain from giving in to their base urges to kill and devour the living. Truman more so than Lucy, who still loves to kill and revels in its purity, believing that most humans are selfish, despicable creatures, although she more or less tolerates and even respects Will and Rachel, especially due to the relationship they have with Truman.
The four have been banished from the community they lived in and have been traveling by boat on rivers in the wilderness the world has become. Rachel grows deathly ill and they find another community called New Sparta near the water that can help her, but only under certain conditions. The zombies are to be sold off and Will and Rachel will have to pay for the care she receives and the housing and food they will need. They’ve stumbled into a much more complicated, larger, and more “civilized” society than the one they are used to, with many of the perks of our modern world having returned including electricity, credit, regular jobs, etc. Of course, their objective initially is to get their two undead friends back to safety, but a myriad of distractions and enticements create some challenges for the two of them, while things are far worse for Truman and Lucy.
Once again, the author has created some interesting dilemmas like those that ran through his first two books in this trilogy. Dilemmas based on what it means to be human and also retaining what we call humanity, regardless of who, or what, you actually are-living or undead. It’s clear that the two sentient zombie main characters see humans as selfish and self-destructive beings, even those they care for. Many are far worse than Rachel and Will, but it seems as if this internal focus is ingrained in the living, almost by necessity, to keep the fragile spark of life alight. The undead, including the other zombies the two meet while enslaved in New Sparta, are not subject to this selfishness, or so they believe. But with sentience comes certain needs and desires, even if biological urges have been almost all eliminated. Love, connections to others, and an urge to understand their existence still remains, plus the desire to devour the living still remains…and in most there is no remorse for them either, especially since all memories of what the undead were before they passed on are gone.
Dying To Live: Last Rites may be the third book in Kim Paffenroth’s trilogy, but in many ways it stands on its own as its own examination of life, compassion, and self-sacrifice. The author has expanded the amount of the sentient zombies from beyond the first two books substantially and that may be a turnoff for some readers who are looking for zombies to mostly remain dim cannibal monsters. If this were a pure action/horror type trilogy the author could take things in some interesting, Planet of the Apes-type directions with the undead past this story, but these books have always been much more about the examination of the differences between being human and being humane. Those who have enjoyed the first two novels will likely enjoy this one as well.
Dying To Live: Last Rites can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Dying-Live-Rites-Kim-Paffenroth-ebook/dp/B004T334A2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1466867283&sr=8-3
Mad Swine: Regeneration completes the trilogy with the aftermath of the journey of the surviving members of the Randall Oaks subdivision near Chicaog who chose to head to Finnegan Farms in the dead of winter. Lead by the narrator, Matt Danzig, those that make it to the farm work hard to establish a new life for themselves with the hope of going back to their suburban haven they left behind to retrieve those who stayed behind. But with one of the worst winters on record and the ‘crazies’ still out there, it isn’t a journey they will be able to make for some time to come.
My reviews of the two previous books categorized them as such: the first book was predominantly action-man vs. zombie and man vs. man. The second book focused more on character development, with Matt becoming less of a Rambo and more of an everyman doing his best to keep it together so those who are counting on him can do so as well. This final act blends both action and character development together better than the other two books managed to do, with a quick paced, action-filled completion to the story that also continues to provide the reader with more reasons to grow attached to Matt, his older brother, and the group of people he is responsible for both at the farm and back at Randall Oaks.
The infected/zombies in this book take more of a back seat than in the prior books, with the focus being more on the living menace that has been creeping around the periphery of the barricaded and sheltered places Matt and his group have called home. They are beginning to discover that they are far better organized and dangerous that anyone had assumed when those make a brazen assault on the farm. While I would say that once again, the author has not brought a lot to the table that makes this story different or unique compared to the rest of the zombie subgenre, he has continued to refine his writing skills and given the reader a sharper, more well defined and compelling set of characters with each book.
Of course, there are a few pieces of criticism to share as it relates to Regeneration. One in particular has to do with timing of Matt’s return to Randall Oaks. It is tremendously coincidental that he arrives mere hours (though it seems like minutes) before a surprise attack rocks the gated community. It seemed a bit rushed and a convenience to move the story forward at a quicker pace. Another frustration I had is with the lack of development of the main bad guy, who had potential to be much further fleshed out, especially based on the limited details shared about him. He seemed to be a rather twisted individual. The book could have afforded him a few more pages to shape him into more of a worthy opponent to Matt and his team and to move him away from a more generalized baddy.
Overall, Mad Swine: Regeneration is the most satisfying of the three books in the trilogy. It does a solid job of continuing the character development that made Matt more human and relatable in the second book, while at the same time sharing traits with the first book and its love of action. The author (or perhaps the publisher or his editor…) seems to like taking a few shortcuts when it comes to certain story elements. The battle between the neighborhoods never showed up except in synopsis in the second book and the main villain seems somewhat under developed here in the final book. It isn’t a major criticism, but worth pointing out. I believe that adding those components could only serve to enhance the story.
This was a satisfying zombie trilogy, in particular to watch and see how the author continued to grow and refine his ability to pull the reader in and give them a reason to grow attached to certain characters. The action and story is solid, and the pace is fast.
Mad Swine: Regeneration can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Regeneration-Mad-Swine-Book-3-ebook/dp/B011SJQ31Q/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8
The Undead Ruins doesn’t pick up immediately after the second book in the trilogy, The Undead Haze, but about a decade after the start of the zombie apocalypse and years after Cyrus reconnected with Blaze near the end of the previous book. They have spent the past few years working for the leader of three rebuilt towns as mercenaries for hire, doing the tough jobs no one else wants, including executing those who have disobeyed the laws about hiding undead family members. As has always been the case, Blaze and Cyrus are aloof, not befriending many of the people they now interact with except for a select few that have a military background like Blaze. She still has every intention of finding her lost brother, the brother that Cyrus knows about and has kept secrets about since the events that took place in the prior novel. That isn’t the only secret he’s keeping from Blaze-secrets if revealed might mean his death at the hands of his closest companion.
At the start of this trilogy, Cyrus V. Sinclair proclaimed himself a sociopath. Much of the frustration with the author from the bulk of reviews I have seen have been with this proclamation. Either he is not a textbook definition of a sociopath or he softens in the second book to the point where even Cyrus is no longer sure what he is anymore. Whatever he truly is, since all three of these books were written in first person, we have only the narcissistic and egotistical Cyrus to rely on for his diagnosis. It would be fair to say that Cyrus liked the idea of being a sociopath and indeed has some of those tendencies, though even he had to acknowledge he has transformed into something else by the time the events of this book take place. Blaze, Cyrus’s companion and sometimes nemesis, is perhaps closer in definition to a sociopath, although the love she shows for her brother puts a chink in her armor with that designation. More important, Blaze would be unlikely to care what someone labels her. She is what the world has made her.
Things start out fairly calm at the beginning of this book, with Blaze and Cyrus dealing with grunt work no one else wants to do. They aren’t necessarily popular with most of the town folk due to the roles they take on, but they are needed and appreciated by the leadership. Unfortunately, with an attack on one of the towns, there are hints that the crazies they thought had faded into history have returned, stronger than ever and with a new and even more vicious leader. With this new turmoil comes the possibility that the lies that Cyrus has been telling Blaze to keep the peace between them will be revealed.
It is interesting how the voice of Cyrus has changed during the course of these books. A smug, unrepentant loner when we first meet him, he still remains aloof but has transformed in many ways. He still loathes cowardice and weakness, but has gained a respect for those who fight to survive and the necessity of civilization, even if aspects of it make him nauseous. The relationship between him and Blaze has gotten more complicated. They are not lovers, but soldiers who have been through wars together. They would fight and die for one another but at the same time it seems clear that one would kill the other if it suited their needs.
Overall, this has been an entertaining trilogy. The main character made a proclamation about himself early on that does not play out as he expected. If it had, this story would have run the risk of predictability. A criticism I had for the first book came back to haunt this one when the author slips away from first person for a brief moment-a chapter-near the end of the novel. It could be argued in both cases of the necessity of these diversions although I believe that the author could have found a way to keep on telling the story from Cyrus’ perspective and gotten the same point across. I had few other quibbles when it came to the writing itself. It was interesting that here in the third book about Cyrus that the story is as much about someone else, Blaze, as it was about him. It added depth to the tale and made their relationship that much more compelling.
The Undead Ruins can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Undead-Ruins-Situation-Book/dp/161868471X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-2&qid=1433201326
Beneath The Mask is a recreation of a prior Stephen North story, a re-envisioning of his first book with the same title. Sergeant Alex Cray of the Florida National Guard is dealing with what appears to be a biological attack on the Tampa Bay area. He and the rest of the soldiers facing the situation have seen people dying from some sort of plague that leaves them with sores on their faces and a homicidal streak that borders on madness. It is clear that this situation is spreading to other parts of the country and globe and even more shocking, it is perhaps coming from something beyond our world.
Strange events unfold with little explanation around Alex. While the citizens in the area are desperate to survive, there are others who appear in the area that look human, though they seem transformed and almost alien in their physical perfection. Sergeant Cray is forced to kill to defend himself and the various people he comes into contact with that he feels are worth saving as things continue to deteriorate around him. At first he fears the plague that has permeated the area and like the rest of the soldiers, is supposed to continue wearing his MOPP suit-the protective bio-containment outfit that prevents airborne viruses from infecting you. But it doesn’t take him long to realize that life behind the mask is no longer worth living. After stripping his containment suit, Alex is forced to continue stripping away other masks that civilization has put in place for him. He puzzles over the deterioration of his and others humanity while seeking answers as to what the truth is behind the strange people and strange vessels that have arrived in the area that look like nothing anyone on earth could have created.
Beneath The Mask has been transformed from a traditional first day apocalyptic tale of survival into a story that combines elements of this and that of a futuristic thriller. The author wrote another story, The Drifter, which had a noir/Blade Runner type flavor to it, though it mostly takes place elsewhere and else when and there are hints here that these two sagas will be tied together in a series of adventures, as elements from the second book have bled through here, in Beneath The Mask.
Stephen North’s writing preference is typically first person, present tense, and this story is written in this format. While there are some challenges with this style, because the reader can only see what Alex sees and hears in each instance, it steeps you in the moment, dealing with everything the main character faces with no additional time to react. There is no time to debate whether to pull the trigger or to leave someone for dead when things are constantly shifting and moving all around you. The story is not driven by one particular objective, although Alex’s instant to instant reactions are shaped by the strange realities he has discovered and must come to grips with, which drives him to focus on certain objectives-most of which have to do with staying alive. His alliances are also driven by gut instinct and the desire to retain a kernel of humanity within him, even while he is forced to do mostly unspeakable things to keep himself and those he cares for alive.
The author has created the start of a rollicking adventure tale that has the potential to transcend timelines and realities. Alex does seem almost too reactionary in this story-pulled by outside forces in different directions on a constant basis, rather than focusing on anything beyond moment to moment survival. Of course, the author puts a steady flow of roadblocks in front of him to provide him with all sorts of adventures, but he is almost philosophically detached from one of the only overriding objectives he returns to throughout the book-the desire to see if his parents are still alive. Of course, there are far greater missions for Sergeant Cray to involve himself in, but I would have liked to see him push a little harder in an effort to achieve this objective. Despite this minor concern, the author has created an all-to-human hero that fails as much as he succeeds, still tries to do what is right even when nothing he does seems to matter, and still is able to fight to retain a grip on what makes him human even if at times there seems to be no good reason to do so anymore.
Beneath The Mask can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Beneath-Mask-Drifter-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00QL64P8A/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1421418407&sr=8-3&keywords=beneath+the+mask
The Undead Haze is the follow up to the author’s first novel, The Undead Situation, where we were introduced to self-proclaimed sociopath, Cyrus V. Sinclair. Cyrus is the narrator here, as he was in the first book, and thus we get to see the world only through his eyes. His claim of being a sociopath are dampened from the get go here, even by his own admission. In reviewing the first novel, I made it clear that it was debatable whether he was truly a sociopath. But since the story is told by the main character, we only have his proclamation to go by as to whether it is true or not.
Here, it becomes clear that Cyrus’s feelings for Blaze, the woman he lost track of before the end of the first book, don’t jive with that of a true sociopath. It is more likely that Blaze is closer to a text book definition of sociopath, at least based on how she acted and reacted to others, including Cyrus, the first book. The majority of this novel is spent with Cyrus wanting to find Blaze because of the feelings he has developed for her. Naturally, because of the state the world is in, there are some tremendous perils brought on by both the living and the dead. Cyrus crosses paths with someone who has the potential to help him find Blaze, if she is still alive, though he will have to go through hell on earth in the process.
Much of the criticism I saw in reviews of the first novel were due to Cyrus’s proclamation that he was a sociopath when there were aspects of his personality that left that up for debate. Much of the criticism I have seen in reviews of this novel are due to the fact that Cyrus shows far more vulnerability and humanity than a sociopath ever would. He works hard to convince himself that he has no need for others, that he is still using them, and is purposefully callous on occasion, but he shows far more fear, a willingness to open himself up to others, and more of a desire to help others than ever before. Again, since both stories are told in first person, all the reader has to go on is Cyrus’s proclamations about himself, rather than based on any truth that may have been revealed had his story been told in third person. The only thing for certain is that Cyrus V. Sinclair is a bit more complicated than a one word description of his personality type.
The Undead Haze, is in some ways a more complicated story, like its protagonist has become, than the one found in the first book. Cyrus is forced further and further outside his comfort zone. He is beaten and bloodied for long stretches of this tale. He’s weak, vulnerable, and at the mercy of others who he must rely upon. He is obsessed with another person, feeling something akin to love, which becomes the driving force in his life. This is what drives this story and will likely determine whether a reader likes this book more, or less than the first one. Cyrus is still, for the most part, a disagreeable character, but one who is far more human than before. He questions whether or not what he seems to becoming is who he truly is, rather than the sociopath he believed himself to be in the past.
Naturally, this is a character driven story, with the events that unfold on its pages being secondary to how Cyrus experiences them. There are traditional zombie slow movers with a mix of fast movers (those that have recently turned) which are one threat to Cyrus, but they are not the worst danger for him. It the human dangers that are far worse.
The author’s writing has gotten sharper and she has nurtured Cyrus into something far more complex than the one dimensional, smug jerk he was in the first book. While in many ways he is still irredeemable, he has expanded greatly beyond what he was to begin with in this book. It will be interesting to see where he ends up going in the third act of his saga.
The Undead Haze can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Undead-Haze-Situation-Book-Volume/dp/1618680730/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1420788356&sr=1-2
Ammon’s Horn sounds like some kind of a mythological creation and while it a term derived from Egyptian mythology, it refers to part of the hippocampus for the purposes of this tale. It is an area of the brain that is impacted as someone is affected by the ‘noids, or a form of extreme paranoia.
The story introduces us to Danny, a police profiler in Chicago and Gemma, his star reporter fiancé as they start suspecting all is not well in the world. Multiple reports start filing in of otherwise normal people committing sudden brutal acts of violence and then remembering little to none of them, often shortly before they commit suicide. Digging deeper leads to a suspicion that these events aren’t just happenstance-a full moon or temporary madness, but something that is getting worse and spreading across the country, creeping from the east coast west toward California, where the President has retreated. When Gemma reports on it, plenty of people deny its reality, thinking it more groupthink paranoia rather than some sort of brain ailment having an external cause. She dubs the term ‘noids after a taxi driver, gripped by madness, almost runs over a pregnant woman and said he did it because he was all ‘noided out.
The story follows the initial run ins with the ‘noids that Danny and Gemma suffer through before they travel west at the urging of a mysterious government agent who knows a great deal about what is really happening and what dark secrets are behind this strange plague that has gripped the population.
Ammon’s Horn takes a very different slant on the end of the world, apocalyptic scenario, with its monsters and anyone around them not really knowing what they are; if they are infected or knowing if or when they might snap. Someone infected with the ‘noids can wreak tremendous havoc and then not remember what happened, leading to even more mayhem when it grips them again. This story has the flavor of a Stephen King thriller, with deeply drawn main characters that come to life on the page in vivid detail. The acts of violence are brutal and sudden, perpetrated by people who are, to a great extent, innocent as the brain inside their heads begin to deteriorate and play vile tricks on them. Danny and Gemma are interesting, well thought out characters, with Danny’s own paranoia at what is happening all around him keeping him guessing as to his own state of mind throughout the story.
This was a well written, intriguing tale with some very compelling twists and turns including a jaw dropping ending that forced me to re-read it more than once to make sure I understood what had just happened. There are hints and clues throughout that will likely lead to a variant of reader’s paranoia about what is truly happening and who is to blame for the sickness that seems to have gripped everyone in its path.
Ammon’s Horn can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Ammons-Horn-Stan-Timmons/dp/161868096X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1411316061&sr=8-1
Darpocalypse, the second book in The Living Dead Series by Joseph Souza, jumps ahead from the prior book in time and introduces us to mostly brand new characters who did not appear in the prior novel. Dar, the suicidal teenager, is the only one who remains. She has become the merciless leader of the Boston Commons compound where a group of survivors live thanks to her quick thinking in urging a city engineer to fence the area in before the surge of undead swept over the city. Gritz, a Delta Force colonel, is the lone survivor in a failed mission to stop a nuclear power plant from going critical as the undead overwhelmed the area. He has been put on a new mission by the President to get to Boston to find the “ghost” that is in the compound and bring them back to Washington DC to save the city from annihilation. Annabelle is a washed up rock star performing for Dar on stage in Boston to entertain the survivors, and also goes out into the dead city to gather supplies because she is immune to the infection and more importantly, is a ghost who can walk among them. Mike Brabas is a man on death row waiting to be executed until the dead rise, and then accidentally discovers that he too is a ghost. Now his delusions of grandeur and terroristic tendencies have him pointed toward Washington D.C. with every intention of creating a new world order with him as its leader.
Darpocalypse is a total shift from the first book in this series. It moves from first person to third and many of the things that happened and were significant elements of the first book have been pushed aside. No longer do any infected animals appear here, although the infected humans still go through a transformation where they appear to have transcended into some sort of state of grace momentarily, speaking about the chosen or regrets they had in life, before transforming yet again into the ravenous monsters that zombie fans know and love. The nuclear fallout pushing south from Maine appears to have had no impact on Boston either. Dar still has visions of heading west to find her father and the first scroll-the journal her uncle wrote that might have the scientific information to save everyone who remains, though that is secondary to her efforts to rule what remains of Boston with an iron fist. Thom, her father and narrator from the first book, has supposedly set up camp out in Washington State with a ghost of his own, though he is not a part of this book at all.
There were few redeemable characters in the first book except for some secondary ones. This book also provides us with its share of the despicable, but mixed among them are far more likable people, which made it easier for me to root for someone. In the first book, I found that very hard to do. Annabelle, the former drug addled and suicidal ghost of Boston has found life in this deadly world, with her new found talent that allows her to hunt for supplies and be Dar’s right hand helping the people of Boston. She cares for everyone and wants nothing more than to insure the survival of the camp. Colonel Gritz is a bit too much of a super soldier-the perfect human weapon-but he is also someone who wants to do what he can to insure both the survival of the human race and save his country from the brink of annihilation. Of course, Brabas is a despicable sociopath through and through, but the one character who I truly despised in this story was Dar. I loathed her in the first book and didn’t think it possible increase my aversion to her any further, but the author somehow managed to turn up her loathsomeness to an eleven. To be fair, as I mentioned in my review of the first novel, there is nothing wrong with despicable characters. This is no indictment to either what the author has written or the story itself. Admittedly, Dar in her cruel and disturbing way, is doing what she believes necessary to keep the people she is responsible for safe. But in doing so, she is far closer in personality to most villains that live in tales of apocalyptic despair than any sort of hero. She throws anyone who defies her into a pit filled with zombies to fight for their lives, along with anyone who enters her stronghold-they must all prove they can survive against the undead. She picks and chooses who lives, and cows anyone who even looks at her cross-eyed into complete and utter submission. Slivers of humanity sneak through on occasion-with her young son and when she reveals her desire to keep the whole of her community safe, but that only assures the reader that she is not some sort of demon, but still a human being. A vile, hate-filled, wretched human being who is willing to sacrifice anyone who will stand in her way, which she believes is the only way to keep others safe. Add to this the inexplicable fact that everyone, and I do mean everyone, bows down before her in a state of awe and fear when she is clearly some sort of megalomaniac who should be put down like a rabid dog makes her an even more disconcerting character.
Darpocalypse is a solidly told story that veers closer to the traditional zompoc tale than its predecessor, though it retains a few select supernatural elements that insure it stands apart from the rest. Yes, the author has created perhaps one of the most despicable heroes in any zompoc book I have ever read, but he has wrapped an intriguing story around her that compels me to pick up the third book to see how this wild, intriguing saga concludes. And if I wish for Dar’s ugly, brutal demise the entire time I am reading it, so be it.
Darpocalypse can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Darpocalypse-The-Living-Dead-Volume/dp/1618680838/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
The King of Clayfield introduces us to a man who is the curator of a small museum in the town of Clayfield, Kentucky the day the Canton B virus comes to town. The virus essentially fries the brain of people affected by it, turning them into what amounts to zombies. But unlike most zombie apocalypse tales, the author made this plague a bit more varied with the effects of infection. It is airborne, which means that if you are near someone who is infected you can also become infected regardless of bites. An odd way to combat the potential infection is by drinking alcohol. It seems to prevent the virus from taking hold of your brain if you get intoxicated. There are different stages to the infection, with those who die from it coming back and acting more like traditional zombies. Those who are initially infected behave like they are somewhat human, with sexual urges and established pecking orders-they are primitive and violent, but definitely not undead cannibals. Those who die behave more like the traditional undead we are more familiar with. Getting bit doesn’t seem to insure death, though it is uncertain whether anyone who dies, regardless of the cause, returns. It was certainly an interesting, a complex set of variables that the author introduces.
The story is told in first person and the narrator makes it clear how unprepared he is to survive during the course of the book. In fact, it is a running theme-from the first survivor he meets to everything he goes through, it is a reminder of how little those of us used to modern conveniences know about growing food, staying warm, getting water, hunting, and defending ourselves. He even jokes that he should collect someone who is Amish on a supply run so they can teach him how to function in a society without electricity and running water. The narrator meets up with several other survivors in his trek through his hometown and surrounding area, including a woman he went to high school with who becomes his closest companion as they face down challenges from both the living and the undead. They search houses, collect supplies, deal with other survivors both friend and foe, all as they are focused on sticking to Clayfield rather than trying to find another place deep in the countryside to hide out from the growing population of the infected and undead.
The characters, for the most part, seem believable. The main character comes across as somewhat passive at first and while he is forced to toughen up, he seems to acquiesce to the wishes of Jen, his newfound friend, for most of the story. Jen was not a very likable character. She is territorial and pushy, and the narrator seems to accept this as a matter of course, even when she does her best to push away Sara, a younger survivor who they find and that Jen perceives as a threat to her place in their small group. Jen is erratic and foolish at times, taking risks that are plain stupid.
The story is an easy read and again, the characters are believable-reacting in ways that are plausible given their dire circumstances. They were a mixed bag though, and no one leaving me with the urge to root for them. Some of the minor characters, like Brian, were interesting, but weren’t along for most of the ride. Jen is incredibly annoying, and how the main character responds to her more annoying still, but this isn’t to say it isn’t completely plausible. The author does an excellent job making them plausible characters, just not altogether likable. There are two sequels, so the main character, who ranges from timid to rash in his thinking and acting may become someone who I can root for in those novels.
The King of Clayfield can be found here: http://smile.amazon.com/King-Clayfield-Shane-Gregory-ebook/dp/B006I9GYZ2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1409105570
Dead Living by Glenn Bullion starts out as a traditional Day Zero tale with several survivors narrowly escaping a hospital being overrun by the undead. The story skips forward several years a couple of times to re-introduce us to the baby born on that fateful day who has grown into a young man with a special gift. The undead, for some reason, do not realize that he is alive…or at least they have no interest in attacking or eating him. Aaron has survived in the midst of the undead, in Baltimore, which is crawling with them, for many years after everyone he knew was lost to him. As an adult he manages to cross paths with Samantha, another survivor who was abandoned on a supply run into the city by the rest of her team when she got separated from them. Samantha is aloof, cold, and distrusts just about everyone, but after Aaron saves her she feels compelled to do the same for him and invites him back to the small community she resides in a good distance from the city.
As the two new-worlders of the zombie apocalypse get to know one another they grow attached, though Aaron feels the need to maintain his secret talent from Samantha, for fear that she and the others in her community will think of him as a freak. But his ability grants him the capability to wander freely amongst the dead, and that is a talent that his newfound group of friends are going to need to survive both the undead and the living, who, as always, are the real threat to survival.
Dead Living was an easy read and took an interesting idea of the undead being indifferent to someone and ran with it. Aaron’s gift gives him a tremendous advantage and his burgeoning relationship with Samantha has given him a reason to use it for more than just a way to hide away from the rest of the living, but to also help others. The author adds another undead tidbit with the ‘thinkers’, who are the rare but very dangerous undead that can figure out simple things, like how to maneuver objects or turn doorknobs to get access to the living. Naturally, the undead are an overriding threat (and when a thinker is around, they are doubly dangerous), but it is the living, including slavers who roam the wastelands looking for weak survivors to capture, that are the most dangerous element of Aaron and Sam’s world.
The story does require a good deal of suspension of disbelief, especially when it comes to certain technologies that still work over two decades after the world has collapsed. While it might be plausible that someone, somewhere is making bullets and producing gasoline, it seemed a bit of a stretch that there are still stores of such commodities still being found on scavenging runs. It felt at times that the world was more like two to three years down the road from the first undead attacks rather than twenty three with what has come to pass for everyone still around.
The relationship between the main characters is well developed and their newfound relationship is well paced, though Aaron’s fascination and thoughts about how beautiful Samantha was got a bit repetitive after a while. For the most part, their growing affection for one another didn’t feel forced or uncomfortable though-it had a very natural appeal.
The zombie gore is kept to a minimum in the story and instead the focus is on the challenges Aaron and Sam have in both relating to each other and to the world around them. Aaron’s secret keeps things interesting, but Sam’s slow willingness to become more vulnerable around Aaron also keeps the story moving in the right direction. Overall, a fast, entertaining read that will appeal to those who enjoy the human dynamic more than a heavy dose of zombie gore in their apocalyptic fiction.
Hollow Mountain Dead is not Jonathan Moon’s first foray into the cross-genre mix of western and undead fiction, though I believe it is his first full-fledged novel on the subject. He had a book filled with varied short stories along with a novella that took place in the old west that was a rollicking good horror story, but I can’t quite recall what the name of that book was, though I am certain I reviewed it somewhere back in the mists of time.
Mr. Moon has created quite a few different horror tales as well as dipping into bizzarro and other speculative genres. This story, along with his past story that takes place in the mythical American old west, have a taste of harsh reality to them. The darkness isn’t just within the monsters that pour forth from the gaping hole in the side of a mountain, it is embedded in most of the characters we are exposed to-even in the ones who do their best to become heroic when hell comes for a visit. Only a select few seem redeemable here, though it is clear that most are as human as their harsh environment allows them to be.
A greedy, powerful mining magnate has cracked open a mountain with his crew of toughs and army of Chinese immigrant workers who are treated like slaves. When he digs too deep, an old Indian warns him to stop and turn back, but greed casts a powerful spell on him and that is when, literally, all hell breaks loose. A seeping gas bellowing out from seams within the earth turn those who are exposed to it into flesh eating monsters. But this is not the only menace, because there is something further beneath the earth that is reaching out to those on the mountain, corrupting and luring them into evil.
The undead spread, wiping out a homestead and heading toward one of the two towns that sit on the mountainside while the few who managed to escape wave after wave of undead flee the mining camp. Members of the Madoosk tribe have been tasked with stopping the evil have been preparing for it for ages and are ready for it, but they never expected hundreds of miners would get infected or that the plague with spread so fast.
The story moves at a fast pace and there are a multitude of characters. While there are some flashbacks, much of the story is told with the urgency of present tense. The undead are somewhat traditional in their tactics and how they spread, though the supernatural bent here brings some new elements to the table, including new ways to kill the undead that the Madoosk reveal.
As I mentioned, there are a great many characters on display, though that narrows to the select few who are tasked with defeating the undead after the first few waves of carnage pass. There is plenty of gore for those who love that aspect of the zombie genre. The feel of the old west is palpable on each page. Many characters die, both throwaway and those more central to the plot, most in very brutal ways. Again, there probably only a select few characters that most people will like or identify with because of who they were prior to the undead invasion, though a small few will grow on you. Historically, Mr. Moon has been pretty relentless with his horror fiction, with no apologies for the slaughter and sprays of blood and gristle that oozes and spills forth from his pages. This book is no exception to that rule. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
In the end, a door is left open for more Hollow Mountain Dead with the ending of this tale. This book was brutal, relentless, and vicious, and I am looking forward to checking out what comes next.
Hollow Mountain Dead can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Mountain-Dead-Jonathan-Moon-ebook/dp/B00LLPU8YG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1407427523
Dead Tide Surge is the third book in Stephen North’s Dead Tide Series, and I have previously reviewed the other two installments, Dead Tide, and Dead Tide Rising. I read both prior to their re-release by Permuted Press and so I do not know for certain if there were significant changes, specifically a transition from present to past tense being used by the author. This is the first of this series that I have read that was not in present tense. While the transition didn’t change the story or impact the characters or dialog, the immediacy felt with present tense falls away a bit here. That isn’t meant as a criticism. The majority of stories are written in past tense for a reason and there is value to crafting a tale in that format. Most people find it less jarring and more aesthetically pleasing. While this may be true, I can say that the present tense versions of the first two books in this series were more than satisfactory for me-the pacing was fast and the short chapters that shuffle the reader from one character to the next was abrupt, but in a good way for someone who enjoys a bit of disruptive force being used in the stories they read. Despite the tense change, the short, sharp chapters remain. Reading the Dead Tide series is like getting shot at by an automatic weapon, with perhaps a dozen different story lines crashing against one another and keeps the reader on their toes. Certainly not a style that everyone enjoys, but it has allowed the author to manage the experiences of an ensemble cast scattered around the Tampa Bay area who are all dealing with the onslaught of the undead and it keeps them all top of mind as they appear on the pages with great frequency.
Dead Tide Surge starts up as abruptly as its predecessor left off, so if it has been a while since you read Dead Tide Rising, it may take a few chapters to catch on to where each character, or groups of characters, ended up by the end of book two. But it has been nearly four years since I read the prior installment in this series and was still able to recall the bulk of what the characters who have survived to this point have been through. My only hope is that I don’t have to wait several more years for the next installment. Originally, I presumed this would be a trilogy, and at some points in this book it appeared as though some of the many story lines were drawing to a conclusion. The author did a good job of adding enough surprises so that while some characters meet their demise, others have plenty of reason to go on fighting to survive through at least one more book. Some of the many strands of this very complex web do cross paths and I could believe that the fourth book could be the final stand of this series, though who is to say? Plenty of the characters have not interacted with one another as of yet. The author will have to determine if everyone will be together on the same page before all is said and done. My gut tells me Mr. North isn’t quite sure himself how things will end up-will there be hope or will it all end in blood and despair?
With all the tightly interwoven plot elements here, reading the first two books is pretty much mandatory to understand what is going on here in book 3. And if you enjoy tales of zombie gore and violence that is character driven (driven by a large cast of characters, that is) then it is worth picking up the trilogy.
Dead Tide Surge can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Tide-Surge-Book-3-ebook/dp/B00KPKGCFC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1406668944
I was notified with the pleasant news that I am the featured author over at the Zombie Authors Blog for the next couple of weeks. So while you may have found me here on my own slice of the blogosphere, please go check out what they have to say about me over at Zombie Authors: http://zombie-authors.blogspot.com/
Thanks to Jule Romans for giving me the heads up on this nice bit of news.
Time of Death: Induction introduces the reader to Emma Rossi, a nursing student living in southwest Florida when the zombie apocalypse begins. While the prologue is told in third person and gives a hint as to who patient zero might be, the rest of the tale is told in first person from Emma’s perspective. She works at the hospital that is first hit by the advent of the dead rising, but her shift ends before things get crazy. Still, through the combination of a violent storm and the fast spread of the virus things crash down all around her at home, with her husband Jake and their little dog Daphne fleeing for their lives as their home is overwhelmed by the walking dead.
After a series of narrow escapes, Emma and Jake manage to hook up with a group of soldiers who have claimed a Target superstore as their barricaded base of operations. But it is clear that while the location appears to be secure they are far from safe as the world around them crumbles in the blink of an eye. When Jake disappears on a supply mission and things start to fall apart at the store, Emma is forced to race through one harrowing and tragic event after another.
While Time of Death: Induction doesn’t introduce any new elements to the zombie genre-the zeds here are slow moving, traditional Romero zombies and not the ‘infected’ or have any differing abilities, the author has created a solid, fast moving story of personal survival. There is plenty of gore and death, and the addition of the little dog the main character wants to keep sheltered and protected will add a sense of impending dread for anyone who is an animal lover, since Daphne seems to get herself into more sticky situations than the main character.
The pacing of the story is fast, with the main character and various other survivors she is with dealing with one traumatic event after another as the body count continues to rise and hope becomes fleeting. The writing is smooth with no significant editing concerns. The author provides Emma with a strong voice-she is easy to identify with and appreciate as a regular person thrown into an untenable situation where she is forced to make one difficult decision time after time. The story is heavy on the undead being the main challenge for the survivors rather than human confrontations, with the exception of a rather brief but intense interaction with some desperate outsiders to Emma’s group. Beyond this, there are some arguments but they take a back seat to basic day to day and minute by minute survival against the undead. While Emma and Jake are fleshed out characters, the secondary players were less detailed, which is often a challenge faced when a story is told in first person. We don’t get to know many of the other characters too well before many are obliterated in the apocalypse. This isn’t a stiff criticism but more of an acknowledgement that this is Emma’s tale and the story sticks closely with her worldview and perspective throughout.
This is the author’s first novel and this appears to be the first of a series or trilogy. Shanna Festa has created an exciting, enjoyable tale of desperation and survival, and I look forward to checking out the second book when it becomes available.
Time of Death: Induction can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Time-Death-Induction-Volume-1/dp/1618682725/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
Mad Swine: Dead Winter does not pick up where Mad Swine: The Beginning left off. In fact, this sequel provides a review of the events that happen directly after the abrupt ending of the first book with a relatively quick synopsis by the main character more than a couple of months later. I stated in my review of the first book that it cut off abruptly with a cliff hanger ending that left me very curious as to what would happen next. Unfortunately, the focal point on this story does not start out with, or even focus on, the war between the neighborhoods, only its aftermath, which makes me puzzle over whether the author wrote about the battles that occurred and either he or someone in his circle of advisors suggested he cut it and focus on the long term survival of the community that the main character, Matt Danzig, is leading through the apocalypse. I would have liked to have read the story of the actual battle for Randall Oaks.
This criticism does not mean that the actual story that the author wrote here doesn’t have its own positive qualities. In and of itself, the tale told here is solid, and in fact some elements of this book work better than the first. The lack of ammunition and the desire to stay quiet and not draw the attention of the infected leave the survivors with more challenges and less ability to utilize the arsenal that the main character and narrator had at his disposal in MS:TB. This makes for a more pure and raw survival story of average suburban folks vs. more of an armed military camp scenario that there was a taste of in book one. Matt’s personal relationships are explored with more depth and there is a bit of romance thrown in as well for him after the trauma of losing his wife and children in the first book. He is, understandably, reluctant, but the sense that everything could fall apart at any minutes does pervade his and everyone else’s reality in Randall Oaks. The struggles with the bitter cold of winter and diminishing supplies are the main nemesis for the citizens of the community, with the infected playing a close second. The competing neighborhoods are no longer a factor in this tale, but the urgency to figure out how to make it to spring without freezing or starving is crucial. The infected, which were explained to not be the undead in the first book, continue to have all the traits of the undead in this one. Where they slept in the first book like regular humans, they seemed to have moved past that stage here, where the virus or plague has further transformed them. Another interesting and threatening aspect of their existence is revealed that seemed quite creative. The theory that the undead will freeze in bitter cold comes somewhat into play, with the undead going dormant in the cold, but even more interestingly, when they get buried under snow they will still become alert when a living human presence is nearby, which makes for some very interesting ambush scenarios.
Overall, I think the author’s story telling skills have grown with this sequel, though I can’t deny my disappointment that I was not treated to the battle of the neighborhoods that the first book appeared to promise was on the horizon. As a standalone, this tale definitely has its merits, and its focus on Matt more as a man struggling to lead people against nature and inhuman monsters is compelling, though it serves, like so many second books in a trilogy, as a transition between the sudden and abrupt actions of the first book and the potential threats that promise to inhabit the third book. The hope is that both the personal struggles that Matt suffers through in the second book and the heated action and excitement of the first book will join forces in book three for a very compelling conclusion.
Mad Swine: Dead Winter can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Swine-Dead-Winter-Volume/dp/1618680463/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1399223763&sr=8-1-fkmr0
Blood Red introduces us to Rachel, a 19 year old college student living with her father and step mom. Waking up one morning, she finds her step mother passed out on her bed with some sort of red glow emanating from inside her skull. For all intents and purposes, she appears to be dead, though her skin feels strange and when Rachel gets near the source of the red glow, it burns her. Racing across the street, she discovers much the same thing has happened to her boyfriend and his mother. There are other corpses out on the street-it is as if their lives were all snuffed out in the same instant, replaced by the strange red glow. Realizing her father is not home, Rachel takes off on a hunt for him, hoping and praying that he is somehow still alive. Her journey leads her to other survivors like herself-confused, frightened, and many gruesomely injured after trying to revive their loved ones and coming into contact with the red glow. The local hospital is filling up with the ‘dead’ and dying, along with the few bewildered survivors who remain behind. Planes are dropping out of the sky and out of control fires are destroying much of Rachel’s Colorado town. But even worse, as the day goes on, it appears that something is happening to the corpses. They appear to be slowly waking up…but they are also being transformed. Not into zombies, or even remotely close to the people they were before. They are becoming something far stranger, and far more horrible than anyone could ever imagine.
Blood Red is possibly one of the most unique zombie novels I have ever read, if it even can be categorized as such. The creatures that inhabit the pages of this first of a trilogy are far different than the traditional dead walkers who crave human flesh. The author has introduced something new and incredibly creepy to the mix that needs to be read about to fully comprehend. Providing details may be deemed a spoiler, but since he has created something entirely new, I will leave it in his hands (and words) to describe his creation, spoilers or not.
Despite the uniqueness of this tale, the driving force behind what will compel most readers to check out this story remains much the same as with other apocalyptic fiction tales, which is the quest to survive and to comprehend what is happening in a world that has fallen into chaos. Rachel’s journey is both heartbreaking and disturbing. Like many characters that inhabit the pages of novels where the impossible becomes reality, she finds a way to not only cope with her situation, but strives to understand it. With a level head on her shoulders, she becomes somewhat of a leader-discovering things about the strange new threats that surround the meager pool of survivors still inhabiting her town. She is vulnerable yet strong-a character who feels real and genuine. The key characters that surround her felt much the same-solid, using whatever coping mechanisms they have to deal with the situation, for better or for worse.
While some readers may be turned off by the present tense format of this story-it is a style rarely used, I found it to be of minimal to no distraction. The author was able to put you in the action and keep the pace and tone aggressive, to match the immediacy and intimacy of Rachel’s situation. Blood Red was different, intriguing, and I was left very curious as to what will happen next.
Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2) is the sequel to Infection, the first book in this trilogy, which will be completed with Mitigation, which has already been released. The author returns to where he left off, with the two bands of survivors who were racing against death through the first few days and weeks after the first zombie rose up combining forces and doing whatever they can to find and to maintain a safe haven. We are also introduced briefly to a military leader and the failed efforts to prevent the undead from crossing a bridge north of Anchorage, granting the monsters access to the rest of the vast state.
Neil, who led one of the groups in the first book, takes on the mantle of leadership in this book, while Dr. Caldwell, who was the leader of the other group, stepping aside and becoming more of a consultant, or moral guide for Neil. As this new entity travels in and around Anchorage, their numbers grow and diminish thanks to other survivors they happen across and the hordes of undead they must face off against. Of course, the newcomers and old members of the team alike add conflict and provide new challenges for Neil and the others. Officer Malachi Ivanoff, the loose cannon police officer in the first book, finds a new friend in one of the newcomers the group comes across, and ample reasons to continue down his path of destruction and mayhem. Other relationships hinted at being formed in the first book continue to grow and face challenges. In general, Neil’s group, like a living organism, adapts and modifies itself to suit its challenging environment.
While the objective, as is the case in most apocalyptic tales, is survival, the story meanders for the most part, with no specific objective outside of finding food, water, and a safe haven. The author, to his credit, makes Alaska-both Anchorage and the surrounding natural beauty, play a far more prominent role here than in the first book. In Infection, the city of Anchorage had the feel of Any Town, USA. There was nothing unique about this environment the undead had invaded. Containment shares more of the unique flavor of the largest and northern-most state in the U.S., especially when the survivors step outside the confines of Anchorage and are forced to wander a bit into the wilderness. The isolation of Alaska is both a blessing and a curse. While the military has failed to contain the undead in the Anchorage area, there is no hint at outside intervention, either from Canada or the rest of the United States, despite the fact that the story takes place several weeks after Anchorage has been annihilated by the undead. The characters conjecture about where the military might have made a stand and where potential larger bands of refugees might be located, but there are few tangible hints as to what is happening in the wider world around them. It would be safe to guess that the third book in the trilogy should provide greater insight into the global picture though it seems there should have been more here.
The characters in Containment, as was the case in Infection, are well developed. We get to know the original characters even better and the same treatment occurs with some of the new people with whom they cross paths. Unfortunately, the level of introspection each character goes through slows this novel down a great deal in multiple places. The action often comes to a screeching halt while either a character ponders the meaning of what is happening, a bit of their history is revealed, or in the case of a few devious characters, what they are plotting. Still, this is a classic tale of survival in the undead apocalypse and the reader is given the opportunity to get to know these characters in depth and detail that has strong appeal.
Containment, though slow at points and with a plot that meanders a bit, provides the reader with a set of characters that are well-rounded and have a great deal of depth. Neil and the rest of the group are easy to identify with-they are not heroes or skilled survivalists but ordinary folk trying to find their place in a world filled with the undead. It will be interesting to see what happens to them in the conclusion of this trilogy.
Containment (Alaskan Undead Apocalypse Book 2) can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Containment-Alaskan-Undead-Apocalypse-Book/dp/161868048X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1395493625&sr=8-2
The Remnant: Into The Collision thrusts the reader right into the madness of what the universe has become for Byron Russo, a working class grunt who, like everyone else, is waiting for the world to end. When a man comes crashing through his living room window and wants to kill him for no better reason than to see what it feels like, it is the wakeup call Byron needs after spending a couple of weeks sitting on the couch, watching and waiting for the meteors to come that may spell the end of the all life on earth.
At first, the concept here seemed similar to that of the movie “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” Byron is a down on his luck slob who lost his wife and his little daughter and needs to snap out of the funk that has wrapped itself around him, not only for the past two dazed weeks of his existence, but for most of it long before the world threatened to put an end to his miserable existence. Of course, this being an apocalyptic novel with a far darker bent than the Steve Carrell movie, Byron’s shortened existence isn’t likely to be filled with romance and pleasant moments spent contemplating the sweetness of life. That is made clear from the opening paragraph, when Byron is forced to defend himself and kill another human being so he can stay alive. Thus begins his awakening into his stunning new reality. It is one in which he realizes that he still wants to make a go of it and survive for as long as possible. With this in mind, he makes his way to the local grocery store, where he witnesses more acts of human savagery as well as the same complacency he was guilty of just a few hours earlier. He also stumbles across another like-minded survivor named C.J., a young man who looks and talks like a thug but is pretty normal, all things considered. C.J. introduces Byron to the group he is with, who are looking for a place to escape the madness on the streets. Byron, who had no more of a plan than to hunker down at the factory where he works, is joined by this group who seem pretty normal. Of course, normal under life-threatening duress can get warped fairly quickly. They make it to the factory, which makes scuba breathing gear and has been abandoned, like most work places, since the impending destruction of the planet was revealed. It is the ideal place to set up shop and wait to see if the world will end when the meteors come.
It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that the meteors don’t destroy the world, but wreak havoc on the atmosphere when they crash into the moon instead, altering its orbit. One of the side effects of its new trajectory is thinner oxygen. While not immediately lethal, it does have some horrible side effects for those forced to breathe this new air. This makes Byron and friend’s new factory home, with its amble scuba breathing devices, a very good place to hole up.
The Remnant: Into The Collision deals with the very human struggles the band of survivors must face, including coping with outsiders who will annihilate anyone who is capable (or incapable) of standing in their way.
While the background apocalypse in this story treads new ground, the saga of humans in conflict is very traditional and shares similarities to other novels in the genre. The air they breathe becomes the monster at their doorstep rather than some slouching beast threatening to tear them limb from limb. Its treachery is much more insidious and devious, slowly robbing those who have no breathing devices of their faculties and turning them into drooling automatons with sluggish minds and muted reactions to the world around them. When the trap door that is civilization swings open and those who remain alive fall into what lies beneath, the truth of their nature is revealed. For a few survivors, like Byron, whose past life is filled with regrets, this new world is ripe with opportunities for redemption. For others, like Richard Perry, a National Guardsman, it is an opportunity to become as depraved and vile as his withered heart desires.
This is where this tale will divide its readership. While Richard’s abhorrent behavior may be quite plausible given his circumstances and willingness to follow his most primitive urges, having them laid out on the page will not agree with everyone. The abrasive nature of his and his men’s actions speak to the true depth of depravity humanity is capable of, while Byron’s efforts to become a better man demonstrates what we are all capable of, regardless of how harrowing the circumstances we find ourselves facing.
The Remnant: Into The Collision can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Remnant-Collision-P-A-Douglas-ebook/dp/B00IKMLEPA/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
Lords of Night gets right to the heart of the story by introducing us to the main character Jack and his band of protectors, with their assortment of colorful nicknames, smack dab in the middle of their journey into the barren wastelands of what was once the eastern seaboard of the United States. They are somewhere between New York City and Washington D.C. when the story starts off, on mission to save the human race. Besides Jack, there is Five Oh, Dusty, Sandman, Rook, Zero, and the Ranger, who are all highly skilled ex-military men (except for the Ranger, who has his own unique set of skills). Much of the story is told in flashbacks, giving us a history of each of the secondary characters in their own words and how they dealt with the day the dead rose up and the world changed forever. Jack’s story, on the other hand, is told through the journal entries he makes during their trip, giving the reader both his back story and an understanding of why he is so special and critical to the survival of the human race.
While this book could be categorized as zombie apocalyptic fiction, the zombies here are very much secondary-little more than a nuisance controlled by far more powerful creatures. The author introduces the reader to the locust people-humans transformed into malicious monsters who serve their masters, the aforementioned Lords of Night. There are seven of these powerful fiends who serve the ancient enemy which came to earth from the stars long ago. They have re-awoken their master and Jack was a witness to its rebirth. The teenager has special talents that seemingly escaped the notice of the ancient enemy’s minions at first, but have since grown and have drawn them to him. While he doesn’t understand much of his role in things, he knows that within him is the potential key to stopping an enemy to mankind that is older than time itself which has plans for humanity that are far worse than complete annihilation.
Lords of Night moves at a rapid clip through the mission Jack needs to accomplish and the assortment of characters surrounding him are an interesting bunch, especially the Ranger and Zero. Zero is a cocky, lazy, talented marine recon sniper who (as the author aptly points out) is reminiscent of Hudson from the movie Aliens with his snarky ways and can’t-do attitude, as well as his ability to come through when absolutely necessary. The Ranger, another larger than life character, might be insane but in the best way possible given the perils Jack and the rest of the team face. His talented shooting ability and fearless loyalty in the face of all odds make him perhaps the most appealing character in the book. While these two steal the show, all six of Jack’s guardians are interesting, in fact far more so than Jack. The teen is likable and his story is compelling, but he is far less fun to read about than his companions.
The story is, turn by turn, more creative than most and gives the reader a unique spin on the typical apocalyptic horror novel. Again, the zombies found on these pages are secondary-the true menaces are the locust people and their masters, who have an evil intelligence and maliciousness that challenge Jack and his crew every step of the way. The history and ongoing saga of the ancient enemy gets almost a bit too complicated at times, including the nuances of the part Jack is to play, though it all becomes clear in the end. Twisty as it is, the story is sewn up quite effectively before the last page is turned.
Fans of apocalyptic fiction that are receptive to authors taking creative license on the traditional should enjoy Lords of Night. The main characters are well developed and the backstory is complex. The author perhaps is a bit over-protective of his characters-it takes quite a bit to send them to their demise, though that is in some ways a forgivable offense considering how entertaining they are as a team. That and the sometime slow pace found earlier in the story are my two main (and minor complaints) in what is otherwise a rollicking adventure tale.
Lords of Night can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Lords-Night-Thom-Brannan/dp/1618680307/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1393486184&sr=8-1
Evil Vein: Dark Beginnings is an apocalyptic origin tale that introduces the reader to a scientist bent on trying to give his terminally ill wife a new lease on life. When the lab he works for threatens to shut down and ruin his work, he decides that he will share his ‘Blue Gem Serum’ with his home town in Northern California. The serum allows for the genetic mutation of any life form it comes into contact with, making it stronger, more adaptable, and more intelligent and vicious. When the scientists dumps it into the local water supply, the crab population immediately undergoes a dramatic genetic transformation, turning them into a hybrid that looks like a cross between its predecessor and a scorpion, complete with a lethal sting that transforms its human victims into the living dead. The monsters become land dominant and start attacking the people in the town of Tylerton soon after.
The duel threat of the scrabions (as they are later dubbed) and the undead unleash an assault that is viewed through the eyes of multiple characters, some of which meet a very unfortunate end rather gruesomely and others who manage to survive the first waves of assault. This story takes place over a period of a day or so, with the town caught in the crossfire of an army of constantly adapting and cunning genetic mutations and its own transformed population of the living dead.
While the tale of how patient zero is exposed to whatever the cause of its own un-death is one that has been done before, it is far rarer to include another threat that is ends up being far greater danger to humanity than the undead. In fact, I would be hard pressed to describe this novel as a zombie apocalypse story, since it is in fact more of a genetic horror/sci-fi tale that happens to have zombies in it. The scrabions take over as the primary danger-the one that the military personnel trying to quarantine Tylerton struggle to deal with and that the CDC is hard pressed to find a way to stop or destroy. That this is the driving force behind this story might irritate any zombie purists out there, but the mixture of the two monsters is well done.
The ensemble cast caught inside Tylerton as it is torn apart is a mixed bunch, as is usually the case when an author introduces the reader to a platoon of characters. It was hard to keep track of all of them at first, at least until they started grouping up. With nearly five hundred pages to work with, the author doesn’t shirk at character development, though it slowed the pacing a bit at first. It took a bit for the momentum to build, but by the time I was a third of the way into the novel it had become one of those hard to put down thrill rides. The reader is provided with ample background on both those characters facing the threat of the undead and scrabions as well as the military leaders and members of the CDC trying to understand and contain the menace that has conquered Tylerton. Some characters were naturally more compelling than others, while a select few were downright annoying. It is tough to juggle so many different actors crossing the stage with their stories being interwoven in bits and pieces until they join forces and their stories coalesce. In the end, the author does a relatively solid job of herding them all in the right direction.
The depth of detail (on the genetic mutations, the town, and the characters) the author provides in this novel is both its blessing and its curse. While it may seem like a stretch that a genetically mutated crab’s bite causes zombism, the science and the scrabions ability to adapt to its environment and perceived threats are intriguing and the implications terrifying; not only for this story, but for our innate fear of such dabbling by modern science. What sort of horrors will geneticists create in the name of progress? Unfortunately, the zombies are left to suffer in many ways-they seem only a moderate threat when compared to the scrabions, who continue to adapt to any form of attack unleashed on them-making themselves stronger and resistant to things like fire and other forms of assault. They are cunning, work like a colony of ants to go after their objectives, and seem for all intents and purposes unstoppable. Never would I have thought that a cross between a crab and scorpion could be this scary.
The story is solid with some entertaining twists and turns. The characters, for the most part, are believable and diverse. Providing the viewpoint of the General in charge of maintaining the battle lines around Tylerton was an added bonus that gave a unique perspective. In many ways, his story was more intriguing and impactful than that of the survivors, and will lead to some compelling storylines in the sequel. The duel threat of genetic mutations and the undead gives this book its own flavor that sets it apart from the pack.
Evil Vein: Dark Beginnings can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Evil-Vein-Dark-Beginnings-Volume/dp/1618681869/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1391730659&sr=8-1
Ex-Communication is the third book in Peter Clines’ Ex-saga of zombies battling with the survivors and the superheroes who protect them in Los Angeles in the years after the zombocalypse. The heroes, along with a new group of super soldier allies, have returned to The Mount (Paramount Studios) after contending with their most recent menace out in the desert. They have built high walls that surround a larger chunk of the city to give the thousands of survivors living with them more space to spread out and to feel safe.
Their latest superhuman nemesis is a being that calls itself Legion. It is a former LA gang member who has gained the ability to control countless hordes of the undead and likes tormenting those who live in the Mount by sending an endless brigade of the undead at them. Legion can speak through the undead and make them handle weapons, climb, and do all sorts of things the sluggish ghouls couldn’t do on their own. In addition to Legion, there are a couple of other new challenges for St. George, Stealth, and the rest of the supers to contend with. Zzzap, the superhero who can transform himself into pure energy, has been seeing ghosts…well, specifically one ghost who happens to be a former superhero that wants to return to the land of the living and needs help…including the body of someone who is recently deceased. They are also dealing with a young girl who has come to Los Angeles who shares similarities to the ex’s (zombies) in that she is dead and moving around, but is unlike all the others in that she can think, speak, and is an otherwise normal teenage girl.
Things only get more complicated from there when an angry, vengeful demon enters the picture, intent on consuming the souls of the remaining humans still alive in the Los Angeles area, including the superheroes at the mount.
The Ex series continues to provide an interesting twist on the zombie genre with its mix of complex superheroes and challenging villains. The main heroes are well fleshed out and the author continues to use flashbacks to great success to provide a slow reveal as new good and evil elements are introduced to the storyline. While for the most part the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, there is plenty of gray area to keep the reader guessing on what to expect.
Ex-Communication can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Ex-Communication-A-Novel-Peter-Clines/dp/0385346824/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1386871552&sr=8-1
Ex-Purgatory is the fourth book in Peter Clines’ Ex series. For those who haven’t read at least the first and second books in the series, Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots, I would strongly suggest you read those books first. In some ways, this book will still make sense even if you haven’t because the author does an excellent job of introducing and developing his characters. So even if you don’t know them already they will stick with you. With that said the payoff with this tale will not resonate as well without the background provided in the first two books. I would note that I actually have not read Ex-Communication, the third book in the series, but am rectifying that now.
We are introduced to George Bailey, who in the past books was the lead superhero keeping humanity safe at ‘The Mount’ in Los Angeles after the zombocalypse had begun. The Mount is Paramount studios, and George, along with several other superheroes including Stealth, Captain Freedom, and zzZap have created a safe haven for those still alive in the city by building walls around many of the buildings to keep the Ex-Humans (aka zombies) outside.
That, however, is not how this story begins. A reader familiar with this series may believe that this is somehow a prequel, re-introducing us to George in his normal life before he realized he had his superpowers. It becomes clear very soon that this is not the case. He is a maintenance man on the UCLA campus grinding his way through life one day at a time-trying to keep his car from stalling out on the way to work and to make enough money to keep a roof over his head. But it becomes clear rather quickly that things are not as they seem-to George and to the reader. There are little peeks behind the hazy curtain that the world seems to thrown around him that George has to puzzle over-the world shifts and people around him appear as if they are moving corpses-ones that attack and crave flesh. The world looks decimated-like a nuclear bomb has been dropped on L.A. But not long after these images appear they fade, replaced by typical people doing ordinary things and with everything around George going back to normal. But it isn’t only the visions that are causing him confusion-it’s the dreams he has every night of him as a superhero fighting off hordes of the undead while people behind a giant wall cheer him on. If that wasn’t enough, George keeps getting confronted by a young girl in a wheelchair named Madelyn. She insists he has superpowers and that neither of them belong in this place. Her memories, unlike his, are still intact. Where they are, she doesn’t know, except that they appear to be trapped in some alternate universe that they need to break out of before they are lost forever.
Ex-Purgatory takes a slight detour from the storytelling route readers of this series are used to. There are no flashbacks providing the reader with a backstory of the main characters. By now the reader, if they have followed along with the trilogy, understand who the superheroes are and where they came from, which makes this tale that much more interesting as we are reintroduced to them one by one with George’s efforts to unravel the mystery that his life has become-some of whom have dreamt of him while others have no clue who he is, though he is certain he knows them from somewhere. This adds new flavor to characters we already know, especially Stealth, adding new details to their existence that will be appreciated by fans of this series.
The Ex-series continues to entertain. While this perhaps isn’t the best book in the saga, it is a fun read definitely worth checking out.
Ex-Purgatory will be available January 14th here: http://www.amazon.com/Ex-Purgatory-Novel-Ex-Heroes-Peter-Clines-ebook/dp/B00E2RZHI2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386557100&sr=8-1&keywords=ex-purgatory
The Becoming: Brothers In Arms is a prequel novella to The Becoming series of zombie apocalypse books by Jessica Meigs. It introduces us to the brothers, Theo and Gray, who were introduced to the main characters in the first book of trilogy. It provides another perspective on the beginnings-the initial days of the virus and provides a more detailed understanding on these two peripheral characters to the main storyline found in the trilogy.
Theo, the older brother, is a paramedic who is on call the night that the infected come back to life. Not the best profession to be in when the accident victims who appear to be dead are trying to tear into your flesh. Gray is the younger brother who Theo feels more than just a brotherly obligation to. Ever since their parents died, he has been taking care of him. Especially since Gray has severe asthma attacks. Gray is working as a mechanic but is shooting pool at a local bar with a friend when things go haywire.
Most of this quick read takes place on the first night, where the two brothers face off against several harrowing experiences against the undead, while they do their best to survive long enough to reconnect with one another. The pacing is solid and the story could serve as a standalone first night of the apocalypse tale, thought it bridges the brother’s experiences from their initial experiences up until they meet with the rest of the characters from the trilogy.
For those who have read some or all of Jessica’s Meigs’ trilogy, reading this tale is a nice way to learn more about a couple of interesting characters. For those who haven’t ready any of her work, it is a nice brief introduction to her take on the zombie apocalypse.
The Becoming: Brothers In Arms can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007K1KO26/ref=cm_cr_thx_view
Keep Your Crowbar Handy introduces the reader to Jake, a free-lance journalist who has traveled the world and has been exposed to many war-torn countries in his journeys abroad. He was also embedded with the British SAS for a time, getting intense military training during one stint as a reporter. He has returned home to Ohio, working on tamer projects including editing a cook book to pay the bills. He has just met Kat, a Pharmacy Tech who thinks he would be a perfect match for her roommate, Laurel, a part-time singer who runs her own health food store. He agrees to meet up with them at a local bar along with his friend Allen, and Jake and Laurel hit it off, despite his initial (and ongoing) interest in Kat as more than just a friend. Unfortunately for them, it is the same night that the world is going to hell and the dead are coming back to life.
The story tells of Jake’s efforts to save his new found friends along with some of his old ones, including his landlord, a former military man, from their deaths at the hands of the undead as well as the living. This was an independent novel from SP Durnin, but has been picked up by Permuted Press to be re-released as a series of books (this novel plus several sequels).
Keep Your Crowbar Handy isn’t another tale of a bunch of regular folks barricading themselves in an apartment building with the hopes of being saved by the military. Instead, it is a tale of a group of well-armed and well trained individuals who plot how they can make it through 2,000 miles of deadly territory to what they hope is an area out west that has been cleared of the undead. It is also a tale of romance-the love triangle of Jake, Laurel, and Kat.
Jake has military training and Kat, who is half-Japanese, has extensive training in martial arts and weaponry, which makes her even more deadly than Jake against the undead and the living. Naturally, they face off against more than just zombies, as the world falls apart and desperate men and women fight to take the resources that Jake and his friends have at their disposal, along with the survivors they have rescued.
The story moves at a fast pace and the action is gripping. Jake is a strong, though reluctant leader/hero, and his character, along with Laurel and Kat, are well developed. They along with Allen, Rae (another military survivor they meet up with) and George (Jake’s landlord-the man with the plan for survival) were the most compelling characters in the book. There is quite a bit of traditional zombie survival storytelling going on here, though once again, it is clear that this isn’t your run of the mill apocalyptic survivor’s saga.
Credit to the author for putting the romantic elements of this story up front and center, making it complicated for the characters-not just because of the fear of death around every corner, but because of the feelings they have for one another. Jake has fallen for Laurel but has feelings for Kat as well, which she reciprocates. Jake is perhaps written too much as a ‘every man fears him and every woman wants him’ type guy who seems to far too perfect-he is strong, handsome, intelligent, and an all-around boy-scout, but as much as he proclaims his devotion to his gorgeous newfound girlfriend, he isn’t above tempting himself with Kat’s constant advances; this despite both of them knowing that what they are doing is wrong. That they both seemed to feel little guilt about their actions seemed out of character given their loyalty to Laurel and the fact that they are clearly presented as heroes and saviors. It would seem that their tantalizing and teasing of one another would weigh more heavily on them than it did.
As is the case with many independently written novels, this could use another solid round of edits-misplaced commas, over use of certain descriptive terms, etc. occur throughout the book. Despite this, the storytelling is solid and keeps you intrigued from start to finish. SP Durnin’s writing style is compelling and he clearly enjoys creating vivid characters and story sequences. With this book (along with its sequels) being re-released by Permuted Press, more editing will sharpen things up a bit and I would guess the story might get tweaked a bit as well. I look forward to seeing the entire series when it is completed. Keep Your Crowbar Handy has a memorable title and an entertaining storyline that I look forward to seeing through to the end of the road for Jake and his friends.
Keep Your Crowbar Handy can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1481096222/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_img_sol_0