Pontypool Changes Everything
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Pontypool Changes Everything

3.3 of 5 stars 3.30  ·  rating details  ·  399 ratings  ·  86 reviews
The compelling, terrifying story of a devastating virus. Have you ever imagined what it would be like to kill someone? Wondered, in your darkest secret thoughts, about the taste of human flesh? What if you woke up and began your morning by devoting the rest of your life to a murderous rampage, a never-ending cannibalistic spree? And what if you were only one of thousands w...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published March 1st 2009 by ECW Press (first published March 1st 1998)
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Nate D
Apr 07, 2013 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The failing dead
Recommended to Nate D by: A stuttered television broadcast
I have a thing for experimental and deconstructed genre fiction. Particularly sci-fi and horror. Having seen the cool, clever Pontypool film, I knew this was about zombie-ism spread via language, for a kind of pulp Ben Marcus, straighter but still sharp . But the film turns out to be an aside to this book, a riff, an alternate version, a parallel, a development cutting across this book at a right angle with only a single character and a couple plot-points' intersection. But then, the deconstruct...more
Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]
I wish I had the words to tell you how wonderful this book really is. It's a book full of lyrical prose, beautiful and terrible imagery, important and wondrous ideas, humour and hardcore horror. Centred around the idea of a zombie virus transmitted by language, the book touches on eye-opening concepts incorporating semiotics and neurolinguistics, as well as tapping into what it means to have a brain injury or mental illness. The horror comes not only from the physical suffering of the victims in...more
Favouriteneonsign
Pontypool Changes Everyting defies definition in a lot of ways. One of the biggest complaints that gets leveed against it (at least by people that I know) is that it is supposed to be a book about a zombie outbreak and, yet, the zombies in the book are more conceptual than literal. It is difficult to feel afraid of the zombies. But the novel's abstraction is its greatest strength because, at its core, it is a indefatigably complex horror novel.

The scariness in Pontypool Changes Everything (which...more
Siri
I liked the movie and was fascinated by its premise that a deadly virus could be created by and spread through the spoken English language.

The book version, though, is kinda like if the screenplay contracted the virus it depicts and becomes a weird disturbing verbal slosh. The author apologizes for the book in the afterword (with the "I was a heady young semiotician!" excuse) and rather than coming off like a sadistic jackass, it made me appreciate his sense of humor and the lengths he went to t...more
Paul Mcfarland
This is a story that is difficult to describe in a few paragraphs. It is on one level an account of the spread of an infectious disorder across the area around a small town in Ontario, Canada. It is on another level an attempt, I believe, to give an insight into madness.

It works I feel on both levels. As a Zombie Novel if produces several new ideas, chief among them the idea that an infection can be spread by language itself. This is an idea that was approached by Henry Kuttner in his short sto...more
Ben
As anyone who saw me reading this is well aware, this isn't really a book about zombies. I mean, it is. But it's also about language. Burgess' fascination with language and semiotics underpins this entire work, a fact that endows the novel with a linguistic playfulness while allowing the author to toy and tinker with ideas of lanuage, concept and understanding. The novel sort of meanders, occasionally becoming surreal and almost dadaist, and though this may detract from the work as a whole, it d...more
Katie
This is a tough one. The use of language and writing style in this book is a bit overcooked for my taste I think.
You know what it's like? It's like this one time I took this turbo kick class and it was so over choreographed that I spent the whole time just trying to figure out each move and by the time I did we were on to another one. So in the end I just felt confused and didn't get near the workout that I could have. It's like that.
ipso
Edit: An experiment to riff on the book’s self-conscious style in jabber didn't work too well. Calling an author’s first few chapters pretentious, in a review where the first two paragraphs are overly pretentious. Calling and author drunk and stoned, while being drunk and stoned. Talking about lack of structure in a style itself without structure – etc. I retract.
Robert Beveridge
Tony Burgess, Pontypool Changes Everything (ECW Press, 1998)

And the award for most-adapted screenplay goes to Bruce McDonald's Pontypool, one of the best films of 2008. I say “most-adapted” because Burgess' screenplay for the film and the book Burgess wrote ten years before the film was released are two entirely different animals. One can't really say that the book is better than the movie or vice versa when comparing them against one another; they must be looked at as two entirely separate, or...more
Andrew
I so desperately wanted to like this book, given its pedigree. Sadly, however, it did nothing for me. Aside from a few instances of better-than-average wordplay (the linguistic/semiotic description of the disease, primarily), it was an uninteresting exercise that, personally, felt absent of all character. As a result, the social associations fell to the ground, limp and lifeless. I can see where and why it might work for other horror fans, but without any strong desire to associate with or under...more
Josh
The concept is entirely facinating and some of the situations in the book are downright terrifying. However, the book as a whole is a poetic mess. It's poetry/prose fusion is more confusing than anything and hundered my enjoyment of the book. I loved how the book portrayed the after-effects of the event as well. An amazing idea but better realized in the Bruce Macdonald fil madaptaton in my opinion.
Kate Sherrod
This it's my year for completely bugnuts reading, it would seem. Pontypool Changes Everything is a bizarre maelstrom of language-drunk Ontario gothic in the vein of the famously gory and disgusting Avatar comic Crossed. Deep in that vein. Tearing that vein out with snaggly bloodstained teeth and flinging it around like a mad dog. A mad dog that quotes Ovid and makes weird puns.

It has some of the trappings of a (yawn) zombie story -- probably just enough of same to piss off serious zombie fans lo...more
Kristel
I'm not a particular fan of zombie movies/tv/media in any way, so perhaps it's not so surprising that I wasn't terribly fond of this. But it had an interesting idea - the zombie 'virus' being passed in words or speech or however you should describe it - so I went ahead with it anyway. It's a book that makes everything more difficult than it needs to be though, so I found it (surprisingly? for a book about zombies, I mean?) a bit of a slog to get through. I don't mind a book that doesn't connect...more
Lewis Rees
Rarely do I find a book that affects me in the same way that Pontypool did.
That is, rarely do I find a book so utterly terrible that I had to stop reading it.

Ostentibly the basis for the brilliant film Pontypool (Although, at 70% of the way through the novel, nothing had turned up besides the main character of said film, the eponomous town and the virus.)

The thing is, the core conceit here is absolutely brilliant: A fresh, inventive take on a genre that's been played out in every conceivable way...more
David Agranoff

I discovered this novel from watching the film based loosely on the novel. The film Pontypool was released a few years back and quickly gained a rep for being a well written and composed low budget zombie film. When I saw it I thought it was a creative spin on the tired genre, most interesting at it's core was a original concept of the the zombie virus being transferred not by blood or bites but trhough human language. I was interested in novel because it was written by Burgess who also wrote th...more
Alexis Winning
Poetic. Absurd. Surreal. Brilliant.

These are the only words to describe Pontypool. I love the idea of semiotics. My background is more the idea of semiotics used in performance, but I understand the literary theory as well. The zombie plague in Pontypool is spread through language, or rather the deconstruction of it, which is brilliant because this nonsensical story is told through words, and often does not make sense-that's the point.

It's definitely not a book for everyone. It's strange and n...more
Shelly
I was amazed at the film, Pontypool. Such a small cast and tiny location work that packed an interesting punch without tons of gore. An old fashioned creepy movie. It was great and made me want to find the book so I could read it.

Unfortunately, the book is completely different from the movie (and was done on purpose as the author explains in the afterward), but that doesn't mean that it sucks or anything. It is just a different view on the virus that turns people into zombies. A broader look at...more
[Name Redacted By Goodreads Because Irrelevant to Review]
Urgh. Bleh. Yargh.

A "1 star" book receiving an extra star for the quality of the underlying conceit, though the fact that that fascinating conceit takes a back seat to..incoherent drivel...almost knocks it back down to a single star.

How the gripping and atmospheric film "Pontypool" spun out of this repetitive, bloated mess is beyond me. It reads like the sort of thing I had to sit through when I was a Freshman Creative Writing major -- turgid with tortured metaphors, needless run-on sentences,...more
Brendan
Somewhere in Northern Ontario, near a town called Pontypool, a rabies-like virus has made the jump from biological threat to meme, riding existing sounds from one person to the next and driving them mad. The poor bastards who get infected first lose touch with reality, and then, in frustration, they attack the people around them in a horrorshow of gore and sudden violence. But before they become violent, they spend a lot of time walking around, speaking words that are more or less nonsense, but...more
Corey
The plot of PCE defies easy summation; like David Lynch's Mulholland Drive — and if there are any two artists whose combined talents would result in the freakiest , most disturbing story ever put to film, it's these two — PCE weaves through reality and fantasy without distinction between the two, physically pushing at the reader's concepts of linear narrative as dreamlike imagery takes hold. Make no mistake, reading Tony Burgess takes effort, an effort many people will be unwilling to take (wimp...more
Gilliam
While not nearly as impenetrable as Finnegans Wake (which Paul Mcfarland aptly makes comparison to in his earlier review here) Pontypool Changes Everything is steeped in the same fascination with language and storytelling and how the former shapes and informs the latter and, in the case of this book, how the latter shapes and informs the former, because the story of Pontypool Changes Everything, which recounts a zombie plague spread by human language, essentially transforms the book in your hand...more
Jason Coffman
I'll be totally honest: I have no idea what the hell was going on for about half of this book. Actually, maybe more like a 60/40 split between "what the hell?" and understanding what was happening. Burgess writes in such a dense, oblique style that it's tough to figure out what's actually happening as part of the narrative and what's metaphor or tangential information (or entirely imaginary on the part of the characters). It's a neat trick to keep readers so completely off-balance and keep them...more
Philip
With Pontypool Changes Everything Tony Burgess has proven himself to be the unchallenged master of literary zombie mayhem. The book is a mind blowling experience akin to tripping on acid while both H.P. Lovecraft and William S. Burroughs transmit dark thoughts directly into your brain. Reading the book is a life alterning experience that leaves other horror novels drowning in its wake. More than highly recommended, this book IS required reading for both fans and authors of the horror genre.
Rowan MacBean
I really wanted to like this book. It just didn't happen. The last time I found a book this confusing was when I tried to read A Clockwork Orange at age twelve. And while I came to understand pretty quickly why it was confusing, that didn't make it any easier to read. But since the idea of a virus spread through language is one of the best concepts I've ever heard, I didn't give up. I'm glad I kept going but this isn't a book I'll read again, or recommend to anyone else.
Nadia
Aug 22, 2012 Nadia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who liked "Falling Out of Cars"
I really love where he went with the untrustworthy narrator theme. I hadn't thought about it until reading this book; we always assume that what we are told and experience as readers is supposed to be the truth in the fictional universe of the book. What happens when it's not? What happens when the main character is coming from a perspective where he's not sure what's real? What if the poison of the world has infected the narrator as well? This book goes there.
Greg
Put this one in the self-indulgent look-how-clever-I-can-write category - post modern crap dressed up like a messy zombie novel. I like similes & metaphors as much as the next reader, but having them thrown at you machine gun style - sometimes all in one sentence - is not experimental or enjoyable. It's bad writing, folks. The emperor isn't wearing any clothes. There. I said it. Don't waste your time.
Willspeare
A bit Vonnegut. A bit Phil Dick. Oh, and zombies. Never knew where this was going. Sometimes I had no idea where I was. The zombies in the water when the lady is in the tree? What the heck? Amazing stuff. Definitely had writer jealousy. The brother/sister thing was a bit much.

Warning: just when you get used to the characters . . . well, it's a zombie book.
Scotchneat
Zombies. I tried to read this one, since I hear that it was made into a passably good zombie movie.

I get the stylized writing - kind of minimalist stream-of-consciousness. But the overall feeling was just a little too murky (or maybe disjointed) for me. Or maybe I wasn't in the mood.
Baby
Dear FRiend,

Pontypool was a bit of a trip. I fell in love with the idea--zombie virus that spreads through language--when I listened to the audio play and then watched the movie. *See end of this note for more info on those. I ran to the book next.

The book has a phenomenal idea with a lot of skin-chilling imagery, but often seems like an experiment in wordplay and how far you can stretch the limits of a word and it's meaning. Many of these stretches were too far for me! I hate it when a book mak...more
Bill Coffin
Sweet Jesus, what a disastrous spew of a creative writing class gone wrong this novel turned out to be.

I enjoy zombie movies quite a bit and when I saw 2009's Pontypool, a clever, tight, engaging story about a shock-jock trapped in his radio station as the local countryside falls prey to a most peculiar form of zombie virus, I swore to myself that I would read the novel from which the film was adapted. What a mistake that proved to be.

In Pontypool Changes Everything, the land is swept by a langu...more
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Tony Burgess lives in Stayner, Ontario, with his wife Rachel and their two children. He is the author of The Hellmouths of Bewdley, Pontypool Changes Everything, Caesarea, Fiction for Lovers and Idaho Winter . Pontypool was made into a film by Bruce McDonald
More about Tony Burgess...
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“The thing he said aloud did not succeed.” 6 likes
“In spite of the three hours I spent combing over the details, I have, to this day, a very persistent certainty that hidden inside me is the revolting knowledge of days when I wasn't quite myself. I now suspect that my inexplicable bouts of exhaustion are due to the massive effort of keeping those days behind me.” 3 likes
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