First I would like to start out with a warning -- please remain calm: this *is not* a full length sequel. It is a *short story*. It is a *chapter* of First I would like to start out with a warning -- please remain calm: this *is not* a full length sequel. It is a *short story*. It is a *chapter* of what we can only hope will become part of a much larger series that Courtney Summers will -- she better! -- continue to write.
My ebook edition displayed as 65 pages and I didn't even get that many since those 65 pages also included a sample of Summer's new novel All the Rage (which has no zombies, but I still want to read anyway because Summers is a great writer no matter what story she's telling).
So Please Remain Calm is a short, sweet taste of something terrifying and grueling. I remember This Is Not a Test as an epic, emotional The Breakfast Club meets Dawn of The Dead -- a bunch of high school archetypes, including the jock, the brain and the basket case -- are trapped in a high school with each other while outside the world is being ripped apart at the seams by flesh-hungry reanimates. Our narrator, Sloane, is the basket case. She was on the verge of suicide before the zombies came and now has to run for her life rather than commit to taking it. I remember Sloane as strong and sad and sympathetic.
Please Remain Calm is not her story -- this time it's Rhys who's speaking (the jock) and I barely remembered anything about him other than he is the one Sloane escapes with at the end of the first book. And that's exactly where this short story picks up. No time has passed at all. The two teenagers are on the run from the high school. To where, to what, we don't know because they don't know. They are moving panicked, blind. And then they get separated.
This is much more your traditional zombie story of unrelenting fear, fatigue, hunger, trying to find a safe place to close your eyes for more than ten minutes. I *loved* it. It's pulse-pounding and page-turning with great writing and for so few pages, great characterization. Summers can write a zombie chase/attack scene like nobody's business. Her zombies are fucking terrifying and I don't even care that they move fast. Usually that would bug me. But Summers makes it work. Boy does she ever.
Don't let the YA label fool you with this one; it's raw and violent and dark. It's going to take a bite out of you and leave you shaken and stirred. That I guarantee. Merle knows what I'm talking about, don't you Merle?
Despite the gushing praise this book has been receiving -- including a blurb by Josh Whedon -- I approached The Girl With All the Gifts with a fair amDespite the gushing praise this book has been receiving -- including a blurb by Josh Whedon -- I approached The Girl With All the Gifts with a fair amount of trepidation. I'm a zombie traditionalist at heart, which means my foray into "experimental" zombie fiction -- literary or otherwise -- has met with mixed results. I normally don't like my zombies to talk, fall in love or have existential crises. Hell, I don't even want my zombies to run; I'm all about the Romero shuffle (though there was something truly terrifying and unsettling about Danny Boyle's fast-moving zombies that scared the piss out of me). Even for a traditionalist like me, there's exceptions to every rule. And I found a few more buried like awesome treasure in the pages of M.R Carey's novel.
In case you didn't know, M.R Carey is the not so cryptic pen name for the super-talented Mike Carey. This gentleman knows how to tell a story, where the pulse points live and when to go for the jugular. He also knows that without giving the reader characters to care about your story is gonna have all the pop of a wet firecracker.
A lot of what we get here we've seen before. The world is in the shitter. The zombies (or hungries in this case) have risen up and wiped out humanity. It's about twenty years later and our entry point into the story starts at a fortified base that doubles as a research lab. There are doctors and soldiers, fences and guns. But there are also civilian teachers and children who are their students. And here's where the story takes a bit of a twist: If you do not want to know anything else about this book then beware some mild spoilers ahead under the spoiler tag
(view spoiler)[These aren't ordinary children; they're infected with the zombie virus but have not fully succumbed to it. The children can think, learn, talk and feel. But don't get too close, because they will chew your face off.
Melanie is one of these children. She's precocious and extremely intelligent but she does not know she's a zombie despite her rigidly controlled life in a cell surrounded by soldiers who keep her muzzled and their guns pointed at her head. With no memory of who she is or where she came from, Melanie persists in her ignorant state until a cataclysmic event forces her to confront both the reality and the mystery of the monster that dwells within. (hide spoiler)]
Like a lot of my favorite zombie stories, this one soon slides into the 'group in peril' scenario. A rag tag group of survivors, including Melanie, are left to fend for themselves beyond the safety of the fences where the hungries thrive. Where will they go and what will they have to do in order to get there in one piece?
I love the chemistry of this group and the characterization. They all start out as stereotypes but as the story moves along, each of them evolves from an archetype into a real person with depth and distinctive personalities. I'm a sucker for character, and I felt I got it in spades here. Another rewarding aspect is the time spent describing the zombie virus. Usually the answer to what makes a zombie even possible is ignored, but not so here. Carey offers up a pretty interesting scenario that for me anyway, leads to a very satisfying climax.
Is this a perfect read? Nope. There are a few incredulous moments (view spoiler)[like why was Parks so quick to use his gun and only his gun when noise is the enemy? Shouldn't he have had a machete or a crossbow as a first line of defence? (hide spoiler)] and a few places where the narrative dips and nearly stalls; however those instances are rare. For the most part this is cinematic zombie gold. It's a heady mix of tension and release, adrenaline and emotion. A must-read for all zombie lovers and the zombie curious. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I can't believe it, but Negan is growing on me as a character. Despite his psycho tendencies and brutal, Medieval manner, I'm finding him waaaay more I can't believe it, but Negan is growing on me as a character. Despite his psycho tendencies and brutal, Medieval manner, I'm finding him waaaay more interesting than I ever did the Governor. There's a black humor that surrounds him that when mixed with his blunt badassery style is just ... well... bloody entertaining.
His confrontation with Rick is tense, exciting as hell, filled with profanity and written on the edge of a razor.
You ever hear the one about the stupid fuck named Rick who fucking thought he knew shit but didn't know shit and got himself fucking killed?
And really, I know Rick is supposed to be the good guy "hero", but I took some small amount of pleasure in seeing him dressed down Negan-style: "In case you haven't noticed...you're fucking fucked you stupid fucker."
It's this confrontation scene which saves this volume from mediocrity and mere filler as we move towards the "big" final(?) showdown with Negan and his band of merry psychokillers. Is Kirkman finally edging closer to a climax that's auspicious enough to end the series on? I hope so. If this storyline is not satisfactorily concluded soon, it will officially become the Coronation Street of zombie storytelling, and nobody wants that. Get out while the blood is still fresh on the page. ...more
Even though this is my first Tony Burgess read, I'm not exactly a Burgess virgin. He's a bit of a cult figure in Canada, thanks largely in part to the Even though this is my first Tony Burgess read, I'm not exactly a Burgess virgin. He's a bit of a cult figure in Canada, thanks largely in part to the iconic zombie flick Pontypool, based on his novel Pontypool Changes Everything. Confession time: I've seen the movie (it's brilliant), but I never got around to reading Burgess's book. Or anything else by him either. Until now.
Sweet Jebus. I was dimly aware of his reputation as a gore master, a mad splatter genius who frequently pushes boundaries of decency and sanity every chance he gets. It's a reputation well-deserved. Reminiscent of another iconic Canadian's early work -- David Cronenberg -- Burgess delves into body horror in such a way to disarm the reader and distress the shit out of you.
It's not a mere gross out that's easily dismissed as senseless pulp either, but an exercise in relentless brutality that leaves you mentally and emotionally floundering. In a lot of ways, reading The n-Body Problem reminded me of Kafka's The Metamorphosis because I was left feeling similarly shuddering and sad. (view spoiler)[The narrator's fate as an armless, legless torso mummy wrapped and encased in glass is a metamorphosis that leads to much the same kind of alienation and dehumanization experienced by Gregor Samsa. Except the ultimate fate of the narrator here is so much worse, if such horrors can indeed be quantified. (hide spoiler)]
This isn't a book I would easily recommend. It's Grade A disturbing, and very much not nice. I repeat: This is not a nice book. It doesn't want to hold your hand, or stroke your hair. Or make you laugh and feel better about life's absurdities. It wants to show you something very dark and nasty, about humans, about death, about our fear of death and extinction. Approach with caution -- and a very strong stomach. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It used to be I'd pick up any zombie book and be easily entertained. I mean, c'mon -- zombies...s'all good, right? But as I get older, with a gluttono It used to be I'd pick up any zombie book and be easily entertained. I mean, c'mon -- zombies...s'all good, right? But as I get older, with a gluttonous trail of consumed zombie books left in my wake, I've become a lot more discriminating and hyper-critical. And the simple reason for that is I have proof that zombiescan beamazing. And once you know that, there's no going back to the good ol' days when merely okay was good enough.
Which brings us to The End Games: a debut novel riding the tsunami-sized zombie popularity wave onto our to-read piles. At least onto mine. In short: there are some great action scenes, a few plot-twists I haven't seen before, and an endearing relationship shared between big brother Mike and five-year-old Patrick. But overall, it still felt average and meh. It certainly didn't blow my skirt up or leave me panting for more. I won't run out and scream for all my zombie-loving friends to get their greedy hands on a copy asap.
It was fine. It was okay. But these days, I'm looking for so much more than that. ...more
Holy moses, I just knew I was being set up in the last volume. I knew it!!! My momma didn't r
Holy moses, I just knew I was being set up in the last volume. I knew it!!! My momma didn't raise no fools.
But that hurt. A lot. You'd think I'd be so numb by now that nothing would really get past my defenses anymore but apparently I can still be shivved, right in the back and fall to my knees screaming. (view spoiler)[Watching Glen go out like that was brutal. It really tore me up. (hide spoiler)]
This new baddie Negan is a real piece of psychotic work. He makes the Governor look like a misunderstood, tree-hugging hippie who just wishes the kids these days would stay off his damn lawn.
Where can the story possibly go from here? (view spoiler)[Watching Rick break was tough. I know he's told the community they're rolling over...for now, but he's obviously got something else planned. That last panel when he sends Jesus to follow the baddie back to Negan's camp to spy and gather intelligence tells us that. Living as slaves is no option. Something has to be done, and you can bet it's going to involve A LOT more bloodshed. Even if Rick's group triumphs against all odds over these animals, what would they have really won? Won't there always be another Governor or Negan around the corner? Wiping the zombies off the planet is an easier task I figure than neutralizing all the psychos. (hide spoiler)]
I haven't been patiently consuming this series episode by episode, volume by volume over the course of years. I gobbled down all 96 issues essentially I haven't been patiently consuming this series episode by episode, volume by volume over the course of years. I gobbled down all 96 issues essentially back-to-back thanks to the Compendiums (which weigh a ton each and are a bitch to maneuver let me tell you).
This volume -- A Larger World -- is where Compendium 2 leaves off, a bit of a cliff-hanger you might say. I decided to re-read it in preparation of getting to Vol. 17: Something to Fear. I'm all caught up now, and forced to get my dose of Walking Dead shenanigans doled out piecemeal like the rest of you suckers. But maybe that's a good thing, because too much of this world at any one time can really mess with your head.
I get the feeling Kirkman is setting us up to really put the hurt on this time. Hasn't he already? Hells yeah, but something tells me he's just getting started and that makes me both weary and wary. Everything in this issue is glossy with optimism:
(view spoiler)[ the new guy Paul Monroe (a.k.a Jesus) turns out not to be a Charles Manson-esque kook. He's got a normal, functioning community behind him with almost 200 members called Hilltop. They are farming and thriving. What's not to appreciate? Rick goes through his usual "I can't trust you get the fuck out of my face or I'll bite it off" routine, but eventually learns to relax (even after he's forced to kill one of their people in self-defense -- it really was self-defense this time). Glenn is smitten with the community, and Rick is forced to admit it's time to start living again, rather than merely surviving. In the Hilltop he sees that as not just a possibility but a reality, a reachable goal. (hide spoiler)]
BUT... cause there's always a but right? There's a new baddy in the neighborhood -- Negan. After what we've been through with the Governor, the idea of upping the ante some more makes me very uneasy. Rick can talk all he wants about building a new life with meaning and getting back to raising their children, but I can't imagine he's going to get his people to the promised land any time soon, if at all. I've called this story bleak and nihilistic before and I still stand by that. Kirkman wants to show us the very worst of humanity it seems, and I don't think he's finished doing that yet. And that makes me very afraid. Very afraid indeed. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is a re-read for me, in preparation of hitting up Volume 2, and I gotta say, I'm still excited about what this series has toOCTOBER COUNTRY 2013
This is a re-read for me, in preparation of hitting up Volume 2, and I gotta say, I'm still excited about what this series has to offer. It's a claustrophobic tale set in a quarantined Midwestern town that has recently fallen prey to a rash of re-animations. The dead are coming back to life, but not in the way you think, or with the same dramatic gore and apocalyptic consequences we have come to expect from the walking dead.
This isn't a traditional zombie tale. First and foremost it's a story about a cast of characters thrust into a very unusual and distressing situation. What happens when the dead and gone who have been grieved and laid to rest suddenly barge back into our lives again, not just walking, but talking? With needs, and fears, and memories?
What happens when the outside world beyond the borders of your sleepy little town becomes fearful and paranoid and only wants to contain whatever mystery is unfolding in your backyard, holding you under scrutiny and behind roadblocks leaving your town to not only fend for itself but ride out whatever traumas yet to unfold?
Officer Dana Cypress is caught right in the middle of the inexplicable "revivals" along with her sister Martha (or Em) who has a terrible secret. Then there's the rookie journalist May who senses there's much more going on in the town than meets the eye.
This is a story that takes its time, and by the end leaves you with way more questions than answers. But the pull of the mystery is so addictive, you'll be desperate to get your hands on the next volume. It's a story that's rich in atmosphere, a creepy-crawly sensation of impending doom, but doom that's on a more personal scale of individual tragedy, rather than unleashing a free-floating anxiety for the fate of the entire human race.
The graphic art is crisp and clean and terrifying where it needs to be. The nature of small town life is realistically portrayed and the panel after panel of snow and cold had me thinking of Fargo and that a lot can happen in the middle of nowhere. My one complaint is that the three main women characters (Dana, her sister Em, and reporter May) are very similar in appearance, at least at first glance. I was better equipped to tell them apart this time around, but it still took some practice. It's a shame that they should be artistically rendered so similarly, because as characters, each woman is very different with her own distinctive voice and personality.
a post-apocalyptic zombie soap opera, where the soap is made out of lye. The story is harsh -- almost nihilistic in its way -- extremely violent, and peppered throughout with characters hooking up in almost sure to be doomed relationships.
Now, after wading through another 1068 pages of Compendium 2 I can't say much has changed.
Other than the fact I'm completely, utterly exhausted from all the carnage and devastation.
Seriously guys, when this series goes dark side it does not fuck around. It is bleak goddammit, B-L-E-A-K. Surviving the zombies is the easy part; it's all the crazy, fucked-up, out to slice and dice you and take what you have humans with Grade A mental issues that Rick's gang has to worry about the most. It's one tragedy heaped upon one depravity after another. And what does it do to a person to take on the savages and repel them? End them? Mutilate them? It's certainly changed Rick from the man we first came to know in the first few issues. It's most definitely changed little Carl (who is starting to creep me out a little bit truth be told). In some ways, all the survivors have been carved into new animals by forces beyond their control.
It's good. It keeps the pages turning most of the time, but it can become positively grueling and yes, even a bit repetitive at times, over the long haul. Especially if you're a pig like me and devour the story in huge non-stop helpings. (view spoiler)[The big shocker for me this time was Carl getting half his head blown off. My jaw literally dropped open. But then he survives, and I mean, nothing against the kid, but I felt cheated. I felt like Kirkman was out and out cheating. That's the kind of thing that happens on soap operas all the time and we roll our eyes. I'm surprised there wasn't an "experimental" brain transplant tried or some such thing. (hide spoiler)]
What's more, I find myself missing characters introduced in the television show -- namely Carol, Daryl and even Merle. It really sucks not to have those guys around and I find the story is suffering from their absence. Michonne however, continues to be kick-ass and delightful. She is the saving grace of this entire series character wise if you ask me, reminding me of Agent 355 from Y: The Last Man series. I like Glenn too, but I find Maggie really whiny most of the time. I should be more forgiving I suppose considering everything the poor thing has been through.
So the series is not without problems. By issue #96, it's starting to repeat itself and Kirkland needs to get serious about wrapping this baby up. Go out on a high note, man. Some are already saying you've stayed too long at the party. The goal should be for the narrative to remain fresh and bloody and vital. The gore should still feel wet on the pages. Unfortunately, it's starting to feel like a limping, dessicating zombie. I've given it my all, I've suspended my disbelief where I had to, and I would argue this remains required reading in the genre; however, let's end it. It's time. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
If you haven't read Rot & Ruin (the first of the Benny Imura books) I highly recommend that you do. This is shaping up to be a spectacular series If you haven't read Rot & Ruin (the first of the Benny Imura books) I highly recommend that you do. This is shaping up to be a spectacular series with a lot of heart. Love the writing, love the world-building, love the characters -- especially Benny's older brother Tom (be still my heart). Book 3 Flesh & Bone is coming in September, and to my utmost, fangirl delight -- it's been confirmed that there will be a Book 4 next year, Fire & Ash. *happy dance* The series definitely has its fans, but I still don't think it's getting nearly the attention it deserves, and I really want to play my small part in changing that.
This short story is set between Books 1 and 2 and it has been such a delight to re-visit Benny's world (and Tom!!!!!!) In the Land of the Dead is a series of vignettes woven together describing various aspects of life inside the fences protected from the Rot and Ruin. Whatever you do, DON'T read this story first because it is majorly spoilery for Book 1. For fans of the series, it is a gracious treat easily savored.
Benny's hilarious exchange with best friend Lou Chong made me laugh as they both stress and fret over the troubled young women they each have feelings for. It is a tender moment of innocence and normalcy in a world that has become an abomination sparsely populated with traumatized survivors, choked with fear and grief.
Another scene which delighted me to my toes has Tom continuing his combat and self-defense training of Benny and his circle of friends. Here, Benny is mercilessly teased by everyone when he screams "like a ten year old girl". Benny claims it is his warrior's cry sure to intimidate his enemies.
“It wasn’t a scream,” insisted Benny. “It was a high-pitched yell.” “Uh huh,” said Chong. “A hunting call.” “Right,” said Nix. “Like eagles use.” “Sure,” said Tom. “It was a battle cry--.” “Dude,” said Morgie, who sat on the bench, his shaved head still bandaged. “You screamed like a little girl. I’m kind of embarrassed to know you.”
Ah Benny. Still so much to learn young grasshopper.
So what are you waiting for??? This series is all kinds of awesome. If you start now you'll be all ready for Book 3 come September. How much do I love? Let me count the ways....more
I don't know how I'm going to do this, move through the hours like someone who wants to still be breathing when I had so firmly made up my mind to st
I don't know how I'm going to do this, move through the hours like someone who wants to still be breathing when I had so firmly made up my mind to stop.
Wow. This little book has completely floored me. I was not expecting something so deep, so very melancholic yet shot through with the irrepressible human need to hope. Not just irrepressible, Summers shows us that hope is irreducible. Stripped to its basest core, hope just might be the evolutionary urge that has kept us going as a species for millennia -- in the face of disasters and war, atrocities and cruelty, in the face of bottomless grief, crushing despair, paralyzing loneliness and love lost. And I have no doubt that when the zombie apocalypse comes, it will be this amazing capacity to salvage hope from the ruins that will save us.
In This is Not a Test we meet Sloane, a young woman who has lost her ability to hope and thus, her will to live. She is alone with a father who beats her, abandoned by the only person in this life she has ever loved, her older sister Lily. Lily always told her they would escape together, that she would wait for her...and then she didn't. The depth of this betrayal slices through Sloane leaving her panicked, floundering, numb, then finally resigned. Her sister always said that Sloane would die without her -- and now Sloane has decided that she was right. At the point when Sloane knows she cannot possibly continue to live for another single intake of breath, zombies come pounding at the front door. The world is in chaos. Death is in every backyard, on every street corner. And suddenly, the young woman who was going to take her own life, is now running for it.
Yes this book has zombies but PLEASE, if that's not your thing, don't let it keep you from reading it. This is a story rich with emotion because Summers has such a genuine talent for creating memorable, unique characters. A book of six teens where every voice is distinctive and grounded firmly in reality is rare and precious. Hell, that's rare and precious for fiction period. The way these kids relate to one another, approaching with caution, testing for vulnerabilities, seeking approval, acceptance, a safe unconditional embrace, just left me riveted. I can tell you, I WAS IN THAT HIGH SCHOOL with them. I felt their fear and pain. I watched them come together, pull apart, rage and cry ... and I cried with them. Oh yes, there were tears people.
So many reviewers have pointed out that this book isn't about the zombies, but I would add that it's not just about the zombies. Because unlike some other books, the zombies are more than mere window dressing here or a fleeting, ill-defined threat. While there are very few actual sightings and encounters, there remains a stifling, almost suffocating sense of them at all times. In fact, there are several truly terrifying scenes, scenes that only work because Summers understands the critical relationship between tension and release. There is so much quiet in this novel, that when she ratchets up the suspense to a scream in the final 40 pages it's enough to make your heart beat right the fuck out of your chest.
I really loved everything about this book. I could search for flaws, as I'm sure they exist, but I'm not going to. I got lost in it. I thought about it when I was away from it, and I couldn't wait to get back to it. I was reading it on the bus on my way home today and nearly missed my stop because I was so engrossed. Read this! READ IT! I can't state it any more emphatically than that. Don't believe me? Read Catie's review. She'll convince you.
P.S. and I was so excited to learn that Courtney Summers is Canadian! Yay, Canada :)
Women and men. Girls and boys. People I might've known but can't recognize anymore. There is every shade of blood--black, brown, red, pink. All eyes looking at us through that same milky film that sees us for what we are and what they are not anymore.