What first drew me to Zombie Makers was the promise of reading about one of my favorite subjects: parasites! I was also really excited at the prospect...moreWhat first drew me to Zombie Makers was the promise of reading about one of my favorite subjects: parasites! I was also really excited at the prospect of reading something that was obviously going to be creepy and disgusting. What made the book even better, though, were the gorgeous color illustrations that appear on each page. Even though I was reading a digital galley, I saw some sample pages of the finished book at ALA, and this thing is going to look really slick as a physical book.
Johnson’s cleverly structured the chapters thematically by “zombie traits,” such as the need to bite or acting mindlessly. Nature is cruel, and parasites turn some of our greatest fears into realities, like being paralyzed while an infant slowly eats you from the inside out. That’s dang scary, and actually happens to cockroaches that have been taken over by the jewel wasp. The parasites in this book aren’t limited to those that attack insects, though. Johnson includes the guinea worm, which grows inside of a person’s body, then bursts out when the person plunges the aching limb into water. Before that, you can see the worm squirming subcutaneously! And yes, there’s a photograph of a guinea worm emerging from a leg. It’s gruesome stuff. Rabies, aka canine madness aka hydrophobia, is also discussed, and we all know that rabies can turn man’s best friend into a drooling, snarling monster, as evidenced by Old Yeller.
This book is chock full of fun subject matter that will fascinate kids. It’s the kind of book I would have carried around with me as a kid and read over and over, and then recounted to anybody who would listen. Heck, I still might do that as an adult. Johnson writes in clear language that a kid can understand, but you don’t get the feeling that it has been dumbed down, either. Also, after a gruesome initial descriptions, she gives the history of how the scientists figured this stuff out. If a kid needs somebody to idolize, I think the researchers described in this book could fit the bill.
The one caveat about this book is that it is probably not a good book for people who are squeamish about bugs; however, it is great for people who love to look at images of insects in detail. This is a terrific book to give kids to get them interested in science and biology, all while stimulating their imaginations.(less)
If Undead were a movie, it would probably star a cast of unknowns and have a cult following. This book reads like a B horror film. It’s action-packed,...moreIf Undead were a movie, it would probably star a cast of unknowns and have a cult following. This book reads like a B horror film. It’s action-packed, but also doesn’t really have much more going on under the surface. A group of high school kids goes on a ski trip, where the majority of the class are inexplicably turned into mindless zombies. Four of them must fight to survive and get back to civilization, all while trying to figure out what caused the change. McKay loves tossing away one-liners like zombies love brains, and there are more than a few groaners here, which is appropriate for the subject matter.
The book takes place in Scotland, and there’s a bit of British slang, which I found kind of charming. Each of the characters embodies a high school stereotype, which has caused some readers to remark that this reminded them of The Breakfast Club. However, unlike The Breakfast Club, I don’t think any of the characters have big revelations of how they’re all basically the same, going through the same teenage angst. Nope, they’re too busy running from zombies for that kind of self-reflection, which is fine. I’ve said before that I think the best genre fiction uses the conventions of the genre to make a larger statement, but sometimes you just want something that’s a bit mindless and rollicking. This book fits that bill.
As far as zombie books go, the terror here is pretty minimal. McKay leaves the reader with an obvious lead-in to a sequel, so if this book is your thing, you’ll undoubtedly look forward to that. As for me, I think I’ve had my fill with Undead. (less)
Zombie was pitched to me as a coming-of-age story about a boy who is unable to relate to his father except through their mutual love of zombie movies....moreZombie was pitched to me as a coming-of-age story about a boy who is unable to relate to his father except through their mutual love of zombie movies. While that much is true, it does not even come close to really capturing this book. Believe me when I say that this is one seriously messed up novel. Parts of it reminded me of one of the Dexter books, although I won't say which one due to the risk of spoilers.
Zombie is told through the first-person perspective of Jeremy, a boy who is beginning private Catholic school after the breakdown of his family. His parents have separated, his mother is addicted to prescription painkillers, and his older brother is a womanizing drug addict with a penchant for stripping down while high. Jeremy's dad is also increasingly more absent, leaving for entire nights at a time with no real explanation. School is proving to be tougher than anticipated for Jeremy, and freshmen are routinely beat up and humiliated. Also, Jeremy's started having nosebleeds at the most inopportune times. The things going on in Jeremy's life made me want to scream at the book, "Where are all the grownups!?" Because there is really nobody reliable for Jeremy to turn to. Then, he finds a bizarre video in his dad's room, which might or might not be a snuff film. Things just got worse for poor Jeremy.
I did enjoy reading this book, although I didn't always understand why some things were happening. The plot is not nearly as tight as it could have been, but you can't help by feel for Jeremy and want to keep reading to find out what the heck is going on. The ending also felt a bit rushed, but it is quite a climax. I feel sorry for anyone who reads this and doesn't finish the book, because it's a doozy.
Want to feel better about your own life, think about your favorite zombie films, and have your mind blown at least a little? Read this one.(less)
Zombies have been hot for the last few years, and this anthology showcases some of the latest works featuring teens in zombie scenarios. Many of the s...moreZombies have been hot for the last few years, and this anthology showcases some of the latest works featuring teens in zombie scenarios. Many of the stories tell tales of post-apocalyptic zombie-infested zones. That isn’t all there is though: there is a story about a living dead boy who is made that way through magic, the faithful servants of a dead king who rise again when called upon, and the psychological changes that undergo a person who is pretending to be a zombie. Usually horrifying, often funny, this anthology has a story that’s sure to please every zombie fan.
The only disappointment I had with this anthology is that so much of the stories were first published elsewhere. I’d already read the Jonathan Maberry and Kelly Link stories in other books, and so I skipped over them. This was a real bummer because I’m such a fan of their work and was looking forward to something new. My complaint shouldn’t turn off people who haven’t read these already, though, since they are very strong stories and do add a different dimension to the anthology.
That said, all but two of the stories here were new to me, and I read a lot of zombie fiction. If you’re curious, take a look at the table of contents, and I’d bet that most of the stories will be new to you. After I finished each story, I felt compelled to move on to the next, which meant that I finished this anthology fast. And I feel that much more prepared for when the zombie apocalypse does arrive.(less)
I generally find the thought of the zombie apocalypse to be terrifying. The idea that for almost every person who dies, a zombie is born, until you ca...moreI generally find the thought of the zombie apocalypse to be terrifying. The idea that for almost every person who dies, a zombie is born, until you can no longer escape the zombie hoard is nearly too much to conceive. I guess this fear comes largely from my desire to keep living, in my own conscious state, rather than to become part of the animated undead, hungry for brains. However, the main character of This is Not a Test, Sloane, has no such qualms. Sloane is already dead inside. She planned her suicide, wrote a note, and no longer wanted any part of life when the zombies happened. For her it was a relief. But then a funny thing occurred: Sloane can’t seem to die. There’s always somebody there urging her on, protecting her, keeping her safe, when the one thing she wants is to let herself go to suicide by zombie.
Zombie fans be warned: there are not a lot of zombies in this book. Sure, they make a grizzly appearance here and there, but for the most part the zombies are a threat that lurks in the background, like a white noise of impending doom. The story largely takes place in a high school gym, where Sloane is trapped with five classmates. To them, she appears fearless. Sloane just desires to find a way out without compromising the others.
This is Not a Test is fairly intense as far as Sloane’s life and inner psyche is concerned, and not so much with the zombies. Sloane’s dad is abusive and her sister, the only person who could protect her, ran out on her. Sloane contemplates suicide throughout the book because her dad seems to have broken her so completely that even the threat of zombies is better than the thought of living with him again.
Overall, I enjoyed reading This is Not a Test, although I could have done with a little bit more zombie mayhem. Still, the point of view of a suicidal protagonist gives a fairly fresh zombie apocalypse experience, and deals with larger issues through genre fiction, which is the mark of a good zombie book.(less)
The more extreme your form of revenge, the more disastrously it bites back!
Homer Gibbons was a horrific serial killer, put to death by lethal injectio...moreThe more extreme your form of revenge, the more disastrously it bites back!
Homer Gibbons was a horrific serial killer, put to death by lethal injection. The thing is, one doctor made it so he would come back after death. Now all of Stebbins, PA is overrun by zombies, and it’s up to two cops and a reporter to try to save the survivors–including hundreds of children–from eradication as part of government quarantine. But how do you fight a contagion that is 100% infectious and 100% fatal, especially when has the face your friends and neighbors?
Dead of Night is a thrilling, gory, nail-biter of a zombie novel, and I loved it! We get zombies from page one, and the story builds in a slow crescendo of apocalyptic horror. This is my favorite adult novel Maberry has written to this point, proving that instead of becoming tired of writing about zombies, he’s continually honing his craft and growing.
There is a running theme throughout the book of T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.” Each chapter opens with a few stanzas of the poem, which set the mood for the desolation to come. The zombies themselves are continually referred to as Hollow Men, shells of the people the used to be. Since we get the National Guard involved, and the promise of extreme war tactics against this rising tide of the walking dead, Maberry’s allusion also draws the connection between today’s conflicts, zombie or otherwise, and the wreck of humanity left behind after World War I. The conclusion is implicit: this is the beginning of a global crisis that will change the world forever.
The story jumps from scene to scene, showing what is happening with the major players involved. For me, the main character is Desdemona ”Dez” Fox, a combat vet turned cop with a huge chip on her shoulder and a seriously screwed up psyche. Dez’s baggage both holds her down and spurns her on to fight for her town and what is right. The other main player is Billy Trout, her off-again flame. I think Trout had the largest character arc in the story, and it was really satisfying to see how both of these characters allowed the crisis to bring the best out of them.
As for the zombies, Maberry keeps it traditional, but with a twist. He alludes to The Serpent and the Rainbow method of voodoo zombie, but throws in a mixture of biological engineering and natural parasites to create a formula that gives us reanimated dead. The bitten die, then come back as mindless shambling corpses, hellbent on biting whoever they can. The twist is that they retain consciousness, although they are trapped by their bodies and the instinct of the contagion. Imagine committing unthinkable acts with no way of stopping yourself, over and over. Yeah…terrifying.
I think fans of the zombie genre are going to eat this book up. The police/military/conspiracy subtexts keep the story moving forward, and there’s a very small town, personal motivation behind wanting the characters to live. Highly recommended to fans of horror and zombies!(less)
It’s been six months since Benny Imura first set foot into the Rot and Ruin, and all that time Benny’s brother Tom has been training Benny and his fri...moreIt’s been six months since Benny Imura first set foot into the Rot and Ruin, and all that time Benny’s brother Tom has been training Benny and his friends. Together, they plan to leave the safety of their town and travel across zombie-infested country on a scouting mission. However, there are larger forces at work out in the Rot and Ruin–forces that want all of them dead. What’s most frightening about the Rot and Ruin is that the scariest thing out there isn’t the zombies, it’s the living.
This follow up novel to Rot & Ruin is as good, if not better, than the first of the series. Benny’s a much more mature character at this point, so it’s easier to read along with him and root for him in dire situations. We also get to experience more interaction with Lilah, the Lost Girl, and with Benny’s friend Chong. Benny and Nix add depth to their relationship, as do Benny and Tom. All in all, we’re seeing growth of characters we already care about, and are introduced to new compelling players in the story.
Speaking of new characters, there are many more cameos by the mercenaries featured on the zombie cards of the first book. The inclusion of these characters added another dimension to the novel, and I loved seeing them in action.
Tom Imura really shines in this novel. If you thought he was good in the first book, in this book he’s practically a justice-serving god. He’s an amazing fighter, but also has a real depth of feeling for his brother and for humanity in general. I had a total character crush on Tom, and would want him on my side, zombie apocalypse or not.
Dust & Decay is absolutely action-packed, and keeps you guessing. I lost plenty of naptime on the train because I just had to keep reading. Maberry’s mastered the art of cliffhanger chapters, and rocks at action sequences. I think this series also allows him to show off his skill at writing emotion and pathos. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the next book in the series, and if you read this book, you will be too.(less)