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Pontypool Changes Everything

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  894 ratings  ·  158 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, 276 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by ECW Press
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Average rating 3.28  · 
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Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: The failing dead
Recommended to Nate 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
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Trippy, unnerving horror. Just when you think you're already in the deep end, 'Pontypool changes everything' submerges you even further.

This novel is crazy. But crazy-good. It's like reading the fiction of a certified lunatic, albeit a very talented one. Simply put, Pontypool is a zombie story, but one unlike anything you've ever read before. Burgess doesn't just turn the genre on its head, he decapitates it, then sews on a Frankenstein-like replacement made from sections of his own fractured p
Lewis Rees
Apr 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
DeAnna Knippling
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Before there was meaning, there was a virus that became entertwined with, and created, life itself. It's in everyone's DNA already; you're already "infected."

If you hear someone in whom this virus has been awakened, you start to lose meaning, until this loss of meaning makes it impossible to distinguish whether meaning exists or not. Hint: it doesn't really.

Where the virus is too strong, it extinguishes itself, kills everyone, burns itself out. Weaker strands survive, allowing the illusion of me
Ruby  Tombstone Lives!
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
Sean Fitzpatrick
Apr 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul Mcfarland
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 24, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 05, 2012 rated it liked it
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. ...more
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
Bill Coffin
Aug 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
John Wiswell
Oct 31, 2020 rated it liked it
On the one hand, this book has a radical central idea. It’s a Weird Plague story about a disease that hides inside of language. Once you hear and think about the wrong sentences, it infects your mind, driving you to seek revenge against anyone that you have a grudge against. Eventually this language-centric plague drives people to eat each other’s mouths.

That’s only the pathology of the disease, which is minuscule in the face of what society goes through. This isn’t the story of an attractive c
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Chris Browning
Aug 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Allard-Will
Rating clarification: 2.5 Stars

Pontypool Changes Everything is, to those unfamiliar with the work, the Novel which received the Movie adaptation treatment to become cult Canadian Movie, Pontypool. The Novel itself is also a Canadian work, both in setting and creation: Set in both rural Ontario (beginning in Pontypool, not be confused with Pontypool, Wales) and big city Ontario (such as Toronto), Created by Tony Burgess the Canadian Novelist.

Any connection the Book has to the Movie, vice-versa,
John Noonan
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it
It's fine.

I mean, that's it. It's fine.

It's a novel about the disease of language, in which words no longer hold meaning to frustrated sufferers. It's an interesting idea washed away by convoluted prose. Shame.

One of the rare instances where the film is better.
Aaron Reed
Feb 25, 2020 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this more than I did after hearing about the core conceit. Some of the writing is stunning in its execution, but the various plot episodes didn't really add up into a satisfying sum for me, and I couldn't figure out what to do with huge chunks of the book: why they were there, what they were adding. May need to come back to this one and try again in a different mood/mindset. ...more
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I saw the movie first, so maybe that affects my feelings on this. I came wanting more background and depth to the ideas in the film, and at times I got it, but oftentimes it was more irreverent than anything else.
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
Kate Sherrod
Mar 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
How much did I dislike this book? Let me count the ways … or not (is it worth it?). It's like an experimental "nouveau roman" of the French 1950s, only without the talent of those writers. Words and sentences fold back upon each other in fitful leaps and starts, without conclusions, and then

The ending of that last sentence was a joke. That's how Tony Burgess' writing often feels. To be fair, he acknowledges some of this insufferable quality of the novel in his afterword (written after the movie
Oct 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in Semiotics.
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
Alexis Winning
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: zombies
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
[Name Redacted]
Jun 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: horror, tripe, languages
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,
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
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Tony Burgess is a Canadian novelist and screenwriter. His most notable works include the 1998 novel Pontypool Changes Everything and the screenplay for the film adaptation of that same novel, "Pontypool" (2008).

Burgess’ unique style of writing has been called literary horror fiction and described as ”blended ultra-violent horror and absurdist humour, inflicting nightmarish narratives on the quirk

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