Sunday, September 30, 2018

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972)

Alan leads a theater troupe by boat to a small island where there is a cemetery for the most infamous and deranged criminals. He aims to complete a ritual in order to raise the dead while ridiculing and berating those he employs. An unfortunate dead man named Orville is exhumed from his grave while Alan attempts to raise him with a book he found in the abandoned house on the island. Will Alan raise the dead or will his crew tire of his abuse and nonsense and quit before the ritual even happens?

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things is a low budget, odd 70's film. Alan is literally the worst person in the world. He demands to have sex with the women in his troupe and makes lecherous comments to them throughout the night. Alternating between scaring and embarrassing his underlings, he torments them in one way or another consistently. What keeps them there and under his thrall is that he supplies the money and has the power to fire them. In order to keep earning money and acting or working on his projects, They feel they have to give in to at least some of his whims, including coming with him to the godforsaken cemetery island for rapists and murderers. Alan is just a trash person who does Nazi salutes, calls his employees slabs of meat, has no respect for the dead at all, and loves to hear himself talk.

The two characters I actually liked were Valerie and Anya. (A note that all of the characters have the same names as the people who play them.) Valerie mocks Alan throughout and doesn't take his crap. She stays to keep her job, but she gives as much mockery as he does. When the actors have had enough, she is the only one who goes up to him to tell him they are stealing his boat and leaving with or without him. Her rendition of the zombie raising ritual was also way better than Alan's and her demonstration silenced him for a time. Anya is an odd character who seems enamored with the dead. She is most upset at how he has disrespected the dead and how the corpse would be angry. Although she sounds crazy, Anya is actually the voice of reason and foreshadows what would happen. All the other characters kind of blend together as spineless.

The first zombie raising is fake. Alan paid actors to pose as the zombies and attack his troupe, traumatizing them further. Some of these people laid in a coffin covered in dirt for over an hour just to create this trick. Their makeup isn't very good and they quickly break character. Later, when the real zombies rise, the difference in makeup effects is stark with the real zombies' looking much more realistic. It takes a while for them to rise from their graves after the ritual, but when they do, it's totally worth it. Most of the characters are either bland or unlikeable, so it's a nice payoff to see them chased down and killed. Alan changes from his cocky facade and realizes the danger they are in. He scrambles to reverse the spell he cast. I wish the real zombies had more of a presence in the film. They only appeared about 15 minutes before the end of the film.

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things is a slow movie with mostly unlikeable characters. The ending payoff is worth it, but some might not think so. The most annoying thing about the film is the electronic sound effects or music (it's hard to tell which) that never stops and acts as an annoying background. Other than that, it's a pretty decent zombie movie. It's a bit surprising to me that the director Bob Clark would go on to direct one of my favorites Black Christmas. It's definitely worth a watch.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Dark of Night by Jonathan Maberry

Desdemona Fox was part of a caravan of buses transporting children out of her hometown. Unfortunately, they were separated from the rest and stranded by an EMP. She has to find a sace place for the kids before they are eaten by zombies or killed by scavengers. Joe Ledger is travelling with his dog, helping those who need help and killing those who hurt others. Rachael Elle used to be a cosplayer and now is a warrior against the undead. She is part of a community and seeks to find people who need help. All of them will eventually meet up and find themselves fighting against a very human threat.

Dark of Night is a novella continuation of the Dead of Night series, falling in between the second and third books. It's a nice piece to fill in gaps, but isn't really necessary to the story. Dez and Joe are from previous stories and Rachael is a brand new character. Dez is one of my favorite characters ever. She does what needs to be done, even murdering adults who make noise after many warnings of the danger. To save the children, she painted the bus with zombie blood to keep them away and kept them safe until she knew it was time to leave. Joe Ledger is a strong soldier struggling to keep his humanity after losing his family and killing to many zombies and degenerates. Rachael is a former cosplayer who sharpened elven knives and a sword to fight orcs (what she calls zombies) and uses the heroes of science fiction and fantasy as inspiration to keep fighting and keep saving people. Each character brought something different to the story and had a different perspective on the situation.

Many things have happened since the last book. The government thought it somehow prudent to set off nuclear bombs and EMPs to slow the spread of the disease. It only really creates radioacive zombies, horrible weather, and kills what few vehicles were left. The zombies have some new behaviors that they exhibit as time goes on. They seem to be attracted to each other and travel in packs. Smell, sight, and sound make them swarm towards something, moving rather slow and shuffley. As with the previous books, a worm parasite causes this disease and spreads through bodily fluids. The previous installment made it airborne, causing every corpse to turn after death. These developments moved the storyline forward and explained how the characters start this story.

Dark of Night is a colorful novella that combines disparate characters against a common foe. My biggest problems were in the very poor editing (numerous misspellings and grammar mistakes) and in the human enemies. They may as well have been zombies because they blended together in a horde of people calling themselves the Nu Klux Klan. No one stood out and they all acted exactly the same: attacking, slaving, pillaging, and generally being horrible. I wish they were a little different or stood out in some way. The development of the main characters and the world building were all great, but this aspect stood out to me as being a bit lacking in comparison to his other works. It was still enjoyable and I can't wait to read the followup, Still of Night. 

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

Friday, September 28, 2018

Zombie Tunes 4

* Like Ooh-Aah by Twice

Twice is a K-pop girl group and this song is about finding love. The beginning of the song speaks of people being attracted to them in one way or another and not leaving them alone, which is comically portrayed with these zombies. The scenes with the zombies are my favorite because the girls are dancing so happily while these creatures would love to eat them. The ending has one being cured presumably by their music or maybe love. It's a light and fluffy portrayal of zombies.

* Last One by The Aces

The song starts out super sugary sweet, not only in their almost overstrained smiles but in the constant eating and presence of gummy bears. As the video goes on, the girls look worse and worse until they are zombies. As zombies, they lose that oversmiley facade and show how they really feel. The song itself is about being tired of an ex sneaking into their songs and promising over and over that this will be the last one, perhaps making the zombism represent obsession over the past relationship. The teddy bear was hilarious with its sign that says "You have 5 days to live."

* Big Zombie by Mekons

Despite the lively beat, this song seems a bit melancholy. The singer drives around town during the zombie apocalypse looking for dinner. He says several times that he's the big zombie and doesn't feel human tonight. I imagine that would be true if  you were surrounded by zombies.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Cargo (2018)

Andy and Kay live in a zombie apocalypse situation in Australia with their baby daughter Rosie. They keep safe and live on a boat while scavenging supplies from other boats. One day, Anyd goes to a yacht and finds a treasure trove of canned food and even a bottle of wine. Behind a screen door, a zombie lurks, so he quietly leaves. His wife goes to the same yacht after reassurances that it was safe and she is bitten. Andy takes his family on a road trip to a rumored hospital, only to be bitten himself. His only goal now is to find a safe place for his daughter to grow up.

Cargo is a mixed bag of a movie. The zombie lore is unexpected and uniquely presented. The whole story starts well after the existence of zombies. Medical kits describing the disease can be found everywhere. It starts with fever and progresses through nausea, vomitting, and seizures. Symptoms start after 3 hours and expect to go full zombie after 48 hours. In the kit, a helpful diagram of the symptoms is provided along with a watch with a timer for 48 hours, a mouthguard, ziptie handcuffs, and a retractable spike to kill oneself before completely turning. The disease makes a goo the color and consistency of honey secrete from the eyes, mouth, nose, and any bleeding injuries. This aspect was especially disturbing and left more evidence of zombies movements around.

Some characters are well drawn. I especially like Kay. She knew what she wanted and wasn't afraid to fight her husband when it truly mattered to her. Thoomi, an aboriginal girl, is my favorite character. Her seeing some humanity in the zombies gave a different perspective. Her people are the most successful fighting off the zombies, painting themselves white with a substance to make them undetectable, even though others (like Andy) dismiss them as ignorant hicks. The biggest problem I had with the film is Andy. I found him extremely unlikeable and the epitome of white male privilege. When Kay says she wants to decide when she dies, he completely ignores her and does what he wants. She doesn't want to kill or hurt her family and he When a racist man puts Thoomi in a cage and enslaves another woman, he is a such an apologist for the abhorrent behavior as if safety somehow makes it acceptable. I was not sorry when this guy died (which isn't a spoiler since he was bitten by a zombie) and I didn't really like following him throughout the film.

Cargo is an interesting film with a different take on the zombie apocalypse and an awful protagonist. It does some unexpected things like keeping the zombie out of frame when Kay was dragged away or focusing on baby Rosie when Andy was forced to kill his wife offscreen. These small touches really stayed with me and created an atmosphere where imagination came into play more to enhance the horror. Although Andy was literally the worst, the rest of the story turned out to be pretty decent. It's worth a watch.

My rating: 3.5/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Upcoming Zombies Sneaking Up Behind You: Events

* Zombie Dinner at The Cellar

Every year, The Cellar, a French restaurant in Fullerton, hires an acting company to create a zombie apocalypse narrative to go with their spooky 4 course meal with wine paring. The news footage from Night of the Living Dead is played over the speakers and a fun narrative unfolds throughout the night. I always have a fun time and the food is top notch.

* Long Beach Zombie Fest

This event takes place from October 19 - 21 at the Rainbow Lagoon in Long Beach, CA. There will be food, events, games, music, and all manner of brain eating fun. A Thriller workshop is offered to learn the zombie dance choreography. You can tackle the Interactive Zombie Outbreak cage or take part in a zombie apocalypse scavenger hunt. Brave the haunted maze Infected and visit the live alligator exhibit. There will also be a zombie walk every day. Costumes are encouraged but not required. If you don't have the time or means for a costume, a makeup team will zombify you for free. (I bet there will be long lines for this depending on how many artists there are.) You can participate in brain eating contests, costume contests, LARPing, tons of band performances, a zombie photobooth, and so much more. Check out the schedule for each day here.

* Knott's Scary Farm, Universal Studio's Halloween Haunt, and the Queen Mary's Dark Harbor

Each haunt event has at least one zombie maze where you can experience some semblance of running from zombies. Knott's Scary Farm has Special Ops: Infected where you are given a gun and encouraged to kill zombies along the way and save our water from being infected. Universal has their Walking Dead maze available year round, but it's high quality and fun. Queen Mary's Dark Harbor has B340, the number of a haunted state room where murderous Samuel the Savage murdered many and they walk the ship in this maze. Lots of zombie goodness.

* Sweet Sorrow A Zombie Ballet

A zombie ballet??? Here's the description of the plot: "Beautifully awkward and gorgeously creepy, this original classical ballet continues Shakespeare's story of Romeo and Juliet after their deaths. Vampires, witches, zombies and more usher in the Halloween season with a tale of love after death. This original story is for those who have a vivid imagination, a dark romantic soul and an intense desire to experience the underworld." Sounds wonderful! It's being put on by the Leigh Purtill Ballet Company, an amateur adult company that has performers of all different levels. They also strive to put out the message that ballet is for everyone. This event only occurs on October 20 and 21 in La Canada Flintridge, CA. Tickets can be bought here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Mila Flores is alone. She used to have a best friend name Riley and it was always them against the world, being weird and doing magic together. Riley was very recently found drowned in the local creek, ruled as a suicide. Mila doesn't believe it and, after every adult alienates her, she decides to use magic to solve the crime. Her plan was to raise Riley from the dead for a week, but ends up raising two more girls, June and Dayton. They also supposedly killed themselves, but they insist they would never. Now Mila has three zombie teenage girls to hide from the public, provide for, and solve their murders before their week is up.

Undead Girl Gang is a surprisingly heartwarming read that also exposes the reality beneath high school cliques and stereotypes. Mila Flores is out of place in her town as a fat, Mexican witch (of sorts). She embraced her otherness with Riley, a kindred spirit rejected because her parents own and live in a funeral home. Popular girls used that to isolate and bully Riley since elementary school. Together, they dabbled in wicca and found true friendship within each other. Since Riley's death, Mila is alone, mistreated by every adult and student around her (except Riley's brother Xander). The other students never accepted her, but the adults truly failed her. The school psychologist is literally no help and her parents force her to return to school two days after her best friend died as punishment for walking out of the sham funeral. She's the only one who doesn't believe that Riley killed herself and rages at all the crocodile tears, fake hand wringing, and cringy show choir tributes that Riley wouldn't like or want. I felt for Mila and admired how as a teen she was able to push through all that to do what she thought was right.

The zombies are produced by an elaborate magic ritual from a tome shipped to the abandoned house they practice magic and keep all their supplies in. Three girls are raised from the dead, Riley, June, and Dayton, because of the wiccan rule of three. They look normal while they are within 100 steps of Mila, but revert to their rotted state with whatever injuries they had. As time moves closer to the 7 day deadline, the regenerative powers work less and less. These zombie aren't flesh eating, opting for junk food. They don't really have any special powers and they don't remember much leading up to their deaths, so things aren't going as well as Riley hoped. There's also the huge issue that she can't keep an eye on them at all times. They stole disguises, but they aren't exactly being super secretive as they walk all over the school campus and even yell at their insincere friends. This time together for all of them makes them lower their guard and truly see the other people beneath the clique they belong to. Over time, June and Dayton where no longer just popular and cruel shells. Through a lot of conflict and some good times, Riley, Dayton, June, and Mila all became friends while trying to figure out the murder.

Undead Girl Gang shows that even the bully or the loner at school are real people underneath the social expectations and cliques. I found this book incredibly progressive with its sensitive discussion of suicide, the smashing of expectations, and the emphasis on female friendship. This book warmed my heart and impressed me with its different view of magical lore. I would love to see a sequel or really anything else from Lily Anderson.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Monday, September 24, 2018

They Came Back (2003)

One day, the dead walk among the living, totaling over 70 million people world wide and at least 13,000 in the town alone. A town council comes together to study the returned people and find a way to reintegrate them into society. Some people choose to accept their returned family members while others choose to leave them at a refugee camp made up of warehouses. Is it possible for these returned to reintegrate into society or will their true nature leave them rejected?

They Came Back is a slow moving, melancholy film with unconventional zombies. These zombies look like anyone else and don't realize any time has passed from their deaths, which all occured 10 years ago or less. Most of the returned (65%) are over 60 years old and only 10% are under 40.  All are unharmed and physically healthy, but run about 5 degrees cooler than the average human. Their behavior is similar to one with post-traumatic aphasia or a sever concussion. They have sluggish speech, are absent mentally, and are out of synch with reality. Seeing the baby in the refugee camp hit hard because of the emotion of the parents who lost him and then regain a version of him again. As the film goes on, they are revealed to have an urge to walk around at least 15km a day, congregate at night, and get agitated. Then, people realize that they are not quite like how they were before.

These returned people have brought some problems to the society they have come back to. Should families be forced to collect loved ones or can they stay at the refugee camp? How is the economy going to be affected now that so many elderly who were previously dead will now start collecting pensions and government assistance again? How should these people be allowed to reintegrate to society? It's decided that three to six months will be spent at the camp and then they will be allowed to return home. Some return to jobs, but it's clear later that they can't do higher up or creative positions any longer. Then, they are relegated to low skill, low responsibility positions. Eventually, they are also drugged to keep them docile and sleeping at night because of their tendency to wander around and escape their homes.

The film focuses on a few families to show the personal effect of this event. Rachel's husband Mathieu returns and she finds herself avoiding him at first and then continuing their relationship as normal. She is the only one who sees the ultimate plan of the returned. Their initial encounter when they rekindle their relationship truly shows the tension, fear, and awkwardness they feel. Sylvain returns to his parents and while his father tries hard to pretend he is a normal child, his mother sees that something is missing. I was surprised at how nuanced this was. It could have easily been from a place of fear and hatred, but it seemed to come from a deep understanding that her son just wasn't who he used to be anymore on a fundamental level. This human element grounds the film and shows the effects on realistic families.

They Came Back is a slow, emotional film that focuses on zombies' affect on society and their loved ones. The only problems with it are the dated nature of the technology and the ending. The government method of monitoring the returned are low resolution infrared cameras on balloons. It looks silly and is one of the only thing that dates the film. The ending just seems so abrupt and tacked on when everything else was so well crafted. Other than these two points, the film captures the realism of such a supernatural event and has one of the creepiest opening sequences I've seen.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Ravenous by Amy Lukavics

The Cane family looks perfect from the outside: 5 perfect sisters (Juliet, Taylor, Anya, Mona, and Rose) with a military dad and and a stay at home mom. In reality, they are barely holding it together. Their mother has more bad days than good, opting to stay in bed for days on end with a steady supply of booze and on better days seems to purposefully ruin the girls' lives. Their de facto mom, the eldest daughter Juliet, is abusive in her own way, flying into rages and physically abusing her sisters when they don't blindly follow her. On Rose's birthday, Juliet and their mom clash as they have never before. The tragic result is Rose's fall down the stairs where she breaks her neck. Their mom claims to know how to bring her back and returns with the same Rose with a bruised neck. Unfortunately the ritual wasn't complete and Rose hungers for something more than food.

The Ravenous tells a realistic story amidst the supernatural and horror elements. Mona is the main character and the second youngest of the five girls. She feels rather alone because Taylor idolizes Juliet and sticks by her always, Anya throws herself into weed and her relationship, and Rose is the baby of the family that everyone tries to protect. Because of the constant moving around and the different types of abuse in the family, they are insular, opting to completely shun other people and cultivate that perfect facade to escape suspicious. Underneath it all, Mona is not ok and falls into many of the same coping mechanisms as her mom, like drinking to dumb the pain. Mona is kind of the odd one out due to trying to expose the abuse as a kid and the others always treat her badly as a result. I felt for her so much and many of her coping mechanisms and behavior range true to me.

The mother and Juliet are battling matriarchs of the family who are both abusive in their own ways. The mother has depression that causes her to stay in bed for days at a time. Because she wants to keep the facade of being perfect to the father, who is only there a few weeks out the year, she doesn't seek treatment. Instead, she drowns herself with alcohol and generally ruins the girls' lives with broken promises, passive aggressive remarks, emotional abuse, and gaslighting. Nothing is ever her fault and nothing is every good enough for her. Juliet, on the other hand, is incredibly bitter and angry due to passing up a full scholarship at Julliard to take care of her sisters. She expects to be followed without question and doesn't hesitate to physically abuse her sisters or guilt them in any way possible into following her. The mother and Juliet hate each other because Juliet has taken over and the mother has basically abandoned her children. Honestly both people have understandable emotions that turn into ugly, harmful actions. This was my favorite part of the novel.

Once the tragic accident has happened, the mother whisks Rose's corpse away and hours later brings her back magically alive once again. Unfortunately, she's not quite the same. The bruising around her neck from where it broke looks deep and permanent and dark veins all over her skin. She can't keep down normal food and craves only an odd type of meat that their mother brought home only for her. Rose seems fine for while, but then starts to become hungry again, ravenously so, with rot spreading over her body and the impulse to eat getting harder and harder to control. Rose's transformation from one of the sweetest human beings on the planet to a flesh eating zombie was chilling and memorable. In terms of the family drama, this symbolizes what abuse does to the most vulnerable and innocent of their family.

The Ravenous is a hard read because the abuse portrayed feels so realistic. The urge to appear perfect, the silence even though everyone knows what's going on, the unspoken agreement to keep secrets, and the variety of ways each of the girls copes with it all feel very real. One aspect didn't feel so real, having to do with Juliet. It was the lone thing that didn't fit in this well written novel. I've read other of Lukavics' books, but none of them landed with me as much as this one did. The zombie elements are well done alongside the family drama and it all fits together so perfectly.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game

Dead of Winter is a soul crushing cooperative game where each player leads a small team of survivors with different abilities in order to survive the winter in a zombie apocalypse. There are a variety of different things to keep track of to prevent death such as keeping everyone fed, taking out trash, killing zombies so you don't get overrun, and fulfilling the goal of each round. Each round there is some sort of crisis where you might need to gather tools, more food, medicine, or gas in order to keep morale up. Each player has their own personal victory conditions that are usually holding a certain number of items or completely certain actions. A small amount of goals are traitorous and involve completing goals and only succeeding if the group loses. If morale gets to 0 or, everyone loses. Gameplay runs from one to two hours and accommodates three to five players.

At the start of the game, the zombie apocalypse is in full swing and the group is struggling to survive.  There are twenty possible scenarios to choose from that lay out how long the game will be, how many rounds, where the morale track starts, and what the ultimate goal is. Some goals can be just to stay alive for a certain number of rounds but others can have players killing all zombies. Each round has players using dice to complete actions (such as searching for supplies, building barricades, killing zombies, and cleaning up trash), doing free actions (such as moving to a different location, using items, or contributing to the food stores or the crisis for the round). The end of each round settles the crisis, has all characters consume food, has all characters attract zombies towards them, and sets up for the next round. Most crises have the opportunity for raising morale, but it costs many more resources. Players have to plan ahead and see if it's worth perhaps not having resources to settle the next crises or feed ourselves next round. Raising morale is incredibly rare in game because the zombie apocalypse isn't exactly a morale booster.

Each character is has some sort defining characteristic and set of stats that either suit them for battling zombies or searching or some other task. My favorites are the truck driver, the body builder, and the mall Santa. Each turn, another player has a crossroads card that will take effect if you take an action or have a certain character. Usually it's a tough choice like doing something that might kill you to get food or picking up more survivors at the expense of the group's resources. You have to weigh which decision is right and maybe discuss it with the group. I love this aspect of the game. Not all good decisions have benefits and not all bad decisions have punishments. If it all goes wrong, the whole game could be over in a just a few rounds. I've personally seen crossroads cards that kill 3 characters which lowers morale and proves devastating to the group. These situations put the group in the mindset of making hard decisions that are best for the group (unless they are a betrayer).

This game does have some flaws. It's obviously stacked against the players, which I don't really mind. However, some rules I find a little over the top. In game, venturing outside at all has each character rolling a dice to see if they are wounded, frostbitten, or bitten by a zombie. A bite is an automatic death plus anyone with them has to roll to see if they were wounded, frostbitten, or bitten by a zombie. Too many first rounds were spent losing up to 3 characters, so my group plays that only encountering zombies makes us roll the dice. Other than that, I find it to replicate the zombie apocalypse situation in winter, making it doubly hard, pretty accurately. You can look up different house rules people have to adjust the game as you like. The game has two expansions called Warring Colonies and The Long Night. I haven't heard much about either, but I'd be interested to see what they add to the game. It's already incredibly hard, so adding more goals wouldn't be very successful. I'm hoping for alternative ways to play instead of making it harder.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Friday, September 21, 2018

Zombie Tunes 3: The Zombeatles

The Zombeatles is a parody band that comes from Wisconsin that remade many songs from The Beatles with a zombie's perspective while dressing up as zombified versions of the band complete with new names: Jaw Nlennon, Pall Ickartney, Gorge Harryson, Dingo Scarr, Killy Essen, and Eat Breast. Besides the tracks below, the song on their album Meat the Zombeatles are Hey Food, Dead Prudence, Ate Brains a Week, Halp!, She Dead, and I'm Eating Through You.

* A Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead

This video is super fun. Since they're all zombies, the band doesn't sing everything prefectly and devolve a lot into groans and cries for brains. The scenes of the zombies doing household chores is pretty hilarious. The end of the song kind of falls apart because they're zombies and found other things to focus on, like brains.

* A Want to Eat Your Hand

This one has a bit more actual singing in it, which is nice. The hilarity is in the lyrics like "When I much you, I don't feel so empty inside." It's a cute, silly parody of I Want to Hold Your Hand that has just enough zombie growls for flavor.

* All You Need is Brains Mockumentary

This mockumentary chronicles the rise of the Fab Gore in an alternate history where the zombie apocalypse has happened. It is like a Behind the Music type feature where they exist alongside a bunch of other zombie groups like The ZomMonkees, The Rolling Kidney Stones, Elvis Grisly, Boo Marley, Dead Zeppelin, and The Beach Boils. I don't think this is available online, but you can buy it on DVD on their website.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Come to Dust by Bracken Macleod

Mitch never really wanted to be a parent after his trouble childhood, but his sister Violette simply dropped little Sophie in his lap and left with her band. He takes the responsibility seriously and doesn't tell any government entities to keep getting Violette's benefits. A year later, Lianna finally asks Mitch out and he has a very rare night without Sophie to go on a date. A neighbor acts as a last minute babysitter, but she's obviously drunk when he comes home. Mitch spends the night with Lianna and doesn't realize until the next day that Sophie died. This event happens to coincide with some dead children rising from the grave, which includes Sophie. She's changed, but he cares for her like the same girl. Most others fear the returned children, their deathly pallor, and strange powers.

Come to Dust is a different zombie story than most. It starts with Mitch (real name Michel), who is an ex-con getting his life back together. He spent years in jail figuring out how to better cope with his anger. I enjoyed reading from his perspective because he was genuinely happy taking care of Sophie even though he wouldn't have chosen that path. He also has perfectly natural thoughts like thinking daycare worker Khadija looks like a model or Liana wears too much makeup, but then he follows up those thoughts with realizations like Khadija wears a hijab to be modest and Liana can wear as much makeup as she likes. Mitch is also good at sizing people up and assessing how dangerous they really are from a guy who wants to talk a big game but won't follow through to another who would shoot someone out of fear. Outwardly, his demeanor is a bit awkward, nervous, and fairly passive but still charming. Sophie's death breaks him because she was his fresh start and gave him motivation to move forward. They didn't have a lot of money or anything, but they had each other. I found him sympathetic and a good vehicle for the story.

This zombie book that many (especially parents) might find it hard to read. Child death in fiction holds a taboo more than any other type because they are the most vulnerable and innocent of humanity and in our lives. When four year old Sophie is found dead, the discovery is harrowing. The culprits leave town and lie through their teeth when found. Mitch's life falls apart around him from losing his job due to absence to losing all of Violette's government assistance. His whole life melts around him, but he and Liana have grown to love and support each other. The grief is accurately portrayed with moments of happiness and then guilt at being happy along with the waxing and waning pain of loss. Liana herself is also a pretty awesome character. She is much more assertive and sure of herself. In their relationship, she is an equal partner, not someone to be commanded. When Sophie came back, Liana was understandably disturbed and uncomfortable, eventually deciding to end their relationship when Sophie steals some her lifeforce and ages her. Apparently, an alternate effect of that power is affection and love? I found it disturbing that the only main female character has her agency taken away from her and has her making decisions against her own interest to help the male protagonist.

These zombies are a bit different than usual. These are all children and their condition when they come back is how they looked in the grave. Sophie was not very decomposed, but she comes back with a deathly pale skin, grey hair, dark veins, a slowly beating heart, no appetite, a muted personality, and eyes with white cataracts. She's obviously not a living child and everyone who helped them before rejects them now from the day care to the library. Between forward moving chapters are vignettes of other resurrections such as three boys walking out of an apparent child murderer's porch. These gave me a chill down my spine and showed what is happening outside of Mitch's story. As the story moves forward, more zombie abilities are revealed. They can weaponize rot, which in turn rots themselves, and alternatively, they can consume other's lifeforce to make themselves appear more human. If they consume enough, no one would know the difference between them and another child in any way. The different zombie abilities are interesting and mostly make sense except for the forcing some sort of emotion (examples in the book include positive and negative). It just doesn't make sense to me and has problematic implications.

The real villains of this piece are a religious extremist group. They view these children as demons from hell, sent by the devil to destroy people. The group operates as a cult, taking in those down on their luck, changing their lives, and then forcing them to commit atrocities in god's name, including imprisoning or killing anyone that gets in their way and setting fire to returned children. Mitch gets all mixed up in this because his sister comes back born again with this cult and her equally trouble boyfriend to collect Sophie. When they find out Sophie returned, the boyfriend shoves them in his truck and forces them to go to the cult compound. Mitch and other parents forced there break out and attempt to rescue their children, resulting in cars crashed into buildings and many dead and injured. The church disgustingly spins it as violence against them and uses the widespread media coverage to their advantage while the actual good people have to stay silent or risk being painted as terrorists. This is particularly relevant now where people prop up their religious beliefs as reasons to justify hatred, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, assault, murder, and child molestation just to name a few and cry discrimination or intolerance the minute anyone is against them.

Come to Dust took me almost no time to read because I was so sucked into the story. The characters are all compelling in some way and the lore is unique compared the rest of the genre. There were also small Lovecraftian references like Miskatonic University and the city of Dunwich. I thought this might play into the story a bit more, but I think it was included just to add some little easter eggs. Overall, the book moves quickly, packs an emotional punch, and features relatable and realistic characters even if the ending stretches the logic of the world.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Upcoming Zombies Sneaking Up Behind You: Movies Part 2

More zombie movies (or series) shuffling towards theaters or VOD.

* Redcon 1, September 28. 2018

Redcon 1 tells the story of a military team dispatched to save a scientist who is humanity's last hope for a cure. This doesn't necessarily look like a good movie, but it looks fun. I thought this would be a fairly serious film until zombies showed of their martial arts moves. The characters seem one dimensional and the whole thing looks over the top. I would definitely watch this on streaming or with friends.

* Black Summer (Netflix series), 2019

A woman is separated from her daughter and stuck with a group of refugees during the zombie apocalypse. Jaime King stars and it's created by the same showrunners as Z Nation, which is a decent show that takes a more comedic approach to the zombie apocalypse. This sounds like it will be more serious, but there's no trailer yet and no specific date. Looking forward to seeing more.

* Zombieland 2, October 11, 2019

It's finally happening!!! This film has been through a lot with being stuck in production hell and a horrible attempt at a TV show. I didn't think it would be possible since the younger stars have become much more famous since 2011.  It's currently in production with Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone (plus others) along with director Ruben Fleischer and screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese. The writers are currently teasing a scene that will match the Bill Murray scene in the first. Next Halloween can't come fast enough!

* Train to Busan sequel and remake

Director Yeon Sang Ho has announced that a sequel to the blockbuster hit (the 11th best selling film in South Korea overall!!!) Train to Busan. It's set to start filming in the first half of 2019 and nothing solid about the plot is set yet. Gong Yoo and other stars won't be returning and it will take place in a city instead of a train. Maybe it will follow the daughter in the safe zone? I hope the release won't be too delayed in the US and I will definitely be seeing this in theaters.

In the US, James Wan is set to produce a remake Train to Busan. I'm less excited about this. It's such a unique film that I think a lot will get lost in translation. Will it take place in Korea? If it doesn't, will the name be changed? The original is readily available on Netflix and I hope that at least more people will check it out because of the remake. Historically, American remakes of Asian films are awful, so I don't have high hopes for this at all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Santa Clarita Diet Season 2

Sheila and Joel are in pretty bad shape at the start of the season. Sheila is locked in the basement due to her lust for flesh eating and accelerated rate of decomposition while Joel is in a 72 hour psychiatric hold due to trying to steal an old Serbian woman's bile. This season has them discovering new zombies, finding out more about zombie lore, trying to live their lives and succeed in their real estate business, and stop the spread of zombie infected clams. Their daughter Abby and her friend Eric help them along the way.

Santa Clarita Diet Season 2 has everything the first season has and more. It's hilarious, heart warming, and gory as hell with the perfect mix of horror and comedy. Sheila and Joel are an adorable couple. I didn't think I would like Joel anymore after the events of last season. He essentially rejected Sheila and admitted her only supported her because he thought she would return to the meek human woman she was before she became a zombie. This season, he got some perspective and accepts his wife for who she is. Their relationship greatly improved when his ego stopped getting in the way of Sheila's new attitude and outlook on life. They unite even further as real estate agents against another couple desperate to take any success from them with Sheila as the driving competitive force. They also investigate the zombie disease spreading and do what they can to save the general public from turning into zombies.

Sheila has a lust for life now that she's a zombie that has intensified from the first season. Her worsening condition caused her to become more prone to give in to her hunger, anger, and other desires, but she's stabilized and channeled her bloodlust into jogging and chasing animals in the desert at superhuman speed. Unfortunately, her condition still brings some surprises such as her blacking out and eating someone she doesn't remember, chewing off her fingers when nervous, and having to choose the right people to eat. There is a particularly funny scene where they befriend some Neo Nazis in order for her to eat awful people without guilt. Joel, on the other hand, drags his feet for everything and lets his pride in a negative Yelp review hold them back from investigating the origin of the disease at an Italian restaurant. His priorities are a bit skewed at times, but he comes through for Sheila and his family.

Secondary characters shine this season, especially in Abby and Ramona. Abby goes from sullen, sarcastic teen to superhero. She realizes that societies' rules don't always dictate what's right and she decides to fight for what she believes in even if it may fall outside the law or societal norms. Her efforts are channeled into protesting frakking in Santa Clarita and being who she really wants to be. I always liked Ramona as the clerk who always caught Joel and his family at odd moments staring at cleaning supplies trying to deal with their new and overwhelming living situation. Her character is fleshed out and we see more than just the few one liners she delivered the previous season. Ramona experienced something similar to Sheila and left her old job as an auctioneer to the sardonic, slow speaking drug store clerk she always wanted to be. She takes up a relationship with Eric where she essentially uses him to get human flesh. He's so meek that he just goes along with it until Abby intervenes for him. I enjoy how the women have the power in this show unlike most sitcoms like it.

The zombie lore has expanded. The virus originated in Serbia and came to the US in a pair of carnivorous red clams, infecting Sheila and who knows how many other Santa Clarita residents. The ball Sheila threw up when she turned grows eight legs and seems to be a living creature. Its purpose isn't known yet, hopefully something explored next season. The infected will become completely feral and inhuman if they don't have the weird Serbian bile serum, as seen with an elderly veteran. A couple seem to be zombie hunters, having a similar double life of shady actions and illegal activities to Sheila and Joel to a very different end. This tradition also seems to be continued from the medieval era according to the family's research. It's like the start of answers are there, but the threads have yet to be connected. I'm interested in seeing how it will further expand in future seasons.

Santa Clarita Diet Season 2 has a wonderful balance of family drama, comedy, zombies, and over the top gore. At turns, it's effectively heartwarming, funny, and disgusting but all with an undercurrent of heart. Drew Barrymore and Timothy Oliphant especially shine as the central couple. Barrymore has wonderful comedic timing and infuses her performance with optimism. Oliphant is more bumbling and unsure since his relationship has been upending and he's forced to do stomach turning things to feed his wife. Joel changes from the last season in that he accepts his wife and their unconventional situation much more. I can't wait for next season to find out what happens next, how the lore will expand, and how many other zombies will be revealed in Santa Clarita.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Monday, September 17, 2018

Song of the Dead by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Karthia is almost unrecognizable. Change is allowed, people can travel, science can move forward. Valoria, the newly crowned queen, is met with resistance from subjects used to being ruled by a king that forbids any change at all. Odessa, master necromancer with no job anymore with the laws against resurrecting the dead, chooses to leave without a word and travel with her friend Kasmira and Meredy, the girl she has feelings for. She wants to see the world and experience something untouched by her grief and the events that led to Valoria's reign. Unfortunately, now that Karthia is in contact with the world, the world is more aware of Karthia and the weakness of the current reign. Odessa goes back to serve her queen and hopes it isn't too late.

Song of the Dead is the sequel to Reign of the Fallen in which the world has a few different types of magic particular to certain eye colors. This installment expands the world from Karthia and shows how unaware of the rest of the world they were. Other lands ban necromacers altogether while other lands breed dragons and still others travel around, pillaging and stealing along the way. There are marvels and dangers Karthia was completely unaware of, which is creating issues for them now. Different abilities are also shown with people of unique eyecolors than the usual such as power over plants, shapeshifting, and a different type of necromancy. The young adults with these unique powers were forced to hide them due to the shame and mistreatment of those around them. Since they are viewed outside the norm, it feels akin to LGBT or nonbinary or those with different beliefs than their intolerant parents are treated.

The main conflict of the novel comes from people attacking Karthia from the inside, their own subjects resistent to change, and those outside, possibly trying to conquer or take their resources. The internal conflict is populated by very different people, violent and peaceful alike. Although she is constantly in danger from terrorist attacks, Valoria still tries to debate and negoatiate with the group in order to work towards peace. She is a powerhouse ruler who does what's needed sometimes at the expense of herself. The outward conflict is dealt with brilliantly because it shows how rumors and offensive stereotypes can spread and affect how people in far lands can view them. I wish these issues had come up sooner. While I like the romance between Meredy and Odessa, I felt it the conflict and angst around it took up too much time and made the ending feel quite rushed. I did, however, appreciate that Odessa was able to put her romantic troubles aside when more important things need her attention.

The undead are not seen much in this installment, much to my disappointment, but there are new ways for the dead to enter the mortal realm. One specific zombie proves to be much more dangerous than he seems and makes up for the lack of undead everywhere else. This aspect surprised me and came out of nowhere. I hope further installments have more zombies, but not if Valoria still bans the resurrection of the dead. I found these particular zombies fascinating with their urge to eat but never becoming satiated and their transformation to shades if the living see any part of them. Their absence in Karthia leaves a hole in their society that people miss. Many aren't used to not spending time with dead loved ones. There was no need to mourn or miss them. Life went on as usual with generations of relatives around. Now, the living remain with new people holding power in families, another aspect of change that's widely hated.

Song of the Dead is enjoyable and widens the scope of the world, revealing modern marvels and unknown dangers. The pacing is a little off and the relationship between Meredy and Odessa (with their dramatic breakups and makeups) took more precedence in terms of time. I also felt that Meredy's struggles with addiction mirrored Odessa's too much and Odessa's response to some of Meredy's behavior felt off to me. Other than that, the novel is a worthy continuation and has me eager for more (hopefully with more zombies).

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Walking Dead Season 8

I am still watching The Walking Dead although it's painful at times. It's such a mixed bag of a show that I can't help but keep watching through the glacial pace and full episodes of nothing really happening.

The Good

* Negan

Negan/Jeffrey Dean Morgan continues to be the main element of the show that keeps me returning. His sinister yet affable air is hard to pull off yet he seems to do it with ease. Rick's team is at war with him for the entire season, so there's none of the power plays we saw last season. We see some cracks in his facade when faced with mistakes, but even with his own underlings plotting against, he keeps confident, finds out their plans, and responds in kind. When Anne confronts him, Negan is honest about his past and about how he can make up for his own people's slaughter of hers. He had no idea, but he saw his mistake, wanted to survive, and also found it important to help someone who no longer has power. Negan also felt the loss when Carl died and mourned in his own way.  He obviously views himself as an actual savior and believes that what he's doing is right, just like Rick.

* The Saviors

In the last season, the Saviors seemed to be of one mind; all are Negan. Now, it seems as if that isn't true anymore. Simon and Dwight are two soldiers high in command than no longer follow Negan and have very different perspectives. Simon thinks Negan's practices are ineffectual and he generally just wants to kill anyone who oppose them. I'm more on Negan's side than his because of the resources even the disgruntled groups give, but I can see how this perspective would cut down a lot on uprisings. Plus Simon is a bit of a sadist with a vengeful streak. When Negan disappears, presumed dead, Simon seemlessly takes up the mantle and commands the Saviors to kill everyone in Hilltop. On the other hand, Dwight is playing a pretty good double agent to Rick's group and wants to see Negan dead due to old grudges and their shared past.

* Anne and the Trash People

I didn't care for the Trash People when they were alive, but their deaths were unexpected and tragic. Anne was the only one left alive and she immediately shed her cultivated shell after her people were dispatched. We get to see the woman who uses full sentences, creates art, and has lost people. Anne has to figure out how to dispatch the zombies of the people she loved and cared for while trying to protect herself. She comes out the other side a changed person. This part seemed genuine compared to Carl's needlessly melodramatic and drawn out death.

* Eugene

Mid last season, Eugene switched sides against his will when he was shown to be able to make bullets. Negan sees him as a useful addition to the saviors. Despite his cowardice and general social ineptitude, Eugene is pretty good at being a Savior. He follows orders and comes up with unexpected ideas like dipping weapons in infected blood. Through most of this season, I wasn't sure if he was genuinely on Negan's side or just too cowardly to do anything about it. Eugene ended up being the reason Rick's group won in the end in the most unexpected way. Despite his mistakes and shortcomings, he came through in the end and provided some comic relief like throwing up his weird mac and cheese concoction on Rosita.

* Maggie

Maggie has really stepped it up this season. She's still grieving for Glen, but she takes control of the Hilltop and rules pretty well. She knows when to attack, when to hold back, and when to be cruel. They capture around 30 Saviors and send a zombified one in a box with a threat. When the threat falls flat, she treats them humanely and even eventually accepts those who proven themselves. It's so refreshing to see a woman in a leadership role in the show and be more competent than most of the men.

The Meh

* Morgan

I'm tired of Morgan's antics. He's better than last season when he was a militant pacifist, but this whiny, hallucinating, murderous Morgan isn't great. He goes back and forth between seeming normal and completely losing it. By the end of the season, he insists that people are the most important thing in life and then isolates himself from everyone. I don't know why he's on this show anymore.

* Oceanside

Oceanside is the group of all women who hide themselves to stay safe. I get that they are mad at Rick's group for stealing their guns, but they really should have helped then. The leader attacks Enid, forcing her to defend herself. The leader is killed and they threaten Enid only to let her go later. Don't attack people if you don't want to be killed. I find them incredibly annoying and only used as a Deus Ex Machina in the season finale.

The Bad

* Pacing

The pacing is always horrible. They talk about fighting and plans for like 5 episodes before anything actually happens. It would be great to get new writers on the show instead of depending on delayed gratification to trick the audience into watch. Maybe just write a compelling show that moves forward sometimes. There are also way too many flashbacks that only serve to fill in innocuous details and slow the pace further.

* Most of Rick's group

So many of Rick's group fade into the background. Daryl barely says two words all season. Carol is usually amazing and doesn't do much all season. Michonne felt one dimensional. Jesus seemed to barely be there at all, only coming in to be super judgy. I think it's a byproduct of having so many characters stuffed into one show. The new shiny characters are more interesting, leaving the writers to give them parts by rote until they are needed. So many of them could be gone from the show and no one would really notice.

* Melodramatic Carl Death

Carl's death was one of the most annoying part of the season. It was shown before we saw how it happened so of course there has to be a series of flashbacks showing the bite and what happened afterwards. He writes letters to practically everyone, including Negan, because he had a dream where everyone lived in harmony. These scenes are complete with the vaseline lens to make everything look vaguely heavenly. They show Hilltop with new brick buildings, paved paths, orchards, gardens, and everyone getting along. Afterwards, Carl and his family cry and wring their hands until he kills himself because his dad can't bear to. The deaths of the trash people and the later conversation between Rick and Negan are more sad than Carl's death scene. 

* Random Dissent in Rick's Group

Shoehorned at the very end of the season finale is Maggie, Daryl, and Jesus banding together to plot against Rick. They wanted Negan to die as punishment for his actions. Daryl barely does anything but grunt and stare so it's surprising for him to have such strong feelings. Jesus browbeat Morgan into not killing people and convinced Maggie to have mercy on the captured Saviors since they would have to live together eventually. Does he think Negan is unworthy of being forgiven? It seems to go against the few things he's done over the course for the season. Maggie is literally the only person this makes sense for because she was understandably outraged when Rick decided to spare Negan. I'm not looking forward to this aspect of the next season.

Parts of the season were compelling, but so much of it fell flat or seemed unnecessary. I hope something changes next season. Maybe Rick's exit from the show will prompt some more change. We'll see.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

Superheroes of all kinds are cropping up with a wide variety of abilities from superhuman strength to flight, fire breathing to magic. These people have chosen to save those in need and keep their true identities secret. When people start turning into zombies, the heroes mobilize, but the zombies are too widespread and numerous to defeat. They set up a living situation in a movie studio in Hollywood they call The Mount. Everyone contributes and the heroes enforce their laws in addition to scavenging for resources and protecting the people from zombie and human foes alike. A gang called the Seventeens have their own living space and have been largely left alone until they launch an assault on the heroes during a scavenging mission. A new enemy has taken over and is hellbent on making the heroes pay.

Ex-Heroes melds two disparate genres, superhero and zombie apocalypse, and makes them work together in an oddly harmonious way. The superheroes are created by a variety of things like toxic spills or magic with abilities like super strength, breathing fire, speedy healing, and/or flight. These characters follow the same archetypes of famous heroes. For instance, St. George is clearly the overpowered boyscout Superman with slightly different abilities (breathing fire instead of laser eyes). Stealth is similar to Batman with her abilities and more cynical worldview. Chapters are labeled Then from before the apocalypse and Now. St. George is the main character, but each hero gets their own chapter Then chapter and, if still alive, a Now chapter. Then, each hero is fighting crime on a fairly small scale and Now, they are maintaining The Mount and merely surviving.

The zombies (or exes) are pretty standard fare. They are the animated unded. The disease is a bit different. It's a virus that mimics white blood cells thus replicating quickly in the body. It's highly infectious through bodily fluids and survives a long time outside of its host, making dead exes and even smears of blood just as dangerous. This disease isn't fatal and only takes hold after death. The reason why people usually die after a bite is that other diseases piggyback on the zombie disease, making it a toxic mix of every other disease every other person in the line of infection had. I'm not honestly sure how sound the science is, but the concept is intriguing. Further, zombified heroes retain their abilities and create havoc when an uber-zombie with the ability to control other exes has a grudge against the heroes.

Ex-Heroes has a fast pace and interesting stories in the past and present to get to know each hero a little bit along the way. The beginning just throws you into the world and you start to tread water a couple chapters in. My only criticism is in some of the heroes' narratives. Stealth is a beautiful woman in a revealing outfit and she's disgustingly objectified by quite a few of the male heroes. Once is showing a perspective and doing it multiple times just seems immature of the author and the characters. Stealth herself seems more like a robot than a person as if she had to be so different than her appearance to be seen as a legitimate hero. Other than that, I enjoyed the twists and turns. I'm planning to continue the series and I hope the problems I have resolve as the characters get more developed.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Friday, September 14, 2018

Zombie Tunes 2

* I Walked with a Zombie by Roky Erickson

This song has a slow dance prom feel to me and has the same line sung over and over. It's undeniably catchy with a varied background. The ending with its unexpected triplets and the two instruments solos make the song surprisingly fun to listen to. Apparently, he walked with a zombie.

* Haul Away Boys! by The Widow's Bane

This jaunty tune features soulless, evil, enslaved zombie pirates who wreak havoc everywhere they go. Their selfish, hedonistic lifestyle isn't satisfying as zombies and they further warn that it's easy to give in to evil desires. I love the Celtic flair, the fiddle, the octave harmony, and the sea shanty style of the song.

* Night of the Living Dead by Julia Marcell

This song is the least overtly zombie, but the it's there as a metaphor for the inevitability of death and soulles automaton-like people. She seems to be lecturing someone about how you have to go after the things you want instead of being passive in life. It has a much more indie, happy tone, but the zombie aspect (even though it's only mentioned once) colors the whole song.

More zombies to come!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Dead Shack (2017)

Colin, Summer, their parents, and Colin's best friend Jason all go to a remote cabin for a weekend getaway. The parents want to get drunk and the teens just want to have fun, but their unhinged neighbor has other plans for them.

Dead Shack is a zombie horror comedy that features family at its center. Colin's family on the surface is pretty dysfunctional. The parents struggle financially and seem to be stuck in their college years with binge drinking and partying all the time. Summer and Colin don't get along with each other or their parents. It all seems like a mess. In contrast, the nameless neighbor woman is taking care of her zombified family which includes finding food for them. Colin, who has pretended to be poor almost the entire film, reveals that his parents are rich, but his dad is abusive to his mother. Colin's family has what the other families don't: genuine love and care.

The comedy of the film is the strongest element next to the heartwarming family aspect. The whole concept of taking care of a zombie family is played hilariously here, especially the neighbor in her full body armor to keep herself safe. The children being more responsible and logical than their parents and going a step further to protect them from zombies plays off well as well. The physical comedy is on point along with the balance between the comedy and sappiness. My favorite scene is when the father tells Colin how much he loves and cares about him while Jason and Summer are beating in zombies heads close by. I personally didn't like the crude teenage boy humor of Colina and Jason, but it was a fairly minor part of the film.

Dead Shack is a pretty hilarious, light zombie comedy. It's a simple formula in an isolated location that works rather well. The only lacking part was the stepmother being completely stereotypical and one dimensional as an Asian woman only with the dad for financial gain. She has no redeeming qualities or character development and becomes a zombie. In contrast, Summer is the most resolute, strong character of the film. At least there is some variance in the female characters, but it's still disappointing to see this gross stereotype. Other than that, this is a really fun watch.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Upcoming Zombies Sneaking Up Behind You: Books

Upcoming zombie books!

* Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve, March 9, 2019

Synopsis: When genderqueer fourteen year old Z Chilworth wakes from death after a car crash that killed her parents and sisters, they have to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie. Always a talented witch, Z can now barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly witch, and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding her body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered in an apparent werewolf attack, the town of Salem, Oregon becomes even more hostile to monsters, and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish neither of them existed.

My thoughts: This isn't the first time zombies have been used to portray oppression, but it's not done too often. I'm a sucker for found family stories and this new zombie struggles to find their place in life with an increasingly hostile outside world. The panic at violence and blaming vulnerable people for it rings true. I'm definitely excited for this one.

* Broken Lands by Jonathan Maberry, December 11, 2018

Synopsis: Ever since her mother's death, Gabriella "Gutsy" Gomez has spent her days flying under the radar. But when her mother's undead body is returned to her doorstep from the grave and Gutsy witnesses a pack of ravagers digging up Los Muertos- her mother's name for the undead- she realizes that life finds you no matter how hard you try to hide from it.

Meanwhile, Benny Imura and his gang set out on a journey to finish what Captain Joe Ledger started: they're going to find a cure. After what they went through in the Rot and Ruin, they think they've seen it all, but as they venture into new and unexplored territory, they soon learn that the zombies they fought before were nothing compared to what they'll face in the wild beyond the peace and safety of their fortified town.

My thoughts: I am so hyped to continue this series in a spin-off. I love how other of Maberry's zombie series is going to intersect with Benny's world plus expanding it to include other characters. I'm excited to meet Gutsy and see what can be so different about zombies in the wild now. Can't wait!!!

* Dead Life by Jean-Charles Gaudin, October 2, 2018

Synopsis: Classic zombie horror with a supernatural twist as the dead are brought to life with a magical chalice.

When Stephen finds, and drinks from, a medieval chalice buried in his grandparents' attic, he has no idea of the hell he's unleashed. The cursed chalice brings the undead back to walk the Earth and feed on the living. Who, if anyone, will survive the epidemic? And what will be left of them?

My thoughts: This comic book has such a striking cover that I was immediately intrigued. The supernatural element isn't seen as often as a disease, so this is a fresh take. The description is pretty vague so I'm wondering how far this is going to go and if the effect of the chalice can be reversed.

* Still of Night by Jonathan Maberry and Rachael Lavin, November 9, 2018

Synopsis: The dead rose. We fell.

But not everyone thinks the war for survival is over. Heroes rise in times of crisis, and Still of Night tells their stories...

Dahlia - a bullied high school girl with a love for edged weapons goes from victim to powerful leader as the zombie apocalypse sweeps through her world.

Rachael Elle - continues her journey from comic-con cosplayer to actual hero as she encounters a community with a dark and terrible secret.

Captain Joe Ledger and his best shooters, Top and Bunny, head to an overrun San Diego to try and save a possible cure for the virus that is bringing the dead back to unnatural life.

And in the wilderness, Joe, Dahlia, and Rachael Elle will come face-to-face with savage gangs, an army of the living dead, and the mysterious and deadly Old Man Church.

The final battle unfolds iin a little town called Happy Valley, where residents have found their own unique and terrible way to survive the end of the world. But a war is coming, and no one will escape the last great war between the living and the dead.

Still of Night is the fourth book in NY Times besteller Jonathan Maberry's bestselling Dead of Night series. George A. Romero called Dead of Night and its sequel Fall of Night, "the official prequel to Night of the Living Dead as far as I'm concerned."

My thoughts: I had no idea this series was still continuing! Dead of Night and Fall of Night are two of the best zombie novels I've read. This seems to be a short story collection, but I'm 100% on board for more visceral, gut punching zombie stories. I think I've read the Dahlia story, but the others are brand new to me and I can't wait to dive in.