Tagged: zombies

Zomburbia by Adam J. Gallardo

Zomburbia by Adam Gallardo(Cover picture courtesy of 100 Industries.)

 

Lifeless. Slow-moving. Brain-dead.
Welcome To Zomburbia.

My name is Courtney Hart, and I’m here to tell you about things that suck. Being born in a podunk town like Salem, Oregon, for one. Living in a world infested with zombies? That, too. And the meat heads I go to school with? I think I’d actually take the undead over them most days. But I have a plan to get out of here and move to New York. I just have to keep selling Vitamin Z along with your fries at The Bully Burger. The secret ingredient? Zombie brains.

I’ve noticed things are getting even worse lately, if that’s even possible. The zombies seem to be getting smarter and faster. If I can avoid being arrested, eaten by shufflers, or catching the eye of some stupid boy, I should be able to make it through finals week still breathing. . .

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Sometimes you read a blurb and think a novel has a good premise.  However when you read that book you learn that you have a huge, insurmountable problem with it: the narrator.

Courtney is snarky, constantly putting her friends down, arrogant, clueless, bratty, hot-tempered and thoughtless.  So she’s pretty much your typical teenager except for the fact that throughout the novel I kept wishing for her to die because she was so awful.  I can’t go into much detail because I don’t want to get into too many spoilers, but it’s hard to believe she went through so many traumatic, possibly life-changing events and came out exactly the same at the end of the novel.  As I’ve said before, I don’t mind unsympathetic characters (like Jorg from Prince of Thorns) but Courtney is just intolerable.  She’s your typical teenager with attitude magnified by 10 and given an added dose of blindness about the world around her.

Being stuck in the head of such a horrible human being for the whole novel was trying.  I kept fruitlessly wishing she’d die so I could get in the head of someone who at least acted like a human, like Willie or even Brandon.  But no such luck; Courtney lives while people around her die like flies.  The only mildly interesting thing about her is that she thinks she has a plan to fix the zombie problem.  She goes on and on about how much smarter she is than everyone and yet we never hear the details of this wonderful plan that hinges on the army clearing New York of all its zombies in the next year or so.

Okay, even with that wretched girl for a narrator, this book may have redeemed itself with a good premise.  I’ll admit that it doesn’t have a bad premise, just not a great one.  If everyone has moved out into the suburbs because the cities are infested with zombies, why don’t the zombies follow them into the suburbs?  Predators like to go where the food is, especially when said food is wandering around near wooded areas where there’s lots of shelter.

As for the drug Vitamin Z, I’ve never underestimated the determination of people to get high.  Yes, I believe that people would try to get high off zombie brains but I also think Gallardo needed to explain more of why the drug makes people act like they do when they’re on it.  That could be in the next installment of the series, but I’m not so curious as to consider reading the sequel.  Not unless Courtney gets a personality transplant.

This book doesn’t come out until August 26 but I can’t honestly recommend it to anyone.  Courtney is a rather poor excuse for a human being and the plot isn’t even all that exciting.  To top it all off, the zombies (while having some unique qualities like being able to lay ambushes it seems) are pretty boring.  They show up when it’s convenient for the plot and that’s about it.  We’re told that they seem to be evolving pack behaviour and see that actually happen during the novel but we’re told exactly 0 about it or its possible consequences.  And that’s pretty much how the whole novel goes, in one big cycle where we end up back at square one in the end.

I give this book 1/5 stars.

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Autumn: Disintegration by David Moody

Autumn; Disintegration by David Moody(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Autumn: Disintegration is the penultimate chapter in David Moody’s riveting horror series!

Forty days have passed since the world died. Billions of corpses walk the Earth. Everything is disintegrating. . . .

A group of eleven men and women have survived against the odds. On an almost daily basis, they attack the dead with brutal ferocity, tearing through them with utter contempt.
Somewhere nearby, out of sight and out of earshot, is another group that has adopted a completely different survival strategy. Where the others have used brutality and strength, these people have demonstrated subtlety, planning, and tactics.

A series of horrific events force the two groups together. Backed into a corner and surrounded by hundreds of thousands of corpses, they all know that their final battle with the dead is about to begin.

Like I somehow do with most series, I’m not actually reading Autumn in order.  I read the first book and the second book and since I couldn’t find the third book when I went shopping the other day I decided to pick up book 4, Disintegration.

Unlike with the previous two books, I wasn’t really all that impressed with Disintegration.  Sure, it’s kind of cool to see how two completely different groups are managing to stay alive in such a horrific world, but the formula David Moody uses is getting kind of boring.  (SPOILERS)  Essentially a bunch of survivors mope around for a while, things get bad, they join another group and bring about its downfall.  Sure, he changes the names around a little but they’re basically all the same book at this point.  It’s kind of disappointing as someone who appreciates the overall plot arc of the series.

But as a novel on its own merit, Disintegration isn’t all that bad.  David Moody is still a master of suspense and he’s good at describing such a horrific world without ever going into descriptions of gore for gore’s sake.  Don’t get me wrong, though; this book is still pretty gory.  It’s just that it’s not gratuitous.  I like how he has his zombies develop abilities even as they deteriorate, which is somehow more terrifying because there’s the possibility they could even become fully human as they rot away to nothing.  If that’s not horrific I don’t know what is.

The characters were a solid ‘meh’ in this story.  None of them really stood out to me unless we’re talking about total jerks that get people killed, like Webb.  Yeah I know he’s a hothead kid but he’s the epitome of the Too Stupid to Live trope.  While not exactly being brilliant at it, David Moody still did a good job imagining how the group dynamics would be in such a diverse group of people.  People are constantly getting on each others’ nerves and pretty much no one agrees on what the solution to the zombie problem is.  Essentially, it’s a group of real people and is probably how most people would react in a zombie apocalypse.

So basically this one’s a solid ‘meh’.  I hope the fifth book is better.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

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Discussion: The Next Supernatural Creature Fad

I think we all remember the boring horror that was the vampire craze spawned by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.  (I still can’t get over the fact that her vampires sparkled.)  For several months you could not find a YA book that didn’t feature vampires in some way or another as every author and their dog tried to cash in on the vampire craze.

Thank goodness it’s died down to a somewhat reasonable level of late.  There have been quite a few trends since then, what with zombies, werewolves and shapeshifters.  I’m not saying trends are bad but they’re a little boring when that’s all you see on the shelves at your local bookstore.

As for the next trend, I honestly don’t have a prediction.  I think shapeshifters are relatively popular right now but there’s not as big of a market for the supernatural as there was even a year ago.  Right now it’s still all dystopia, all the time in the YA market.

Anyway, what do you guys think will be the next supernatural fad in YA?  Shapeshifting werewolves, sparkling zombies or something equally ridiculous?  I can hold out hope that authors will try to move away from European myths and draw creatures from African and Asian cultures, but that’s really quite a pipe dream.

Zombies vs. Robots: No Man’s Land by Jeff Conner

Zombies Vs. Robots(Cover picture courtesy of PREVIEWSworld.)

Book #5 in IDW’s shambling series of original Zombies vs Robots prose collections. Fully illustrated by the fantabulous Fabio Listrani, this new anthology features fresh tales of rotting flesh and rusting metal, undead unrest and mechanical mayhem. Once again IDW expands the apocalyptic hellscape of its unique signature franchise. A world where brain-eaters roam and warbots rule is truly a No Man’s Land.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy of this book through NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

I normally would have never given an anthology like this a second glance.  But I was invited to by the publisher so I figured I had nothing to lose.  If I’m honest, I thought the whole thing sounded kind of stupid but I’ve always tried to keep an open mind about literature so I gave it a try anyway.

Am I glad I did?  Well I haven’t exactly found my new favourite series but at the same time I’m glad I gave this book a chance.  It wasn’t as awful as I was expecting it to be.  Instead, there were some very intelligent, believable and well-written stories about a world where zombies roam and robots meant to protect people from said zombies have gone rogue.  This isn’t a random collection of individual story threads like the disastrous V-Wars anthology was, thankfully.  No, each story picks up where the other one left off in the narrative of the zombie takeover and robot intervention.  In the beginning there are stories when zombies are just starting to become a threat and by the end we’re in a fully post-apocalyptic time.

Most of the stories were very well-written.  Others could have been better, but there were no stories that truly stood out as bad.  The pacing is very good for most of them and the overall plot arc is fast-paced.  This isn’t the sort of book you’ll race to read in one sitting, but it is good enough to keep you reading for a while to find out what’s going to happen next in this world where zombies and robots roam.

The characters were generally well fleshed-out.  There were some pretty stereotypical characters (like the ditzy girls in one story) but overall the characters were believable and changed as much as can be expected in the course of a short story.  None of the characters stood out as truly memorable for me, but that may be more of a personal thing than an issue with the writing.

If you think the idea behind this anthology sounds interesting, I’d say go for it!  It’s not the type of book I’m really into but for the right audience this could be a great thrill ride.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Discussion: Your Favourite Zombie Version

This one is a little bit of an unusually specific discussion for me, but I think we’ve pretty much all been exposed to zombies in popular culture, including through fiction.  I was personally terrified of zombies until I actually began reading zombie fiction and while they still have that ‘uck’ factor I don’t have nightmares any longer.  There is no standard type of zombie, though.  The portrayals vary from author to author and when you read a lot of zombie fiction it’s interesting to see the sheer variety.

Mira Grant’s zombies, for example, are similar to the slow-moving ones of popular culture.  They have one important aspect, though: they have a hive mind.  One or two zombies aren’t a danger to any physically fit human, but as Shaun and Georgia find out a pack of zombies can display hunting tactics from ambushes to cutting off all available routes of escape.  This is in contrast to humans, who seem to utterly lose all common sense when in large crowds.  (Yes, I know, I’ve studied way too much psychology.)

Another fascinating zombie type for me are the ones in V. M. Zito’s The Return Man.  Marco, the main character, lives in the Evacuated States and hunts zombies for a living.  People pay him to put down their relatives so they know they’re not suffering as a zombie.  How the heck do you find one zombie in an area that makes up most of the US?  Well, emotional geography is how you do it.  Zombies in Zito’s world have some trickle down from the neocortex into the reptilian brain that controls them and this trickle down mainly consists of powerful memories.  Zombies will go to where they spent a lot of time in their lives such as at work or at home.  Maybe they’ll hang around the restaurant where they met their beloved wife or the hospital where their first child was born.  But either way, if you know enough about a person you can be sure to find their corpse wandering around somewhere.

These are my favourite zombie versions.  What I want to know now is this: What’s your favourite version of zombies?  Do you like the traditional George Romero style ones or the fast-moving zombies?  Does a particular author portray zombies in a way you like?  (Please, no major spoilers if the truth about the zombies is main plot point, as in the case of The Scourge by A. G. Henley.)

The Last Bastion of the Living by Rhiannon Frater

The Last Bastion of the Living by Rhiannon Frater(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The Bastion was humanity’s last hope against the fearsome undead creatures known as the Inferi Scourge. A fortified city with a high wall, surrounded by lush land rich with all the resources needed to survive, protected by high mountain summits, and a massive gate to secure the only pass into the valley, the Bastion became the last stronghold of the living on earth. But one fateful day, the gate failed and the Inferi Scourge destroyed the human settlements outside the walls and trapped the survivors inside the city. Now decades later, the last remaining humans are struggling to survive in a dying city as resources and hope dwindle.

Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her whole life within the towering walls of steel. She yearns for a life away from the overcrowded streets, rolling blackouts, and food shortages, but there is no hope for anyone as long as the Inferi Scourge howl outside the high walls. Her only refuge from the daily grind is in the arms of her lover, Dwayne Reichardt, an officer in the Bastion Constabulary. Both are highly-decorated veterans of the last disastrous push against the Inferi Scourge. Their secret affair is her only happiness.

Then one day Maria is summoned to meet with a mysterious representative from the Science Warfare Division and is offered the opportunity to finally destroy the Inferi Scourge in the valley and close the gate. The rewards of success are great, but she will have to sacrifice everything, possibly even her life, to accomplish the ultimate goal of securing the future of humanity and saving it from extinction.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I love zombies.  I love a good action movie.  I also love a good story with a well-developed protagonist and excellent world-building.  The Last Bastion of the Living is all of the above in one awesome, heart-pounding package.

Maria Martinez is a kick-butt protagonist.  Not only can she literally kick butt, she can think her way out of most situations.  She’s not always the perfect obedient soldier that everyone wants her to be, even if she appears to be on the outside.  At the same time, all she really wants to do is protect the Bastion and those living inside of it.  Even if it means sacrificing herself to do it.  Maria can be emotionally vulnerable, but I love how she’s also capable of sucking it up and just continuing on when work needs to be done.  And even though she tries her best to ignore the facts staring her in the face during her mission, when there’s no way the inevitable can be denied she throws herself into the situation to work for the greater good.

Even if the rest of the book was awful, Maria would more than make up for it.  Except that Rhiannon Frater has created a fascinating world of scary, futuristic zombies (staying true to the novel’s tagline).  The technology is advanced, but is decaying within the Bastion as the living lost access to their natural resources outside the main citadel.  There are signs of decay throughout the novel, both cultural and technological and it makes for a dark, brooding sort of atmosphere.  Even though there are happy moments and glimpses of hope, Rhiannon Frater maintains that brooding atmosphere throughout the novel and I have great admiration for that.  She does things like have Maria’s crew joke around without really breaking the tension she slowly builds up in the background.

The world-building here is amazing.  The Last Bastion of the Living is no typical zombie novel, believe me.  The combination of technology and plain old-fashioned zombie killing makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, refreshing sort of zombie novel.  I never have pretended that I’m strong in the sciences and I never will, but I loved how Rhiannon Frater did include some scientific explanations for how Maria and her comrades can possibly succeed in their mission to kill all of the zombies.  In addition to the science, the history leading up to this awful zombie apocalypse was well thought out, if not extraordinarily detailed.  Really, I didn’t feel the need for a lot of detail and most of my questions were answered, but I just love the ending’s potential for a sequel.

If you love zombies and/or science fiction or have ever even thought of trying a zombie novel, this would be a great introduction.  You couldn’t ask for a better one, believe me.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Defiance by A. G. Henley

The Defiance by A. G. Henley(Cover picture courtesy of Bookworm Confessions.)

It hasn’t been long since Fennel, a Sightless Groundling, and Peree, her Lofty Keeper, fell in love and learned the truth: the Scourge, and their world, are not what they seem.

Fenn and Peree are determined to guide their people to the protected village of Koolkuna, but first they must convince them that everything they believe is a lie. An impossible task, especially when someone seems hell-bent on trying anything–even animal sacrifice and arson–to destroy the couple’s new bond and crush the frail truce between the Groundlings and the Lofties. Not everyone wants to uproot their lives in the forest, and those who stay behind will be left terribly vulnerable.

Fenn and Peree’s resolve to be together, and the constant threat of the Scourge’s return, push both groups to the breaking point. Unable to tell friend from foe, Fenn must again decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to ensure the future of the people of the forest.

Only this time, the price of peace may be too high to bear.

[Full disclosure: I liked the first book so much that I asked A. G. Henley for an ebook copy of The Defiance in exchange for an honest review.]

Oftentimes series with great first books never really measure up to the potential that I see in the first book.  Usually the second book lets me down in what I like to call Book 2 Syndrome.  Fortunately, The Defiance didn’t suffer from this at all.  In fact, it should probably be held up as an example of how second books should be written.

The Defiance starts off pretty much where we left off: with Peree and Fenn back in their respective tribes, trying to tell people that the Scourge are really just sick people and not real zombies.  Trying to tell someone something that would change their entire worldview is very difficult and that fact is reflected in the slower pace of the story.  Even though her very life is at risk, Fenn tries so hard to convince everyone that they should go to Koolkuna when she and Peree leave.  She wants everyone in both tribes, even the truly horrible people, to go and live a good life.

I’m not someone who is big on romance, but I love how Fenn and Peree’s romance has progressed.  It’s gone from a sweet, budding sort of young love to a more mature, secure love.  You can tell that these two people love each other no matter what, even though their respective tribes will do practically anything to keep them apart.  What’s so interesting about the whole Brilliant Darkness series is the fact that Fenn is blind and yet we get such a vivid picture of the characters and the surroundings.  It’s sort of refreshing that the main character isn’t constantly describing how perfect her love interest’s looks are.  No, Fenn focuses on who Peree is as a person and that is just what I like to see in YA.

The plot starts off a little slow like it did in The Scourge, but things quickly heat up.  The mysterious threats about Peree and Fenn’s relationship, the plotting of several community members as well as the impending move to Koolkuna made me read The Defiance all in one sitting.  It really was that good and I hated it when I knew the book was about to end.  And on such a cliffhanger!  I can’t wait for the third book, The Fire Sisters!

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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