Book Review: Sadie Walker is Stranded by Madeleine Roux

Hi all!

Yes, zombies are everywhere. But the stories that are the most compelling are of normal people facing extraordinary odds of survival. Whether you’re talking about The Walking Dead or Jonathan Maberry‘s Rot & Ruin YA zombie series or Sadie Walker is Stranded, it’s the “Average Joe” forced to step up in the face of certain doom that I want to read about. Sure, Milla Jovovich is stunning in the Resident Evil movies, but her character there is more a superhero than the girl next door. I’m much more likely to identify with the flawed heroes of The Walking Dead and Night of the Living Dead.

So back to Sadie… Author Madeleine Roux manages to capture the insanity and dark humor that may in fact make the apocalypse bearable, but does it so deftly that you only notice when she deflects a horrific event with a popular media reference or witty response to get a rise. Mix that with the fact that this is the first zombie book I’ve seen that uses a boat to great effect and you get great paragraphs like this: “Finding privacy on a sailboat is like finding a Starbucks in the desert. You might desperately want it to happen, you might wish upon a star, but you’re better off accepting that you’re going to die, and not with a soy latte in your hand either.”

I’ll be shocked if this book doesn’t get optioned for a movie within a year or two. It has a heroine who manages to be both brave and flawed at the same time. It involves hordes of the undead underwater and above it. And it details a world that seems much closer to the beginning of such an apocalypse than one that’s learned to live with it.

After the zombie apocalypse happens, graphic artist Sadie Walker finds herself living in a besieged Seattle, WA, trying to live a normal life and raise her nephew in relative safety and peace. Fate apparently has other things in store for her. When her nephew gets kidnapped by a radical group of “Repopulationists” seeking to repopulate the earth through copious copulation where children are prized above all else, Sadie goes off the deep end. She must fight her way to her nephew amid the chaos caused when a group of zombies breaks through the barrier around the city. Can she not only save the kid, but keep them both alive?

If I had to sum up the book, I’d say it’s a bit like Gilligan’s Island crossed with The Walking Dead, but with more references to popular culture and humor. Sadie Walker Is Stranded was a quick read and a glimpse into an interesting zombie-infested world. I hope Roux decides to follow-up with another book set in the same world. The book is in bookstores now and if you like a good zombie yarn, I’d definitely encourage you to check it out!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Kathleen Madigan: Gone Madigan

Hi!

In 2004, my wife and I started watching Last Comic Standing. We had missed the first season entirely, but the second season won us over in just a few episodes. Though John Heffron ultimately won the title, we were blown away by Alonzo Bodden (who won season 3), Jay London (whose strange appearance and odd presentation made us laugh hysterically – “I’m the fourth guy from the left on the evolutionary chart.”), and Kathleen Madigan – a little spitfire who used observational humor to disarm her audience every time. She didn’t do as well on season 3, but came back as a talent scout in a later season.

We are also huge fans of Lewis Black, who is one of Kathleen’s friends and ardent supporters. Anywhere we’ve seen Lewis, we’ve also seen her, including on Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil. Though we saw Madigan’s last comedy special In Other Words a few years ago, we really hadn’t seen her with a new stand-up routine for a while.

So when we saw that she had a new stand-up comedy special – Kathleen Madigan: Gone Madigan – I knew we’d have to catch it on DVD without all the bleeps… And we weren’t disappointed. She’s in rare form with bits about politics, American culture, and her own family. It’s that kind of self-deprecating humor that keeps me coming back.

Madigan starts the routine by making fun of her own hypochondria. The web (specifically WebMD) has probably done more to advance hypochondriacs than actually help sick people. She made a New Years’ resolution to swear off her own streak of “self-diagnosis” after spending the prior year diagnosing imaginary illnesses. As she says, “I had ankle cancer for a while… Then I had shrinking eyeballs… That was weird…”

As she talks about her USO trip to entertain the troops in Afghanistan, she suggests that after hearing of some of the successes there – building roads, schools, and police stations – that maybe it’s time to invade Detroit. They could use the boost! It’s seamless transitions like that, from personal stories to commenting on something more substantial like the economy of Detroit, that really makes her routines flow. Where some comedians build in pauses for transitions, she just keeps things rolling from one bit to the next.

It’s her cynical view of life and steady delivery that makes the whole routine work as she moves from topic to topic, skewering her own father as easily as Hillary Clinton in the Obama administration. I love that cynicism. Her sister is evidently the optimistic one rooting for the hope and change of Obama, but when she asked Madigan if she had any hope left she replied – “Let me check… um… Nope! I gave up hope officially when they took the pillows out of coach on American Airlines. If we can’t afford a $0.05 piece of foam, we suck.”

In addition to the 60 minute routine, there’s an Interview with Madigan and a Behind the Scenes feature that includes interviews with her family.

The Interview gives a very short, high-level view of how she develops jokes from random thoughts. Doodling seems to be in integral part of the process, as does a disorganized pile of notes in a notebook. In less than four minutes, I think you gain some understanding into the chaos of her routine. And yet it works for her – every time.

The Behind the Scenes feature was less interesting for me. It’s great to see Madigan’s family and you can see why she’s as funny as she is. Like most families I know, she has a lot of material to call on. Her sister doesn’t seem to mind being compared to various dog breeds, her mother likes to pick on her father constantly, and her father seems to be one of the funniest old lawyers I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately after the first five minutes it drags on a bit.

If you like good, topical comedy, I can’t recommend Kathleen Madigan enough. She’s always hilarious and one of the few comedians I’d love to see live at some point. In the meantime, shows on DVD like Gone Madigan will have to do!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other comedy DVDs below!

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Book Review: So Now You’re a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead by John Austin

For far too long, the zombie story has been one-sided… always written from the point of view of the human victim or the hunter. Why don’t we ever hear about zombie-related news from a zombie? Well, never fear. All of that is about to change…

Author John Austin has pulled together a handbook to help new zombies adjust to their new position in life (or “unlife“). So Now You’re a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead provides tips on what to avoid (bullets or further head trauma), what to eat and how to hunt for it among other juicy tidbits. If I was a zombie new to undeath, I’d definitely want something like this (if I could still read) as a refresher course in how to proceed and succeed in my unlife.

From the straightforward language and references, to zombie literature and movies, to the detailed and hilarious artwork, I enjoyed each and every page. Sure, we all know that zombies hunger for brains (strict adherence to the “Brain Beach Diet”, but did you know that there are ways to communicate with other zombies to aid in hunting in packs? Did you also know that zombies should avoid humans possessed by demons because demons are unpredictable and “frickin’ crazy”?

I learned many indispensable tips for zombie life, such as:

  • Killer cyborgs are not edible, but Ronald McDonald is on the “ok-to-eat” list (Zombie Eye Chart, p22)
  • “Toe tags are a good indicator that your meal is spoiled.” (Body Q&A, p. 29)
  • To get into commercial buildings, “Tap on the glass — breathers love that!” (Commercial Buildings, p. 57)

There are many great movie references, such as “Hey, look at me, I’m at Pacific Playland!” (Zombieland) when describing how humans are “Always Drawing Attention to Themselves” (p. 37) and describing “Pretend Zombies” (as in Shaun of the Dead) as easy prey… “Can You Eat Them? Absolutely! These zombie poseurs should be eaten — slowly and alive!”

But it’s the humor throughout that had me chuckling as I read the book… There’s a whole section on “Obstacles You Will Face” – such as doorknobs, ladders, stairs, fences, trees, and ropes. And there are some great illustrations to help in defeating these obstacles, such as a picture of a kid climbing one of those ropes most of us hated in gym class with two zombies waiting at the bottom… “Just wait it out — your victim can’t hang on forever…” And when doorknobs are involved, “if physical abuse proves useless, try rotating the knob as indicated . (Result may vary.)” We’re doomed if zombies have detailed doorknob instructions!

One of my favorite sections is on “Waiting for Food” with a picture of zombies hiding behind trees that made me laugh out loud. All I could think of was the Monty Python sketch “How Not To Be Seen,” with zombies instead of Python members hiding behind shrubberies… Not all house plants or lawn-decorating plants are made equal evidently. Just make sure after the zombie outbreak that you look suspiciously at any zombie-shaped trees.

And the “Combat Quiz” (p. 103) tests your knowledge. After reading the book, you should be able to answer questions such as “Someone just stabbed a knife in my back, I should… a) Seek medical attention immediately! b) Get over it, and continue with what I am doing. c) Fall down to ease the pain. d) Have a fellow Zed remove it.” Considering zombies feel no pain and it’s not a head wound, I think I’d go with answer (b).

If you are preparing for the inevitable zombie apocalypse and your eventual change to the wandering dead, I’d encourage you to keep a copy of So Now You’re a Zombie: A Handbook for the Newly Undead by John Austin to stash in one of your open body cavities after death. You never know when it will come in handy!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other great zombie books and movies below!

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