Book Review: Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry

Hi again…

Hate and ignorance. These are the forces that cause more pain than anything else in the world. Tie hate to means and opportunity and you have murder. Tie hate to ideology and you have war. Tie hate to religious fanaticism and you have a crusade. But what happens when you tie hate to ignorance? An inability to predict the ripples of human behavior and unseen events.

Dead of Night from Jonathan Maberry takes the traditional zombie story from George A. Romero‘s Night of the Living Dead and puts a modern twist on it. This has to be one of the best traditional zombie tales I’ve ever read. A murderer’s body finds its way to a small town morgue instead of a state cemetery after lethal injection on death row. And from that unexpected change in plans… all hell breaks loose.

I won’t hide the fact that I’m a fan of Jonathan Maberry’s work. Ever since reading Patient Zero, I’ve followed each new release and enjoyed them all, especially the ones involving zombies. The recent surge in imaginative reinventions of the zombie genre has been heartening. Books like Mira Grant’s FEED and Maberry’s Rot and Ruin have gone a long way to inject new life to undead fiction.

For me, these stories aren’t about the zombies themselves. Zombies are typically boring characters that have little or no personality of their own (please pardon the pun). It’s the survivors who provide the excitement and contrast. Some survivors are definitely better than others and obviously not everybody survives as long as everybody else, but it’s about the journey from life to death or undeath that provides the heart of these stories. Who comes out in the end and are they left with as much humanity as they had when the whole thing began?

In Dead of Night, it’s police officer Dez Fox and reporter ex-boyfriend Billy Trout who form the chewy center of this zombie candy bar. Dez has issues with relationships and alcohol, but is a damn good cop with combat experience from the military. And Trout is a dedicated reporter who can smell out a story and stick with it wherever it leads. But nobody ever expects the dead to rise unless it’s in a horror movie… And even when it happens in your home town, it might take you a while to accept that the dead are actually rising.

Jonathan Maberry, author of Zombie CSU and oth...
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The book starts slowly to introduce the microcosm of Stebbins, PA, and its people. Once things get started in the town mortuary however, it’s a roller coaster that doesn’t let up. The thought that kept going through my mind was if this book didn’t get optioned and made into a movie by Halloween 2012, I’m going to be shocked. This one should be fast-tracked and in theaters for folks to get the crud scared out of them. As I was reading, I was imagining the scenes and it has more than a few chills and thrills to make you jump in an audience.

I do have to say that if you’re a fan of Maberry’s other works, you might be a little surprised at the writing style of this one. I was a bit put off until I got into the groove after about 30 pages, but after that it was a thrill ride to the end. And though I don’t want to spoil anything for you if you’re planning on picking this up, I have to talk about one thread that weaves through the whole book. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to actually *be* a zombie? Well, Maberry found a way to do just that – and it has to be one of the most unique twists on zombie fiction I’ve ever read.

“He could feel everything.
Every. Single. Thing.
Jolts in his legs with each clumsy step. The protest of muscles as they fought the onset of vigor even as they lifted his arms and flexed his hands. The stretch of jaw muscles. The shuddering snap as his teeth clamped shut around the young police officer’s throat.
And then the blood…”
– Chapter Sixteen, Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry

Honestly this is the Night of the Living Dead for this generation. Forget Resident Evil and ZombielandDead of Night reads like Maberry crawled inside Romero’s head, upgraded the lighting and AV systems, and spit out a bestseller. Whether you’re a fan of Jonathan Maberry’s work or a fan of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, this is a zombie book for the ages.

Night of the Living Dead hits book stores today! Be sure to order your copy so you have it on hand for a little light horror reading this Halloween!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Book Review: Deadline by Mira Grant

Hi all…

Zombies. Love them or hate them they seem to be everywhere these days. There are zombies in Jane Austen and Mark Twain books. There are books describing the aftermath of zombie infections and outbreaks across the globe (and how to deal with one if it’s happening now). And there are zombie flash mobs popping up in cities all over. I think they are here to stay. There are even zombie processes on computers!

But not all zombies are created equal. Sure Milla Jovovich, Jesse Eisenberg, and Simon Pegg have been fighting a variety of zombies over the last few years, but beyond a bit of excitement and comedy on screen, all the zombies are loosely based on the George Romero standard. Viral, shambling mounds of what used to be people now seeking the taste of live flesh.

And then there are zombies used in more recent fiction from authors Jonathan Maberry and Mira Grant. Sure the zombies are still there, but the story isn’t about them. It’s about us. It’s about folks using zombies to further their own agendas, whether it’s fear or political will they’re after doesn’t matter. The shambling dead or infected living are simply tools to be used to achieve an end.

To me, that’s scarier than any monster zombie Milla will ever fight on screen (though she still looks good doing it). Evil intent trumps blind rage nine times out of ten.

When I finished reading FEED by Mira Grant last year I was blown away. Zombies, blogging, and politics? What a powerful combination. Within the first few pages she captured my attention with a detailed, logical setting and characters I could identify with and root for. And at the end, I shed a tear or two. Emotional punch AND zombies AND amazing writing? Epic win!

As soon as I finished, I was excited to read the next book in the series — DEADLINE. Could Grant continue the story and keep her readers hooked? After finishing DEADLINE, this reader says “Hell yes!”

If you haven’t read FEED yet, there are spoilers ahead, so I’d encourage you to read it before you learn too much about the sequel.

Sure, Shaun Mason survived the devastation that occurred about a year ago. His sister Georgia didn’t. Neither did several of his friends and coworkers. But every day is a struggle. And though his sister is gone physically, she has moved into his head to help him figure things out when he needs her.

Crazy? Sure. But having dealt with the death of a good friend, I can identify with moments where you swear you can hear that voice as clear as if the person was sitting right next to you. Shaun talks out loud to his sister and his coworkers and friends think he’s lost it, but know (or hope) he’ll work through it eventually.

When Dr. Kelly Connolly shows up at Shaun’s home and the headquarters for their blogging empire for “After the End Times” in Oakland, he knows it’s not a good sign. The more Kelly talks about what happened at the CDC, the more that feeling grows. And the more people try to kill him and his friends as they ferret out the truth, he knows he has to get to the bottom of it. Ultimately the truth about who was behind his sister’s death is the only thing that matters.

Grant takes the political intrigue of FEED and ratchets it up to 11 to a stunning conclusion in DEADLINE. And we can only hope that the next book of the trilogy – BLACKOUT – serves to answer some of the questions asked in the first two books. The only bad part is we have to wait a while for those answers when BLACKOUT is released in May 2012. I’m not sure I can wait another year!!

For more information about author Mira Grant, check out her website at MiraGrant.com. Or check out my review of FEED here.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these great books at Barnes & Noble!

Book Review: Zombie Brittanica by Thomas Emson

Hey…

Have you ever had a sinking feeling when you read a new book by your favorite author? I’ve read the last three books from Thomas EmsonSkarlet, Maneater, and Prey. He’s brought vampires and werewolves into the real world, so I was looking forward to seeing what he’d do with zombies.

I love zombies. But I really only love them when they’re presented in a unique way, not relying on standard cliches. Unfortunately, I found myself wondering when the bad zombie movie would end.

Zombies are wonderful beasts. They’re men, but they’re monsters. Add in the fear of disease, the dead rising, and the repulsion of teeth ripping human flesh and organs, and you can really push some buttons. George Romero knew this when he wrote and directed Night of the Living Dead in 1968. He and other directors and movie makers have been terrorizing moviegoers ever since.

More recently there have been some great zombie novels that have been reinventing the genre. Mira Grant’s FEED and Jonathan Maberry‘s Patient Zero have been among my favorites. Grant merges blogging, politics, and a zombie apocalypse and Maberry uses biological warfare to spread a zombie plague.

With Emson’s previous reinvention of vampires and werewolves, mixing myths and history with the modern day, I was expecting more inventive approach to zombies. That “inventiveness” only went as far as having the dead rise during a particularly nasty heat wave in Great Britain.

Three main characters drive the action… Carrie Asher is a mother seeking to get through a zombie-infested London to rescue her six-year-old daughter Mya. Vincent is a young man stuck in a Welsh castle with the girl he loves and the zombies closing in all around. And Craig Murray is trapped with his family in a traffic jam in Scotland. Not only must he battle the undead, but the people seeking to prey on the weak during a time of crisis.

Woven into the narrative are all the typical zombie tales… They eat flesh and infect those who get bitten and manage to survive an attack. The survivors are like zombie grenades thrown into the future. When the victims die, they become zombies themselves. Add to that the people who break under the pressure – relying on their dogma to explain the situation, controlling others through fear and intimidation, and the people who simply give up.

I really like Emson’s prose, but I couldn’t get past all the cliches. Perhaps if I’d seen this on the big screen instead of read it as a novel, I would have enjoyed it more. But it’s been done to death, no pun intended.

If you’re interested in how the zombies capture London, I’d recommend the book. But if you’re looking for an original take on things, I’d avoid Emson’s Zombie Brittanica. Instead, check out his books Skarlet, Maneater, and Prey.

This article first appeared on BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out these great books below:

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