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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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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DVD Review: Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated

Hi all!

Zombies. It seems there’s a worldwide resurgence in zombie attacks these days – in movies, television, and books. But the traditional perception of a zombie started in 1968 with the release of George A. Romero‘s Night of the Living Dead. Romero used traditional storytelling, merging the “threat from space” with the rise of a virtually unlimited army of the dead seeking to consume the living.

What is it about zombies that makes them such a compelling horror figure? They feel no pain. They have an insatiable hunger for living tissue (and yet won’t eat each other). Anyone they bite becomes another member of the undead army. And no matter how many you destroy (bullet, blunt object, or blade to the brain), there always seem to be more of them.

As you can see, zombies have a special place in my heart even though they’d eat it like a valentine if they were given the opportunity. So when I heard about the Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated (NOTLD:R) project which brought together nearly 150 artists and animators from around the world to revisit scenes from the classic film in their own particular mediums, I knew I had to check it out. NOTLD:R didn’t disappoint.

I knew it was going to be an eclectic mix of styles and media – but I didn’t know just how eclectic. These artists used everything from rotoscope and abstract shapes, to sock puppets and stop-motion animation, to cartoons and video games to show their vision of these scenes. And through it all, I found myself fascinated by the sheer variety, skill, and talent of all of these people from around the world.

My only complaint (a very minor one) is that I didn’t have a second monitor handy to play the original beside the animated version. But I will be fixing that issue by downloading the movie and watching it on my laptop at the same time I’m watching the animated version on my television. Many places it’s easy to see the influences of the original – the shapes, backgrounds, and so on showed themselves in the art. But in others, as with the abstract shapes scribbled in that appear as zombies, it’s less easy to see the old in the new. That’s not a bad thing honestly – making something new out of something old – so it’s just a very minor nit.

Beyond the movie itself, there are an insane number of of extra features. The commentary alone is worth listening to. Jonathan Maberry, one of my favorite zombie fiction authors of recent years, joins Mike Schneider (project producer), journalist Pierre Gutierrez, and Wild Eye’s Rob Hauschild to provide some context for the project. Listening to these folks discuss how the movie came to be over the course of 18 months from inception and request for submissions to the final product is simply incredible. “Reanimated” refers to the fact that the movie initially had life, but it’s now being animated again in a different manner.

Also included is a second commentary track with Mike Schneider, filmmaker Keith Croker, and Corpse S. Chris of “Horror Host Graveyard” which specifically deals with how the project was put together. And even a third commentary featuring 27 artist call-ins talking about the scenes they produced. It’s obvious that everyone involved, whether an artist, producer, or promoter, feels passionately about the project and enjoyed the aspects they contributed to.

Beyond the commentary, there are extras upon extras. Not everything could be included in the final edit due to time constraints, so many sections had to be cut down. In the extras, you see the full extended scenes as created by the authors. Among my favorites was the “Cats and Mice” extended scene from Andres Silva, which portrayed a scene in almost a Tom and Jerry style of cartooning.

You also get several “Behind the Scenes” videos where three artists – Ryan Sigg, Calum MacASKILL, and Mike Boas – show how they produced their segments. I watched all of these with my daughter, who is an aspiring artist, and found them fascinating. The artists provide great details about their different processes – from rotoscoping with Boas, producing abstract zombies with MacASKILL, and how to film stop-motion animated scenes with plasticene figures and a green screen with Sigg.

Many more extras are included, but I highly recommend watching “The Zombie Encounter Panel” – an hour long panel filmed at a conference in 2009 that features Maberry, Dr. Kim Paffenroth, John Joseph Adams, David Barr Kirtley, Gutierrez, and Hauschild. Like all panels, each member has a unique perspective on zombies in a variety of media. Listening to the panel is like having your own private zombie conference in your living room. It was great to listen to their first zombie experiences, favorite unknown zombie media, and what they’d do during a zombie attack!

If you like zombies or art, I highly recommend you check out Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated when it’s released on DVD on September 21, 2010. Not only is the artwork amazing, but the extras included make this a must have for anybody in your zombie horde.

Article first published as DVD Review: Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated on Blogcritics.

–Fitz

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

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