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: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Hi all…

When I am moved by good storytelling, it usually provokes more than a surface-level emotional response. When I’m moved to tears by a writer, it’s something truly special. But before I get to talking about Rot & Ruin, I want to make a strange analogy…

On American Idol, the judges are fond of saying that some contestants could “sing the phone book” and they would pay to listen. I think the same thing exists with writers. Some gifted wordsmiths have the magical ability to imbue so much life to their stories that I think they could probably randomly select one of Georges Polti’s The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, a random genre, setting, and character, and create a story that you would enjoy 99% of the time. Not every writer has that gift, but a few do.

Jonathan Maberry first came to my attention in 2009 with his book Patient Zero, which combines one hell of an action plot with zombies for a fast-paced, engaging story. I’ll be the first to tell you that I like zombies, but I really like some of the deeper, emotionally-charged zombie stories of recent years. Books like Mira Grant’s Feed, David Moody‘s Autumn, and some of the unique short fiction anthologies of zombie fiction like The New Dead really get my imagination pumping.

One of the stories in 2010’s The New Dead was Maberry’s “Family Business,” which quite honestly was one of the most moving stories I’ve read in a long time. I was wiping away tears as I read it on a plane a year ago. And when I heard that it was the beginning of a new young adult series he was working on, I became very excited.

The world of “The Family Business” and Rot & Ruin exists after a zombie uprising known simply as First Night. After First Night, everything changed and survivors began gathering together in walled cities to keep the zombies outside. Benny Imura just turned fifteen and has grown up after First Night, so he didn’t know the world before. His brother Tom survived the event and went on to become one of the most respected zombie killers in the area. When Benny can’t quite hack it at any of the other jobs in town (locksmith, fence tester, generator repair man, artist, and many more), he decides it must be time to try the family business and learn the trade from his brother…

As with most decisions that seem simple at the time, Benny has no idea what he’s getting himself into. Though he idolizes some of the other zombie killers like Charlie Pink-Eye and Motor City Hammer, he doesn’t understand why Tom is always mentioned along with them as one of the best. He always thought his brother was a bit of a wimp because he tried to avoid violent conflict. But when he starts learning how to hunt and how Tom works, he’s thrust into a violent world where the worst things aren’t always the zombies.

Rot & Ruin is an amazing story on many levels. It expands on the short story in a variety of ways, fleshing out the world that includes bad dudes, cool chicks, and mysteries galore. I am very excited to see where the story goes in the next book – Dust & Decay – out later this year.

This definitely isn’t for all readers. There is a lot of violence, discussion of rape, and scary situations. So be sure to think about who reads it if you’re considering it for a particularly young reader. The Young Adult (YA) label is very appropriate in this case. But if you are a zombie fan and want to get a YA reader hooked on the genre, it’s tough to beat Rot & Ruin.

Jonathan Maberry is a gifted author with a penchant for creating engaging worlds, plots, and characters to suck you into a story that won’t let you go. Definitely check out Rot & Ruin if you’re looking for a great zombie story!

–Fitz

p.s. Check out these great books from Jonathan Maberry…

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Trailer Time: After Dark Originals reveals Re-Kill

Hey all…

That’s right… Re-Kill. And why call it that? Because when the dead rise as zombies, you have to re-kill them all!

Re-Kill was written by Mike Hurst (Hardwired, Ninja) and directed by Val Milev. The film stars Roger Cross (The Day The Earth Stood Still), Jesse Garcia (Quinceanera), and Daniella Alonso (Wrong Turn 2, The Hills Have Eyes II). Originally produced to be part of the AFTER DARK ORIGINALS “A New Brand of Fear” series, evidently this one showed enough promise that it was pulled from the festival so it can have a wider theatrical release.

The movie was shot in Bulgaria and is currently in post-production. To see details about the rest of the films in the AFTER DARK ORIGINALS series, check out the website AfterDarkOriginals.com and to find out if the series is showing in your area, look at the ADO Theater Locator.

Here’s the trailer for Re-Kill:

Re-kill Trailer from After Dark Originals

Though it looks kind of low-budget, sometimes those are the best kind of zombie films (Evil Dead 2 anyone?), so I’m looking forward to this one. Plus, the idea of zombies that learn from repeated encounters with the military/police forces trying to kill them adds a bit more danger to the equation.

Check out the trailer and let me know what you think!

–Fitz

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