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: Ganymede by Cherie Priest

Hi all!

In the decades I’ve been reading (nearly 40) and the nearly five years I’ve been reviewing books, I would never in a million years have predicted that these words would go together: Steampunk, Civil War, submarines, and zombies. And yet, Cherie Priest‘s novel Ganymede manages to pull them all together in a coherent and lively tale.

Andan Cly is an airship captain with a past. He’s smuggled guns, goods, and sap – a substance with some seriously undesirable long-term effects even if it does get you high. It’s worth a ton of money, but Cly wants to put it far behind him and try to stay on the straight and narrow. He’s working to change his ways, all for the love of a woman in the Seattle Underground. As such, he takes a job for a man who’s done some good for Seattle despite his shady sideline activities so he can afford to stay put for a while.

Josephine Early on the other hand isn’t planning on going anywhere. She just wants the Texans and the war out of her city of New Orleans. And as a Union spy, she’s well positioned as a brothel owner to hear things and pass them along to her allies among the pirates and the Union army. It just so happens that one of those secrets was about a submerged vessel at the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain that could change the course of the war and give the North a fighting chance. The only problem is finding a pilot skilled enough, talented enough, or crazy enough to get it out of the lake, down the Mississippi, and into the Gulf under the noses of the Texans.

Turns out Early and Cly had a bit of history together from a decade before and Miss Josephine is desperate enough to send a telegraph to the pirate with an enticing offer and not much detail. When Cly gets the message, he figures he might as well do two jobs while in New Orleans… And when they get together, the sparks fly again. From the time Cly gets the telegraph to the end of the book, the heat between them and memories each has of the other provides some great romantic tension to the story. But that’s only part of the story. Priest manages to work in pirates, airship battles, zombies, and voodoo into the tapestry of her alternate history of the Civil War.

I was intrigued from the first few pages of Ganymede and it held my interest throughout. For some reason I’ve avoided the whole Steampunk movement in literature so far, but after getting a taste of Priest’s world, I’m going to have to start reading her Clockwork Century series to see what I’ve been missing. Ganymede follows the two earlier books in the series – Boneshaker and Dreadnought – but is a standalone novel in that setting. Boneshaker won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction and was also nominated for both a Hugo and a Nebula.

Ganymede is on bookstore shelves now and I’d encourage you to give it a read. Whether you’ve been on the fence about the whole Steampunk movement or have known about it a while, Priest’s writing style makes it easy to slip into the clockwork world Early & Cly inhabit. For more about Cherie Priest, you can also check out her website at CheriePriest.com.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Hi there…

Monsters. Undead creatures. Things from other worlds and dimensions. Each has held an appeal for me since childhood. At first they terrified me, but as I got older and started reading, writing, and playing roleplaying games, they became tools and fun thought experiments.

Add to that a healthy dose of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, War for the Oaks (by Emma Bull), and The Dresden Files books (by Jim Butcher) and you have a love for properties where creatures meet the modern world… These days it’s called “Urban Fantasy,” but in the past it was just horror, science fiction, or fantasy. Now with new urban fantasy titles coming out regularly, I have been in hog heaven…

Enter the 2011 film Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. Based on an Italian comic book series from creator Tiziano Sclavi, the story seemed to bring a few genres together into a unique whole. Generally it takes the idea of a Sherlock Holmes or Ichabod Crane (Sleepy Hollow-style, not the animated Disney version) investigator and gives him cases involving the supernatural world with vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Sounds right up my alley, doesn’t it?

Then, when it hit theaters, somehow none of my local theater chains were showing it. I thought that was a bit odd, but started to some very negative reviews coming out in the media, both online and in print. At that point I decided I would have to see it on DVD to figure out if the reviewers were right…

Unfortunately, they were. Dylan Dog is a movie set in a story-rich environment that somehow manages to be about characters I ultimately couldn’t bring myself to care about. How is that possible?

The story sounds good on paper. Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh) is a private eye who used to deal exclusively with supernatural cases. But after the death of his girlfriend/fiancee/wife has fallen on bad times. He and his friend Marcus (Sam Huntington) have been doing cases for cheating husbands and wives, getting footage or pictures of folks in compromising positions.

When a new case comes up and it turns out to have a supernatural angle, Dylan tries to back out of it. But some cases can’t be turned away. After Marcus gets killed by a giant zombie, Dylan is forced to dive back into the world he thought he’d left behind.

All the elements are in the story. A Romeo and Juliet romance between a werewolf girl and a vampire boy. A family of werewolves protecting an artifact for centuries. A group of monster hunters threatening to destroy all unnatural creatures. And a vampire leader (Taye Diggs) taking advantage of a power vacuum with no oversight from inside or outside the supernatural community.

It’s not the location (New Orleans). It’s not the setting, because the world is full of monsters both fun and foul. It has some fun slapstick elements courtesy of Huntington’s role. Even the story seems good at first glance. So is it the actors or the director (Kevin Munroe) who are to blame? Either way it should have been much more fun to watch than it turned out to be.

Beyond the movie on the DVD, there are no extras. This is a very bare-bones DVD release for a movie that totally bombed at the box office.

If you really must see Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, I recommend a rental on Red Box. But if you were looking forward to this flick, you might be better off spending some time reading some of the Dresden Files novels from Jim Butcher or re-watching old Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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