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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Book Review: Autumn by David Moody

Hi again…

Zombies. They seem to be everywhere these days. Resident Evil: Afterlife brought their biologically engineered zombies back to the big screen recently. On Halloween 2010, the Walking Dead will invade television on AMC. And there have been many recent books – from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to Patient Zero and Zombie Britannica.

So what makes David Moody‘s upcoming book Autumn different?

First of all, this is the first zombie book that I can recall that never uses the “z” word explicitly. Moody refers to them as “creatures” or “figures,” and these undead don’t seem to be of the flesh-eating variety. Other than one scene that made me wonder if they might be capable of extreme violence, it’s just the oppressive numbers of restless dead and the fact that they’re everywhere that makes them a persistent threat.

Second, though the book starts like many zombie plagues with some sort of worldwide biological or chemical event, Moody doesn’t try to explain how or why it happened. Though 99% of the world’s population suddenly dies, our few survivors are more interested in survival than a cure.

Third, the survivors themselves are just ordinary people. Michael is a bit of a loner who has a mysterious past he’s not willing to talk about much. Emma was a medical student and is more keen on finding a safe place than solving the riddle of what caused the event. And Carl was a husband and father who never quite gets over the trauma of losing his wife, daughter, and his old life.

Autumn may have the earmarks of your ordinary zombie tale, but it is far from it. Moody’s writing is just descriptive enough of the threats facing our survivors to make the whole story more psychological horror than of the brain-eating variety. It’s extremely well written with the implied silences just as important as the action. It reminded me more of classic Stephen King than George A. Romero – and I have to say I’m looking forward to what’s happening next.

If you’re looking for a different kind of horror or zombie fiction, you can’t do much better than this creepy start to a new series by David Moody. Look for Autumn on bookshelves now!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out Autumn and other great books below!

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