Saturday, November 5, 2011

Review: Roads Less Traveled, by C. Dulaney (review by DeadVida)

Roads Less Traveled: The Plan

C. Dulaney

Paperback: 236 pages

Publisher: Permuted Press

Pub Date: August 24, 2011

ISBN: 9781934861998

This novel is a great example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. While my suspension of disbelief never fully engaged, my bullshit-o-meter remained relatively silent. I found myself engaged in the story and tore through the book in two sittings.

I could nitpick – too many 20-something characters, first-base sexual tension, omniscient characters – but that seems unfair because this is actually an entertaining zombie novel that takes some unexpected chances. It marriages, at once, brutality and common sense with a smidge of touchy-feely without venturing over to the land of pointless nihilism. And the dog lives.

The outbreak occurs and Ben, a college student in Pennsylvania, contacts Kasey, an online friend living in West Virginia. They had a plan for this and begin to enact it. As one would expect in a world now teeming with the living dead, nothing goes as planned. Instead of just Ben, Kasey, who is anti-social and dealing with unspecified anxiety, welcomes a group of strangers into her home. She lives in a remote farm house nestled against the Monongahela National Forest that is a survivalist’s dream home.

Conflict, of course, arrives with her visitors – internally and externally; dead and living. The characters are both stupid and too smart, but the mixture keeps this from tilting either way. Dulaney attempts to create complex characters and some are better realized than others. For comparison’s sake, Brian Keene often creates one-dimensional characters, but Colson Whitehead’s Mark Spitz was fully three-dimensional. Dulaney’s characters hover around the 2-2.5 mark. There was more character back story that was alluded to, but perhaps cut. I was left with a few questions. Or maybe she just isn’t done introducing us to her characters. I’m curious to see if they go fully 3-D with the next installment.

This may seem like an odd or disparaging comment, but this would also be good for a YA audience. I mean this in a complimentary way. The main character is a strong, self-sufficient young woman; someone who I think would resonate with either gender. The sex is implied behind closed doors. There is strong language, but nothing they haven’t heard before. There is violence, but it has repercussions. And no sparkly vampires.

Overall, rollicking bit of zombie lit with plenty of action, blood, and coffee. And yes, I am heartened by an apocalyptic world where coffee still exists.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: Zone One, by Colson Whitehead (Review by DeadVida)

Zone One
By Colson Whitehead

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Doubleday
Pub date: October 18, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0385528078

In many respects, Zone One is a quintessential literary plague novel about Manhattan – complete with satire and allegories – where zombies happen to be the plague. It is obvious Whitehead is a lover of words. He also loves to evoke imagery, such as the omnipresent ash that filters down from the sky and torments the protagonist, Mark Spitz. No, not that Mark Spitz. Most of the survivors are reborn into new names and personas in the new world.

Mark Spitz is the kind of average guy who lives in his parents’ basement on Long Island, yearning for a “real” life in The City. He is the kind of guy who unwittingly spends his last hours of normalcy indulging in Atlantic City debauchery. He is nothing special. In the time before the virus he is the kind of guy who does just enough to skate by – no real passions or ambitions. He goes through the motions. However, in the post-plague world, his self-preservation instincts are something special. He is almost an inverse of the “skels.” Once the world goes dead, he comes alive.

We spend a lot of time inside Mark’s head, which at times can be disorienting. Through him, and his fellow survivors, we learn how they came to be part of the effort to reclaim Manhattan. They are working on an area near Canal St., known as Zone One. They have plans to reclaim Zones Two and Three, further up the island. We also learn about the provisional government and how even in the apocalypse corporations are dictating policy. The sections regarding the government and rebranding of things like post-traumatic stress disorder are keen satire.

This is a good section regarding planning for the future, “…Mark Spitz’s hosts began to air their post-plague plans and schemes. This was a rare pastime, at least in his vicinity, not easily indulged in, and Mark Spitz was surprised to hear perfectly (relatively) sane people partake. More than a jinx on deliverance, this was straddling reality with a pillow while it was sleeping and pressing down while it bucked and kicked.”

As I said, this is also a novel about Manhattan and this exemplifies that, “Omega wormed through the intestines of a starter-apartment rental tower, and floor after floor of beige carpet, noise-permeable walls, and fingerprint-smudged doorways soured his disposition. His friends in the city lived in buildings like that, and the hallway always reeked of the dead ambitions decomping behind the doors.”

I can see where zombie fans who want the plot to be spoon-fed with a heaping side of action will get frustrated. They will also probably need a dictionary on hand to even read the book. Fuck ‘em. If you like to think and you like zombies, give this a shot.

Overall, this is a great additional to the cannon of zombie lore. I hope Whitehead’s success encourages more writers of quality fiction to also give genre fiction a try. I’m tired of reading crappy zombies stories and you should be too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

ZOMBIE HAIKU from Exploitation Retrospect

This year, Exploitation Retrospect has joined forces with Louis Fowler of Damaged Hearing/Damaged Viewing and Deadvida of Rigor Mortis to bring you the 2011 Zombie Haiku Contest

E-mail ER your best, most creative, funniest, or grossest zombie-centric haiku by 11:59 PM Eastern on Thursday, October 27, 2011. Our panel of judges will pick their favorite and the winner will be announced on Monday, October 31, 2011. (And let's not get all nit-picky about haiku. For the purpose of this contest we're defining a haiku as a three-line poem with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second and 5 in the third.) 

The winning entry will receive a Zombie Prize Package including:
  • Paul is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion by Alan Goldsher
  • The Zombie Factory: 27 Tales of Bizarre Comix Madness from Beyond the Tomb!
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim by Mark Twain and W. Bill Czolgosz
  • ER: Revenge of Print Edition 2011 (upon publication)
  • AMC's The Walking Dead t-shirt
  • Autographed vinyl single of outlaw country singer Christopher Murdock's song "Fear the Dead"
You can enter as often as you like but only one entry per e-mail. Entrants must be 18 years of age or older. Each entry must include haiku and e-mail address where we can contact you if you are the winner. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review from Monster Magazine World

Well, this just warms our cold, dead hearts:

"After taking a look at the first few issues of RIGOR MORTIS, it is quite evident that this talented group of creators will be raising the zombie freak flag for some time to come."

"What immediately struck me when I first looked at the mags was their resemblance to the underground comix of the 1960’s. Mind you, that was only in appearance – the content is wholly contemporary, albeit with just a hint of nostalgia for the good ol’ zombie days."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Review: Autumn, by David Moody (review by DeadVida)

By David Moody

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pub Date: October 26, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0312569983

I had almost picked Autumn up a few times, but something else always grabbed my attention first. I finally bought a copy and was pleasantly surprised. Unlike standard American zombie fare Moody doesn’t rely on nihilism, incessant action, scientific “fact” to explain the plot, or excessive gore. No, instead, he presents an apocalyptic world that has a building, slow creep that gets under your skin. The instinctive fear of the dead is enough…and then Moody begins ratcheting the terror in an atmospheric way.

Without warning, a virus strikes and within minutes billions are dead. In a fictitious city in the north of England, a handful of survivors congregate in a community center. They are grieving and damaged from what they have seen and who they have lost. They are cold, uncomfortable, and confused. Days go by like this. This was a great and effective set up because without a lot of details about the characters it was easy to empathize with their reactions. What do you do after 99% of the world dies before your very eyes? Fear and non-action are dangerous.

And then some the dead started rising. Everyone is ready to freak out. “Aggggggggggg, zombies!”, right? Well, yes, but they simply stumble around and didn’t react to the survivors. Again, very creepy, but not terrifying. Moody has gone back to our base fears about the dead. The waiting for something to happen begins to drive some of the survivors to the edge. Some want to barricade the doors and never go outside again, no matter the short-sightedness of that plan, and others want to find more suitable accommodations.

Ultimately, three people leave the community center: Michael, who worked in corporate computers, Emma, a nursing student, and Carl, a mechanic who has lost his partner and young daughter. They have no special skills and their personalities feel genuine. They are just people – annoying at times, showing signs of PTSD, and struggling in the new world. After much driving and bickering, and as a trio they do bicker, they arrive at a farm in the middle of nowhere.

They attempt to make it defendable and stock up on provisions from nearby villages. Instead of ever making this sound idyllic, Moody constantly reminds us of the stress these people are under simply waiting for something to happen. And, of course, eventually it does.

Overall the book is very light on action, but very heavy on tension. The set up and build was very effective and as soon as I was done with the book I ordered the second in the series and pre-ordered the next ones.

Interestingly, this book started as something the author posted on the web and gave away for free. I think that as a genre, horror is definitely benefiting from the way the web and self-publishing is allowing quality work rise to the top and discovered by fans. We always want more fresh blood, right?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Z.E.D.: Zombies! Emergencies! Disasters! - SAMPLER PDF

Dear Friends of Rigor Mortis,

Battling the apocalypse and zombie hordes is a never-ending challenge. We discovered a manuscript that we had to publish, as a matter of public interest. It will address some of those survival issues other guides tend to omit - like DIY cannibalism, skin care tips, and the realities of someone going from couch to bad-assed zombie killer (note: Dorito-breath does not deter zombies, just girls). In addition to all these handy tips that may save your life (or make you want to take it), is a recently unearthed (literally) comic starring horror comic legends. They will show you how to DO the apocalypse like it is fashion week.

You can download the issue with the following options:

Higher res PDF:

Higher res image files:

Low res PDF:

Or view the individual images at:

We are still conjuring the print edition and will let you know when it is ready to be released upon the world.

For now, laugh, cry, and cringe as we present snippets from Z.E.D.: Zombies! Emergencies! Disasters!


The Editors of Rigor Mortis

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: Deadline, Newsflesh, Book 2 (Review by DeadVida)

Review: Deadline (Newsflesh, Book 2)
By Mira Grant
Orbit Press
ISBN: 9780316081061

SPOILER ALERT – If you haven’t read Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1), stop! Go read Feed now…

Done? Good.

Taking your narrator and killing her is damned risky. Mira Grant did this in Feed, leaving her readers to wonder how she would approach the telling of the next book in the Newsflesh trilogy, Deadline. The answer is much better than the television standby of having her twin show up. Instead, Grant made the narrator’s brother, Shaun, “a crazy person” who is able to talk to his dead sister, George. This could have been trite, but Grant managed to pull it off. In a sense there are two concurrent narrators, but this is more Shaun’s story.

Where Feed was more a political zombie thriller, Deadline is a medical zombie thriller. A researcher with the CDC, first introduced in Feed, arrives at the After the End Times media compound in Oakland. Within minutes there is an outbreak and half of the city is blown-up. Shaun and what is now left of his crew escape, taking the CDC researcher with them. As the initial stages of a global conspiracy are revealed, Shaun shakes off the grief that has been paralyzing him and begins seeking revenge for his sister’s death. As a blogger and reporter he does this the only way he knows how – by exposing the truth.

The series is set a generation after the initial outbreak, so existence is highly controlled. Everyone is paranoid, tested and tracked, because everyone is infected with the Kellis-Amberlee virus. Some even have secondary reservoir conditions, with concentrations of the virus infecting specific systems. It is these reservoir conditions and some statistical improbabilities that begin uncovering the larger conspiracy first revealed in Feed.

Grant manages to describe a large amount of technical and medical information without losing lay readers. She blends the actual, with the probable and improbable in such a way that the reader is left guessing what is truth or fiction.

At 608 pages this is actually a compulsive read. The worst part in the book is the cliffhanger ending and knowledge that I will have to wait a year to find out what happens to Shaun and the rest of the After the End Times crew in the final book, Deadline. On the bright side, Orbit has begun releasing short stories related to the universe Mira Grant has created.  Highly recommended!