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?