Review: Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots by Peter Clines

Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots by Peter Cline Brilliance Audio (2013) / Crown Publishing (2011)

I won’t lie, I’m a little bit done with the whole zombie genre. The explosion of zombie related books, movies, and games over the last several years has worn me out. Every once and awhile something will draw me back to the zombie infested world. It has actually been awhile since I’ve read a zombie book; in fact I think I made a slight attempt to read Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. Aa result Peter Clines’ ExHeroes has likely crossed my path a couple of times without my taking any real notice. However, I decided to give the audiobook version of Ex-Heroes a shot and I’m pretty glad I did; this is an exciting mash up of superheroes and zombies with great characters and some awesome action.

Ex-Heroes and its sequel Ex-Patriots take place in a world where zombies, typically referred to in the series as ex-humans or simply exes, have essentially one. However, the world had previously seen the emergence of real superheroes from the Batman/Ozymandias mash-up Stealth to the living supernova known as Zzap the heroes run the gamut of the extraordinary and the superpowered. A group of these heroes, under the guidance of the paranoid and forward thinking Stealth, made a valiant effort to save the Los Angeles area. Having failed to slowing the emergence of ex-humans the group of heroes have gathered what survivors they could in a Hollywood studio and have done their best to survive. In addition to the threat of the ex-humans the heroes must also face the threat of a rival survivor group comprised mostly of an L.A. street gang.

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Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

The Dead-Tossed Waves
Carrie Ryan
March, 2010
The Dead-Tossed Waves is Carrie Ryan’s follow up to the lyrical and moving The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the first novel The Dead-Tossed Wavesis about growing up in post-apocalyptic community constantly threatened by the presence of zombies. The novel follows Gabry and young girl in the coastal village of Vista. Vista is something of an insular community despite being under the protection of the Coalition and as a result the current generation of young adults knows next to nothing about the world before the Return. The Mudo, the zombies, are a constant threat but one so pervasive that the danger of the presence has engendered complacency rather than caution and a sort of callousness, or perhaps willful ignorance, as to the full impact of the undead presence. It is that complacency that serves as the gateway for the tragedy that propels the rest of the novel forward and sends Gabry on the run.

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Review: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot & Ruin
Jonathan Maberry
Simon and Schuster, 2010

At first glance it might be easy to peg Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin as just another zombie novel. However, doing so does this teen-centric title a huge disservice. Rot & Ruin for all its violence and actions manages to tell a fascinating and emotionally engaging story about life after the rise of the undead. The novel focuses on the life of young Benny Imura. Benny, about to turn 15, must find a job or have his rations cut by half. His utter dislike of his zombie hunting older brother Tom sees him trying to find somewhere, anywhere else, to work. Unfortunately for Benny (or so he thinks) circumstances force him to take an apprenticeship under his brother.

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Review: Handling the Undead by John Adjvide Lindqvist

Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Handling the Undead
John Adjvide Lindqvist
St. Martins, 2010ho

So my Halloween horror reading is going slowly.  The Great Email Hacking of 2010 has caused my interactions with internet over the last few weeks to be a bit tentative at best not to mention that The Terror by Dan Simmons isn’t the most fast paced novel and is about as slow moving as the arctic ice it’s set in, but more on that later.  For those that don’t know John Adjvide Lingvist is the author who wrote the novel called Let the Right One In/Let Me In which was then turned into a Swedish film and recently “localized” (almost shot-for-shot from what I’ve heard) in an American remake.  Handling the Undead is Lingvist’s second novel and takes the same subtle and human approach to vampirism he used in his debut and this time applies it to zombies.

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Review: Day by Day Armageddon by J. L. Bourne

Day by Day Armageddon by J. L. Bourne
Day by Day Armageddon by J. L. Bourne

Day by Day Armageddon
J. L. Bourne
Permuted Press, 2007 (now available through Pocket Books as of 2009, linked at left)

Day by Day Armageddon was one of the earliest title released by Permuted Press, an independent publisher specializing in apocalyptic fiction (and especially zombie fiction), and was recently re-released as part of 5 book co-publishing deal with Simon and Schuster.  Much like the fantastic World War Z, Day by Day Armageddon purports itself to be a true-to-life diary of man surviving a zombie apocalypse.  The edition I read is complete with the occasional blood splatter, circled text, infrequent handwritten margin notes, and black and white photographs.  The diary, of an unnamed navy pilot, details his attempts to simply survive.

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Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Carrie Ryan
Delacorte, 2010

First Line: My mother used to tell me about the ocean.

Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a post-apocalyptic bildungsroman…with zombies.  Mary is teen living in an a village surrounded by the titular forest.  The world as we know it is gone as an unexplained event  has given birth to the Unconsecrated (zombies) and hordes of undead seemed to have caused society to collapse.  Mary’s village has no contact outside the fence the protects its borders and whose values and knowledge are dictated by a stern and religious order of Sisters.   A series of events unfold and the fences are breached sending Mary and a handful of others on the run towards the desperate dream of the ocean; only half-remembered by Mary through stories her mother used to tell.

I’ll say this before I go on, since talking at length about this novel is difficult to do without some spoilers, if you’re looking for a taught, tense, and chilling tale of growing up in isolation with the constant threat of death (death that might wear a familiar face) beating on a thin fence every day then The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a novel worth checking out.

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Review: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest
Tor, 2009

My love for Ms. Priest’s work has been professed before so this review is hardly unbiased.  Indeed, Boneshaker is certainly one of the catalysts that sent me on brief dip into the steampunk pool.  It is also the only steampunk novel I read this month that was set in America.  If my appreciation of Ms. Priest’s work wasn’t enough to predispose me towards liking this novel she went ahead and set it in Seattle which, despite being a city I’ve only visited twice for all too brief a time and despite being born and bread in the shadow of the city that never sleeps, is a place that has a strange place in my heart;  I guess it’s a city I guess I’m half in love with (with a gorgeous library that was hit hard by recent budget changes but if you visit you should definitely check out!).

Of course the Seattle of Boneshaker is not the Seattle we know.  It is city that has become a wasteland thanks to the terrible Boneshaker built by Dr. Leviticus Blue which went on an uncontrolled rampage and somehow unleashed a hidden pocket of deadly Blight gas that not only kills all it touches, but brings those it kills back as flesh-craving rotters (a history told much better by the book’s introduction available over at The Clockwork Century).  The book opens up years later with Leviticus’ wife, Briar and son Ezekial (Zeke) living in the Outskirts; a town that arose around the now walled-up Seattle.  Briar and Zeke now go by the last name Wilkes, Briar’s maiden name, which has the advantage (for Zeke at least) in that Briar’s father is something of a folk hero amongst the poor, disrepute, and downtrodden of the Outskirts.  The pair scrapes by, at least until Zeke hares off to the Blight filled Seattle in order to clear the name of both his father and grandfather, who the not-so downtrodden believe was a criminal.  It isn’t long before Briar and copious amounts of adventure and excitement, follow.

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Eden Log & Dance of the Dead

Eden Log
Eden Log

So I’ve got two interesting movies that you all might be interested in.  I’ll start with the first, and likely the more contentious, of the movies.  Eden Log seems to be french film director Franck Vestiel’s feature film debut and was released on DVD in the States under Magnolia/Magnet’s 6-Shooter Film Series.  It isn’t the easiest film to describe but I’ll give you the official description:

A man regains consciousness at the bottom of a cave, with no concept of how he arrived there, nor any idea who the dead man is at his side. Only one thing is certain – he has to escape the menacing creature that s pursuing him. His journey back to the surface takes him through a cemetery – like world that’s been abandoned by a mysterious organization called Eden Log.

Though that doesn’t quite cover everything this film does. Eden Log isn’t a movie that will win awards for  dialogue or even clever plotting but what it does do is create an absolute splendid atmosphere and mood.  With its black and white filming and heavy juxtaposition of light and dark the movie does a wonderful job of making you feel like you are underground.  I think it is the film’s ability to place the viewer in the same environment and mindset of the protagonist is what had me thinking that Eden Log would have made a fantastic video game.  It has a very overt sci-fi survival horror feel and the main “evil” security team, from costume to slightly garbled radio communications, were very reminiscent of Half-Life 2’s combine.  Eden Log’s set design is both simplistic and surprisingly well done and never once jars you out of the experience.  What the description fails to mention is that the underground system in the movie is part of the root system of some mysterious giant tree that is being farmed/tended for something.  The combination of stark stone corridors, industrial architecture, and gnarled roots lends the film a rather unique and captivating appearance.  Eden Log is hardly a pleasant film and the questionable mental state of the main character leads to at least one moment of fairly uncomfortable brutality that while certainly off-putting serves as a real turning point for the film and certain realizations about our protagonist.  Eden Log isn’t a perfect film and has a rather sedate pace but for fans of horror and sci-fi well worth a look.

Dance of the Dead
Dance of the Dead

Now, a film I can recommend whole heartedly, Dance of the Dead.  While I remember positive buzz from the guys over at AICN I was quite prepared for how fun this movie was.  Genuinely funny dialogue, age-appropriate casting, quality zombie effects, and an odd blending of genres manage to help this film stand out from the pack and really shine as something special.  If you’ve seen any high school based movie or show certain elements will be familiar: the geek going for the hot cheerleader, the lovable smartass, the hard-ass slightly crazy gym teacher, the delinquent badass mythic student, the stressed and alcohol swilling principal, and the jerky science teacher.  As familiar as those elements may be there is still something fresh feeling about the whole experience and a sensation, without any overt evidence, that the filmmakers are looking at us through the characters and offering us a conspiratorial wink.  There is even a frog dissection scene early in the film, you don’t get more stereotypical High School the frog dissection, but my first thought on seeing that wasn’t ::groan::, it was “Oh, zombie frogs!?”  All I can say is: hell yes!

While I wasn’t a fan of the film’s stereotypical emo-rockers I was amused by zombies being quelled by the power of rock and the zombie filled dance scene (no the zombies don’t dance), to a surprisingly well-done cover of “Shadows of the Night,” was one of the movies (many) great character moments.  Both the rock element here, and certain scene later in the movie was extraordinarily reminiscent of zombie/rock masterpiece Wild Zero which I hope was intentional since I frickin’ love Wild Zero.  Dance of the Dead retains an ineffable ability to borrow from other zombie-movie and yet maintain its originality.  It is the single most entertaining zombie movie I’ve seen since Shaun of the Dead and deserves far more recognition then it has currently received.  If you are a fan of zombie films and haven’t seen Dance of the Dead stop whatever you’re doing and go rent (or better yet) buy this film now.