Book Review: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1), Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (2015)

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Can’t Stop the Signal

five out of five stars

CitB: stay on task, grasshopper. we let the Alexander burn us out of the sky, your red hot love will be subsumed by a bigger, hotter flame

ByteMe: how do you even function in society?

CitB: it’s a struggle

Before this moment, I have never wished to be something other than what I am.

Normally I try not to let myself get swept up in all the excitement over the Next Big Book; I’ve been burned one (or fifteen) times too many. But Illuminae? Deserves all the hype and then some. It’s a twisty-turny, roller coaster ride with a little something for everyone: action, adventure, romance, suspense, science fiction, horror. Zombies, spaceships, and an insane artificial intelligence. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The story starts with a bang – literally. The year is 2075, and the planet Kerenza is under attack. An illegal mining colony located far from the core, Kerenza is the site of a power struggle between two mega-corps: Wallace Ulyanov Consortium (WUC), which operates Kerenza, and its competitor, BeiTech Industries. Rather than report Kerenza’s illicit activities to the United Terran Authority (UTA) and bury the WUC in fines, BeiTech chooses a more lucrative and diabolical route: kill everyone on Kerenza and steal the planet for itself. Since it’s an illegal settlement, chances are that the WUC will write off the loss rather than report it to the UTA. That’s BeiTech’s gamble, anyway, and it’s a safe one. Only they didn’t wager on there being any survivors.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey (2014)

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Curse the children, for they are our future.

five out of five stars

NOT EVERY GIFT IS A BLESSING.

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

Every once in a while, I’m accused of providing too much information in my reviews: vague hints and sly winks, plot details, even outright spoilers. And while it’s true that my reviews tend to be wordy, I almost always try to avoid spoilers, and clearly mark them when they do appear. But I’m reluctant say much of anything here, for the journey into Melanie’s world – beyond that hinted at in the deliciously vague book description – is half the fun.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament, S.G. Browne (2009)

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Zombies Are People Too!

four out of five stars

“The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but “Can they suffer?”
― Jeremy Bentham, The Principles of Morals and Legislation

“Is it necrophilia if we’re both dead?”

Andy Warner reanimated three months ago, but so far his “second chance” at life has him wishing that his DNA had just let him RIP. His wife Rachel is dead, killed in the same car accident that claimed Andy’s life. Since the undead have no rights to speak of, custody of his daughter Annie was handed over to Rachel’s sister and her husband; Andy can’t even stalk her on Facebook, since zombies are prohibited from using the Internet. Forced to move back in with the ‘rents after rising from the dead, Andy spends his days chugging wine and watching reruns in their wine cellar. His mother is physically repulsed by him, and his father – never the warm and cuddly type – openly loathes him.

Andy’s only respite is the local chapter of Undead Anonymous (UA). There’s Rita, the sexy suicide/formaldehyde fetishist Andy’s falling for; Jerry, a fellow vehicular casualty who delights in showing off his exposed brain; Naomi, the biracial, chain-smoking zombie whose empty eye socket makes a convenient ashtray; kind-hearted Tom, mauled to death by dogs; and surly sourpuss Carl, who was knifed to death. Led by Helen – a counselor in her first life – the members of the group attempt to navigate a hostile world, where even the slightest misstep could land them in the pound. Even though the vast majority of zombies don’t consume human flesh, they are nonetheless feared and reviled by Breathers.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?, Max Brallier (2011)

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Needs More Fedoras

two out of five stars

It’s Monday morning, and you’re suffering through yet another Dilbert-esque meeting while also nursing an epic hangover. Suddenly, Angela the receptionist bursts into the conference room and turns on the tv. Before you are scenes of your home – New York City; specifically, Manhattan – as you’re never seen it: overrun by the walking dead. A supposed riot at Mount Sinai soon gives way to a massacre as zombies swarm out of the building, attacking doctors, nurses, reporters, pedestrians – anyone and everyone in their path.

Do you: a) take a taxi out of the city; b) jog twelve blocks to the subway; or c) head home to your shoebox of an apartment?

Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? is a lot like those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that were popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s (see also: “Which Way Books,” “Plot-Your-Own-Adventure Stories,” “Solve It Yourself,” etc.; I am still particularly fond of my A-TEAM and MAGNUM, P.I. mysteries) – but with more f-bombs. Written for the now-grown fans of these books, Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? features more adult situations and language – yet the writing remains painfully juvenile.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: #zombie (Zombie Botnet), Al K. Line (2014)

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

The Twittering Dead

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Member Giveaway program.)

two out of five stars

“Ven hit enter and Armageddon was unleashed.”

Ven – short for ven.GEANCE, her online hacker tag; Sarah to the tax collector – just wanted to make an obscene amount of cash. And, perhaps more importantly, build the best botnet the world had ever seen. And she did. Build a virtually indestructible bot, that is. The cash? Well, as it turns out, cash is less than useless in the zombie apocalypse.

After a decade plus spent carefully nurturing and cultivating her notorious zombie bot, Ven was finally ready for the end game. Using stolen bits of psychological research, she created a virus loaded with “data packets” of information – images, text, and videos, all transmitted from device to user quickly enough to elude conscious awareness – designed to manipulate internet users into opening a Bitcoin account…which Ven would then hijack and drain of funds. (Bitcoin? Really?) The plan was flawless, or so she though. Then she hit enter and accidentally unleashed Armageddon.

As you might have already guessed, those exposed to Ven’s subliminal mind manipulation didn’t open Bitcoin accounts. Instead, they either became hopelessly locked onto their machines, unable to look away from the devolving gibberish that flashed across the screen (Zombies love to tweet and take selfies, dontchaknow.), while those who failed to maintain steady eye contact went on a murderous rampage. They became zombies of a sort, although it remains a matter of some debate whether they died and were resurrected, or are still alive (and thus potentially curable). Either way, they want brains. In the absence of such, any other body part will do.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Eat Your Heart Out: a novella, Dayna Ingram (2011)

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Layers of Fun!

four out of four stars

Twenty-two-year-old furniture saleswoman Devin is the unlikeliest of heroes: She’s prone to fainting spells. She’s socially awkward and has trouble approaching customers (Her coworker Cherry’s advice? Just picture everyone with a giant penis in their mouth!) or carrying on “normal” “adult” conversations (Scare quotes because who wants to act like a grownup anyway?). She tends to wet her pants when threatened. She’s completely oblivious to the fact that her longtime girlfriend, the improbably named Carmelle Souffle, is cheating on her (and, when she finds out, she immediately faints…and then forgives Carmelle).

And she manages to get herself bit just hours into the zombie apocalypse that sweeps through Buttfuck, Ohio. Sure, she was trying to rescue her big bear of a boss, Biff, at the time, but still. Rookie mistake!

The plot of Eat Your Heart Out: a novella is pretty standard zombie fare: the dead start rising, and so the living try to get the heck out of dodge. Luckily, the plot is mostly incidental to Dayna Ingram’s expert wordslinging. Ingram’s got a wicked fun sense of humor and a delightful potty mouth. The pop culture references are many; the fangirl angle, fun and kind of meta (reminiscent of some of the better episodes of Supernatural, I think); the disembodied, floating penises, epically hilarious; and the lesbian subplots pretty much seal the deal.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Blackout (The Newsflesh Trilogy #3), Mira Grant (2012)

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Zombie Bears, Human Clones, State-Sponsored Bioterrorism — and Twincest?

four out of five stars

(Caution: spoilers ahead!)

Halfway through Deadline, when reluctant hero Shaun addressed his lover by his dead sister’s name (post-coitus!), I groaned. Audibly. Please dear zombie Jesus, I thought, don’t go all Dexter on me now. That would just be stupid. Well, prepare to get stupid.

The final book in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, Blackout picks up shortly after the events of Deadline: with Shaun and the remaining members of the After the End Times team camping out at mad scientist Dr. Shannon Abbey’s illicit lab in Shady Cove, Oregon (population: the walking dead), while sister Georgia inexplicably awakes from death inside a CDC lab in nearby Seattle. Also known as “Subject 139b,” Shaun’s just discovered that he’s immune to the Kellis-Amberlee virus, quite possibly from nearly two and a half decades of constant exposure to the virus via Georgia’s retinal KA reservoir condition. The newest subject of Dr. Abbey’s scientific curiosity (read: poking and prodding), the invasions visited upon Shaun are nothing compared to the atrocities the CDC has inflicted upon his sister. Or, perhaps more accurately, George’s genetic line.

One of many Georgia Mason clones (some of them failed and destroyed, with the few successes waiting in the wings like so many benched players), this Georgia Mason – Subject 7c – is a 97% cognitive match to the original Georgia. She’s the “showroom model”: a pony to parade in front of the investors who financed her resurrection. “Street model” Georgia 8b is just 44% authentic. Unlike the “real” Georgia Mason, she’s pliable, obedient, and easy to control; she’s the Georgia the CDC means to deliver to Shaun. Only not if 7C – and her allies within the Epidemic Intelligence Service – can help it.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Abigail and Her Pet Zombie, Marie F. Crow (2014)

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Julie & R.: The Early Years

four out of five stars

Little Abigail’s pet zombie loved her so much that he followed her to school one day. While the children adored him, her teacher wasn’t having any of it (a zombie in the classroom? the horra!) – that is, until she saw how friendly and kind the zombie was with Abigail and her classmates. The zombie was allowed to stay the day and even received a gold star for his impeccable behavior.

Abigail and Her Pet Zombie is a sweet and charmingly rendered story about diversity and compassion. Sure, Z. might be a rotting mass of once-human flesh – but he’s a nice guy despite the gray pallor and tattered clothing! The artwork is adorable and actually doesn’t look half-bad on a Kindle (though an iPad or PC might work better). Children’s books aren’t normally my thing, but I couldn’t help but download a copy when it was free on Amazon. Super-cute, and I couldn’t help but imagine Abigail and her “pet” (I prefer the term companion zombie, but wev) as a young Julie Grigio and R. from Warm Bodies.

Given the moral of the story, I do wish that the zombie had been referred as a “he” or “she” as opposed to an “it”: the zombie is a someone, not something.

…at least until the zombie apocalypse finally arrives, in which case Abigail and Her Pet Zombie may be cast aside as criminally irresponsible reading material. (Teaching children to run toward zombies instead of away from them? UNTHINKABLE.) So enjoy it while you can, folks!

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: Kellie’s Diary #4, Thomas Jenner & Angeline Perkins (2014)

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Party over, oops out of time!

four out of five stars

(Caution: minor spoilers ahead!)

The fourth installment in an ongoing series (Parts 1 through 3 are available both individually and collected in Kellie’s Diary: Decay of Innocence; Part 1 is free on Amazon), Kellie’s Diary #4 picks up nearly four years after where Part 3 left off. The date is April 6, 1999, and Kellie – just nine years old when we first found her – is a more mature 15 (and a half! Teenagers know how important those fractions are!) In a surprising twist, she, Lydia, Sarah, and Dan are still living with the train people; given Sarah and Dan’s suspicions about leader Mark, I thought for sure that the groups would have parted ways within days or weeks of meeting. While Lydia helps to grow food in the on-board garden, Kellie accompanies the salvage teams as a scout.

It’s on a mission on the outskirts of Los Angeles, in Highland, that things go terribly wrong. The town isn’t just empty of supplies, but seemingly abandoned, and long since. And yet, Kellie and Sarah feel eyes watching silently as they search house after house. Their suspicions are confirmed when, on their second day of scavenging, a group of heavily armed men attempt to hijack the train and steal their provisions. In a horrific scene that floods Kellie’s head with memories of Dr. Crane, one of the thieves shows a little too much interest in young Lydia. It’s in this moment that things really go south.

Though half of the train community manages to escape, a more insidious threat lurks from within in the form of Pastor Paul. A creepy, End Times fundie type, Paul hatches a plot to infect the entire community with zombieosis, thus speeding along “God’s Plan” and delivering everyone to the next world. Luckily, Kellie and Lydia manage to escape – but find themselves in an abandoned industrial district even creepier than the abandoned town they just left behind. Visions of “Bagman” continue to haunt Kellie, who’s becoming increasingly distrustful of her own senses. One thing she can be sure of: she and Lydia are not alone.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Kellie’s Diary: Decay of Innocence, Thomas Jenner & Angeline Perkins (2013)

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Kellie’s Diary Parts 1-3 + Extras

three out of five stars

(Caution: Minor spoilers ahead! Also, trigger warning for rape.)

After a brief stay with her grandfather in Oregon, nine-year-old Kellie has just been reunited with her family in Austin, Texas when all hell breaks loose. The dead begin rising, only to feast on the living – and poor Kellie finds herself all alone. Well, almost. As she traverses the West Coast in search of her parents and two younger sisters, her diary “Barbie” proves a constant and dependable companion. In between Barbie’s covers, Kellie documents the horrors she witnesses.

Currently the Kellie’s Diary series spans four books, with parts 1 through 3 collected in Kellie’s Diary: Decay of Innocence. There are also a few “extras,” including a preview of a related upcoming series, Survival Chronicles:

Kellie’s Diary, Part 1 – The dead begin rising right in the middle of Kellie’s third-grade class. When a seemingly deranged man bursts through the classroom window and mauls the substitute teacher, Kellie flees into the bathroom. Once the chaos subsides, she makes the long and terrifying trek back to her home – only to find it empty. (January 18 through January 25, 1993)

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Kellie’s Diary #1, Thomas Jenner & Angeline Perkins (2013)

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Interesting premise, slow start…

three out of five stars

After a brief (and unexplained) stay with her grandfather, Kellie has just returned to her third grade class. Not a day back, and already some of her classmates are falling ill – never to return. At first, everyone assumes it’s “just the flu” – but by week’s end, her entire town has been devoured by zombies.

Kellie is sitting in class one morning when a scary man barges through the window and promptly bites the substitute teacher. Terrified and not a little confused, she hides in the girl’s bathroom until the mayhem subsides. With no other destination in mind, she decides to try and find her way home. Along the way, she dutifully records her journey in her diary (“Barbie”).

(For what it’s worth, Kellie reminds me of a (very!) young Julie Grigio. To wit: “They’re [the zombies] scary, but they look sad too.”)

When I first picked this up, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect: Graphic novel? A narrative book presented in diary format? Or a combination of the two, a sort of faux diary complete with scribbles and drawings and assorted ephemera? As it turns out, the answer is closest to B, and it lends itself well to the Kindle format. The authors use a handwriting font to give the book a handmade feel, and the “diary” is written on lined notebook paper, complete with faint water stains. In contrast to titles that contain visual art, Kellie’s Diary #1 is easy enough to read on the Kindle. There aren’t any real pages, but Kindle tells me that there are 69 locations, if that helps. There are nine chapters, and the diary covers exactly one week in Kellie’s life: January 18 through January 25, 1993. (Crossing my fingers for copious ’90s references down the road!) In any case, the story is rather short; I finished it inside of an hour.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Deadline (The Newsflesh Trilogy #2), Mira Grant (2011)

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Doesn’t quite live up to its potential…

four out of five stars

(Caution: minor spoilers ahead!)

Since the death of his adopted sister Georgia a year earlier, Shaun Mason has been adrift. Forced to assume control of “After the End Times,” the blog they started together, Shaun promptly retires as head Irwin and mostly neglects his management duties. Poking things with sticks just isn’t very much fun anymore. For him, there’s only one truth worth pursuing: who was ultimately responsible for George’s murder?

While Shaun killed Vice Presidential candidate (and would-be assassin of President Peter Ryman) David Tate by Feed‘s outset, Tate was clearly financed by a network of wealthier and more powerful conspirators – some of them possibly operating from inside the CDC itself. Along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the Centers for Disease Control is an organization rendered practically omnipotent in this post-apocalyptic world – making the implications of their involvement that much more chilling.

Shaun’s hunt has all but stalled out – that is, until an old acquaintance from the CDC shows up at the After the End Times offices. Dr. Kelly Connolly – granddaughter of the famed Dr. William Matras, a whistle-blower at the CDC who, in 2014, risked his career and freedom to warn the public that the dead had begun rising – is on the run. She and her team at the CDC had been researching some statistical anomalies when they starting dropping dead, one by one. Apparently someone is killing those with Kellis-Amberlee reservoir conditions – people like the late Georgia Mason – and now, those scientists looking into the staggering death rates as well.

The last woman standing, Dr. Connolly faked her own death so that she could alert Shaun to the biggest story of his career – bigger even than the attempts on Ryman’s life. And the significance of reservoir conditions to possibly finding a cure for Kellis-Amberlee might just be the key to unlocking the conspiracy that cost Georgia her life – and Shaun, the only person he ever truly loved.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: The New Hunger: The Prequel to Warm Bodies, Isaac Marion (2013)

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Come Fly With Me*

five out of five stars

“Thirty-four miles north of the police station, a young girl who recently killed a young boy is watching beige houses flicker through the headlights of her family’s SUV. Her father’s eyes are tight on the road, her mother’s on everything around the road, pistol at the ready should anything incongruous emerge from this idyllic suburban scene. They are traveling later than they usually do, later than is safe, and the girl is glad. She hates sleeping. Not just because of the nightmares, but because everything is urgent. Because life is short. Because she feels a thousand fractures running through her, and she knows they run through the world. She is racing to find the glue.

“Thirty-four miles south of this girl, a man who recently learned he is a monster is following two other monsters up a steep hill in an empty city, because he can smell life in the distance and his purpose now is to take it. A brutish thing inside him is giggling and slavering and clutching its many hands in anticipation, overjoyed to finally be obeyed, but the man himself feels none of this. Only a coldness deep in his chest, in the organ that once pumped blood and feeling and now pumps nothing. A dull ache like a severed stump numbed in ice – what was there is gone, but it hurts. It still hurts.

“And three hundred feet north of these monsters are a girl and boy who are looking for new parents. Or perhaps becoming them. Both are strong, both are super smart and super cool, and both are tiny and alone in a vast, merciless, endlessly hungry world.

“All six are moving toward each other, some by accident, some by intent, and though their goals differ considerably, on this particular summer night, under this particular set of cold stars, all of them are sharing the same thought:

Find people.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Feed (The Newsflesh Trilogy #1), Mira Grant (2010)

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

BRILLIANT!

five out of five stars

“The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we had created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.”

Two-thirds of the news team which will eventually come to be known as “After the End Times,” adopted siblings Georgia and Shaun Mason are used to chasing danger. (Although, as an Irwin, Shaun is much more accustomed to poking dangerous things with sticks than his Newsie sister.) Together with Fictional-slash-tech whiz Georgette “Buffy” Meissonier, as well as a supporting cast of countless beta bloggers, the After the End Times crew is devoted to pursuing the truth at any and all costs. When their team is selected out of hundreds (thousands?) of other bloggers to accompany moderate Republican Senator Peter Ryman as he embarks on his presidential campaign, some of them will be asked to pay the ultimate price, as the friends are unwittingly thrust into a shadowy conspiracy to steal the presidency, terrorize the populace, and engender fear to facilitate the hijacking of the Constitution.

Feed is unlike many zombie stories I’ve read of late – most notably because the zombie menace seemingly takes a backseat to political intrigue, assassination attempts, and other human-created threats. And yet I don’t quite agree with other reviewers who claim that this isn’t a zombie story.

Kellis-Amberlee – so named for Dr. Alexander Kellis, the scientist whose cure for the common cold was prematurely unleashed on the world by well-meaning “ecoterrorists,” and Amanda Amberlee, the first child to see her cancer cured via infection with the Marburg EX19 virus (when combined, the viruses unexpectedly caused the dead to rise) – colors every aspect of this world. While the survivors are mostly able to insulate themselves from the zombie threat, it comes at a great price: large public gatherings are a thing of the past; dating mostly happens online (and it’s a wonder that reproduction happens at all); privacy is sacrificed for safety at almost every turn; and people no longer have the ability to move about freely. Huge swaths of the United State are restricted, open only to those with a certain level of safety training. Kellis-Amberlee primarily causes conversion in the dead – but everyone is infected with varying levels of the virus, and spontaneous reamplification among the living and otherwise healthy is rare, but possible. The virus has effectively isolated humanity from itself. Everyone is suspect; no one can be trusted.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: The First Days: As the World Dies, Rhiannon Frater (2011)

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Don’t Mess With — BRAAAAAAAAINS!!!

three out of five stars

The Zombocalypse has arrived, and survival is as much a matter of dumb luck as it is skill and cunning – a fact quickly established in the first few pages of The First Days. Texas prosecutor Katie is on her way to work when the traffic procession in which she’s stuck is swarmed by a group of the undead. Katie barely manages to escape with her life, thanks to an older gent in a pickup who sacrifices his meat suit for hers. Katie races home, only to find her beloved wife Lydia eviscerating the mailman. She takes off in confused horror, and serendipitously crosses paths with Jenni, a long-suffering housewife whose abusive husband Lloyd has just made a meal of their children. In a very Thelma & Louise moment, the two women embark on a road trip, traversing the rural Texas countryside in search of Jenni’s surviving stepson, Jason, and a safe place to call home.

The First Days: As the World Dies is a solid enough zombie story that, for whatever reason, stopped just short of sucking me in. The story – a kind of cross between The Walking Dead, The Zombie Survival Guide, and every Romero movie ever made – primarily focuses on the tenuous task of rebuilding while swarms of zombies continue to beat down your door. The logistical planning – of which there’s more than a little – didn’t interest me so much, but I loved the many pop culture references. Frater’s obviously a huge fan of the genre. Originally self-published, the Tor reprint maintains some of that indie feel (and not in a bad way). Puzzling, though, are the many punctuation errors that managed to make it into the new version: missing periods, spaces both before and after periods, etc.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: History Is Dead: A Zombie Anthology, Kim Paffenroth, ed. (2007)

Monday, July 16th, 2012

History Is UNdead!

four out of five stars

Zombies have coexisted with humans since before the birth of h. sapiens – that is, if we’re to believe the team of “crack historians” behind History Is Dead: A Zombie Anthology, edited by Kim Paffenroth (2007). And why not, when believing is such bloody good fun?

While at least half of the twenty stories found in History Is Dead take place in the past 200 years – with America and Europe proving popular settings – the rest stretch as far back as the Pleistocene epoch. (“This Reluctant Prometheus,” in which members of the homo ergaster species become infected with zombie-ism after consuming an infected wooly mammoth, is one of my favorites.) Zombies are credited for bringing humans the gift of fire, rescuing a Viking kingdom from insurrection, inspiring budding horror author Mary Shelly, and administering vigilante justice to Jack the Ripper. They appear on Civil War battlefields and in East End slums. They infiltrate the United States government in their quest for gooooold. (An “Indian” curse gone weird. Don’t ask.) The Great Fire of Chicago? Started by zombies, the first of which was created when Biela’s Comet rained a mysterious green rock onto (and into) Pat “Paddy” O’Leary’s Aunt Sophie. Zombies, it seems, are all around us.

As always, anthologies are difficult to review, since you’re apt to take a shining to some pieces more than others. Overall, History Is Dead is a quick, enjoyable, entertaining read – perfect for a morbid Saturday afternoon at the beach. I polished it off in under a week, which is near-record speed for me. Though they share a common theme, each story in this collection is unique. In some, zombies make a brief, even ancillary cameo – while in others they serve as the story’s protagonists. A bloody, gory, over-the-top collection of shoot-‘em-up zombie tales this is not.

In fact, it could be argued that zombies aren’t even the scariest monsters to be found within the pages of HISTORY IS DEAD. Take, for example, “Junebug” – which comes with a major trigger warning – in which a preacher (at the End Times Church, natch) uses the looming zombie apocalypse as a pretense to sexually enslave one of his young parishioners (June or “Junebug” of the story’s title). After several months of living with him – with her parents’ permission, ostensibly to babysit his children due to his wife’s illness – she becomes pregnant from the repeated rapes. Cast out by the preacher, she finds no solace from her family, as they blame her for “seducing” her rapist. June and her sole defender, brother Ethan, ultimately meet a gory end – and yet, even at their “worst,” the reader has more sympathy for the zombie siblings than for their human victims.

I found a similar pleasure in “Awake in the Abyss,” which finds Jack the Ripper’s “canonical five” victims – Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly – along with a sixth woman, narrator Nelly, awakening from the grave in order to avenge their deaths…as only zombies can. I bet you never thought you’d find yourself rooting so enthusiastically for the zombies, eh?

(This review also appears on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 26: Milk Thieves, Body Hair, and the Cannibals Within

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

null

Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary: A Powerful Statement

This stunning sculpture by Liu Qiang is an accurate depiction of humanity’s use of, and utter dependence on other animals and, in particular, the savage and bizarre habit of consuming the breast milk from mothers of other species-milk that these mothers have produced for their own babies, babies that we forced them to become pregnant with only to kill shortly after birth so that we can take the bereft mother’s milk, milk that we drink as though we were the children that we murdered.

Live vegan. There is no excuse not to.

Learn about non-violent living
Learn who is spared when you live vegan…
…and who suffers when you choose not to:
Milk Comes from a Grieving Mother
Dairy is a Death Sentence
The “Humane” Animal Farming Myth

29h59’59 by Liu Qiang is on exhibition at the 798 Art District in Beijing, China
Photo by Ng Han Guan

VegNews: June Twitter Chat, Wednesday, June 20 @ 6pm PT/9pm ET

In honor of LGBT Pride Month, we’ll be talking with prominent gay animal-rights activists about the connection between both movements. Never participated in a Twitter Chat before? Don’t worry. We have a handy guide to explain it all. Join us at the hashtag #VegNewsChat. You don’t even need to have a Twitter account to enjoy the discussion.

Kaili Joy Gray @ Daily Kos: Safeway’s general counsel tells hilarious sexist joke at annual shareholder meeting

You can listen to the audio at the link above, but here’s a transcript for the a/v averse:

You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter.

The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, “Nice pigs, sir.”

And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”

And the Secret Service agent said, “Excellent trade, sir.”

Women as livestock. Nonhuman animals as items of trade. Sexism and speciesism, the stuff of high comedy. TAKE MY LAWYER, PLEASE!

Fat Girl Posing: Vegans.. I need to talk to you..

This is a year-old piece about fat shaming in the vegan community that recently recirculated on Facebook. h/t to Emelda (I think).

The whole piece is worth a read, but here’s the excerpt I posted on FB:

So here’s your strategy, right? Animal products are full of fat and calories and, therefore, if you stop eating them you’ll lose weight.. so, market veganism as a diet or “lifestyle change” will bring more people to the movement by preying on their low self esteem and body hatred. While the strategy may work initially what do you intend to do when all the newbie veg’s don’t lose weight? Or when they lose it but then gain it back? As a diet, it fails, just like any other, and you’ve lost your pull. More so, you’ve become part of an industry which is cruel to animals.. specifically the human animal.

Word.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, Steve Hockensmith (2011)

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Bloody good fun!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

DREADFULLY EVER AFTER is the final installment in the PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES mashup trilogy. Whereas the first book in the series (the aptly named PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES) – written by Seth Grahame-Smith – is a rework of Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, the subsequent two novels (both penned by Steve Hockensmith) comprise original material. While DAWN OF THE DREAFULS precedes the events of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by five years, DREADFULLY EVER AFTER is a sequel, following new bride Lizzie Bennet’s desperate search for a cure to the zombie affliction that has overcome her beloved Mr. Darcy.

As with its predecessors, DREADFULLY EVER AFTER is bloody good fun. Action packed and filled with ninjas, zombie slayers, and reanimated corpses, DREADFULLY EVER AFTER retains much of the maudlin humor and sardonic wit that fans have come to know and love. If you didn’t enjoy the previous two books or aren’t a fan of the mashup genre in general, probably you aren’t reading this review anyhow.

I listened to the previous installments on audiobook – between housework and exercise, it’s one of my few opportunities for leisure “reading” – and slightly prefer that format for this series. But I received a copy of DREADFULLY EVER AFTER through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program, so I’m really in no position to complain. Either way, I can’t wait for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES to come to the big screen, Natalie Portman or no. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER meets 28 DAYS LATER – and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, of course. Score!

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

VeganMoFo, Day 31: Ginger Snaps, Vegan Zombies & Hallow-weenies

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

null

And the consumer becomes the consumed!

It’s October 31st, folks! You know what that means: Halloween and the end of VeganMoFo. Thirty-one days, thirty-one posts. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted….and totally looking forward to VeganMoFo IV!

The Mr. and I will spend the day taking in an orgy of Halloween horror movies and vegan junk food, so I don’t have enough time to put together a cohesive post. But that’s okay, because hopefully you don’t have time to read a cohesive post.

On the schedule for today, movie-wise, is:

The Alphabet Killer (2008)

The Alphabet Killer is based on the double initial killings in Rochester, New York in the early 1970s. Eliza Dusku stars as Megan Paige, a police officer who is highly committed to the job. She develops schizophrenia, lasting for more than six months, and includes one month of active symptoms such as illusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior. Megan’s obsession leads her to a breakdown and a violent episode which lands her in the hospital. She eventually loses her fiance, Kenneth (Cary), and her job. Two years later Megan is back working as an advisor, but her more or less normal life goes to hell again when another murder is called in. Her fire rekindled, Megan sets out to find the killer, and this time she plans to get the job done, with or without the department’s assistance.

Fairly B-grade stuff, but it’s set in my hometown, so it’s a no-brainer. Still waiting on the Arthur Shawcross Lifetime movie-of-the-week.

Ginger Snaps (2000)

Is becoming a woman analogous, in some deep psychological way, to becoming a werewolf? Ginger is 16, edgy, tough, and, with her younger sister, into staging and photographing scenes of death. They’ve made a pact about dying together. In early October, on the night she has her first period, which is also the night of a full moon, a werewolf bites Ginger. Within a few days, some serious changes happen to her body and her temperament. Her sister Brigitte, 15, tries to find a cure with the help of Sam, a local doper. As Brigitte races against the clock, Halloween and another full moon approach, Ginger gets scarier, and it isn’t just local dogs that begin to die.

Feminist horror: yes, please! (See also: Teeth. No, seriously, go watch it. Now!)

(More below the fold…)

VeganMoFo, Day 13: What do vegan zombies eat?

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

null

GRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNSSSSSSSS!

Sorry. Cheesy, I know. But it’s been a long, frustrating day, and for some odd reason, this tired old joke always elicits a grin.

Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I could use a fun, fluffy post. And what’s more fun and fluffy than vegan Halloween candy? (That’s a rhetorical question. There is nothing funner or fluffier than vegan Halloween candy. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Rien. Nichts. Niente. Niets. I said good day!)

The way I see it, vegan Halloween candy can be separated into two groups: the cheap, readily available, accidentally vegan stuff that you keep on hand for trick-or-treaters, and the expensive, hard-to-find, specialty goodies, which are oftentimes veganized versions of old, pre-vegan favorites.

Not that the two groups are mutually exclusive, of course – if you’re over the age of 12, probably you don’t consume candy on a daily basis. Thus, a fistful of dark chocolate Peanut Chews or a mile’s worth of Fruit by the Foot is indeed a special treat, pedestrianism be damned. And that’s okay! You don’t need to drop a small fortune on gourmet vegan foodstuffs to Kenneth Lay out this Halloween. On the flip side, if you do sit atop a small mountain of money, all Scrooge McDuck stylie, feel free to distribute gourmet vegan goodies which proudly proclaim their veganism all over the mofo packaging, in a sneaky guerrilla effort to lure some of the neighborhood children over to the light side. But toss in vegan literature at your own risk – ‘twould be very un-vegan to wake up to an egg-covered landing on November 1st!

(And yes, I am assuming that everyone reading celebrates Halloween, because if you don’t, you should! Between the candy, the costumes, the pumpkin carving, the hay rides, and the horra movies, everyone should be able to find at least one aspect of the holiday worth consecrating!)

What follows are two lists of vegan candies; the everyday stuff is vegan per PETA, so take these with a grain of salt – there be some rumblings on the internets re: the accuracy of PETA’s “accidentally vegan” list. Also, I’ve only included candy here; for party snacks, please refer to the original list.

The gourmet vegan goodies, on the other hand, come from firsthand knowledge and the product inventory in vegan-owned online shops, so mistakes in these listings are much less likely.

So, what are your Halloween plans, my lovely vegan zombies? The Mr. and I have a longstanding (read: four years, maybe five) tradition – we spend the day watching horror movies, relaxing with the dogs, and chowing on all sorts of vegan junk food. Pizza, spring rolls, french fries, cupcakes, turnovers, ice cream, pop corn, candy, brownies, soda, liquor – ah, that’s the life!

2007-10-19 - Ralphie the Pumpkin - 0030

I’ve been dying to dress my dachshund kid up in a hot dog outfit to entertain the trick-or-treaters, but we literally have not had a single one since moving to the Midwest – all of our residences have been so rural.

On the plus side, no interruptions during the movies!
 
(More below the fold…)