Tag Archives: Zombies

The Good and the Bad/Run for Your Life Nick McClusky

I always get excited when the mailman delivers a parcel from the UK. It’s usually something cool from one of my brothers from across the pond, and this chapbook is no exception. From Jack Bantry, founder and publisher of one of the coolest extreme horror mags out there, Splatterpunk, and Nathan Robinson comes a pair of stories about zombies.

I am up to the fill line with zombies, but let us move on.

In “Run for Your Life Nick McClusky,” Nathan Robinson gives us the somewhat deluded story of a veteran who is fighting the undead as well as unsettling memories and vile flashbacks. Hold on tight for this one, because the ending is liable to knock you out of your seat.

On the flip side (or the first one, if you read it the other way) is “The Good and the Bad,” by Jack Bantry. In this tale, our hero is a hungry stranger who takes an unlocked door as an invitation—and the scene he is welcomed into is far from cordial. A woman in a cage and a sadistic weirdo seem to be the least of the problems. Maniacally fun, this one.

This, like everything Splatterpunk Press puts out, is limited in number. I think the run on these was one hundred, but if you contact Mr. Bantry he may have some left…

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The Way of All Flesh

May I once again state that I am sick to death of zombies. Seriously, weary of the walking dead. I don’t much care any more if they lope or shuffle, run or even fly. I’m all out of shits to give for the cavorting cadavers. Its all grown so damn boring.

Then Tim Waggoner decided to craft a zombie novel. I’m a big fan of Tim Waggoner. So when I was asked if I would like to review it, I said certainly. And when it arrived, I kind of thought I was in for it. The cover is a little hokey. Not horrible but not at all as cool as the inner contents.

The Way of All Flesh is a novel that is populated with the usual set pieces and suspects: A rag tag group of survivors holed up somewhere, in this case a fortified school. We have a brave warrior maiden, Kate, and her bookishly smart girlfriend, Marie. We have the macho man among them who is not at all what he seems to be. His name is Nicholas and before the zombie apocalypse he made Jeffrey Dahmer look like Michael Landon! Now that society has crumbled and zombies are the most feared in the land, he kind of lost his title. He ain’t happy about it. In his quest to regain his status as top predator, he really gets in touch with his psycho-side. I mean really.

But our hero is David, he’s a zombie and he’s also Kate’s twin brother. He doesn’t really know he’s a zombie. Zombies view the world a bit differently. They see humans as grotesque creatures out to kill them for sport. They also view one another as though they were normal living folks. David must find his family and save them and try to figure out what the hell is going on. He is dogged along the way by Simon, a skatery youth in a Megadeth shirt. Simon seems to know a great deal about what is happening and could help a lot more than he does. He’s kind of an asshole.

These are the ingredients to one of the most amusing zombie novels I’ve read as of late. There is zombie gore, people eating and all that, but damned if Waggoner doesn’t introduce existentialism and one of the most ingenious devices for the cause of a zombie apocalypse EVER. And when things get gruesome and fucked up, they get really gruesome and fucked up.

Deft characters and a cinematic gait keep The Way of All Flesh a fun sliver of bloody entertainment. Get it now from the fine folks at Samhain Publishing.

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Rag Men

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I love apocalypse stories. My favorite way to end the world is with zombies, but any disaster will do. I was under the impression that Rag Men, by Rocky Alexander, was going to be a zombie story, and it sort of was. However, I realized it concentrated more on the survival of one main character and the revenge seeking of the other.

Colin Ross is grieving for his wife, who became ill with the “QILU” virus while overseas. As the virus spreads throughout the world, turning normal people into savages, Colin at first contemplates suicide, then decides to ride out the end of the world at his uncle’s cabin. He just needs to get there in one piece. He grabs supplies from the gym he owns, and sets out with one of the gym kids, Andre.

Rooster has just gotten out of prison, and drops in on an old dealer friend, Timbo. Timbo is glad to see Rooster, until Rooster murders the rest of the losers in the house. He tricks Timbo into helping him get supplies, then takes off after killing Timbo as well. Rooster is on a mission just as Colin is; but he is after revenge where Colin just wants to survive the madness plaguing the world.

Rag Men follows these two characters as they make their way to their goals. They must do awful things to survive, but Rooster actually enjoys the brutality in the new world, resorting to it even when it’s unnecessary. Be forewarned—the violence in this story is graphic and disturbing. But it’s not gratuitous; Rooster would be a lesser character without it.

The “zombies” in the story are secondary; the apocalypse is just the background. But it works great. Rag Men is not your average end-of-the-world story, but it’s a great read. The two main characters come together in a way that is both satisfying and unsettling.

If zombies aren’t your thing, or you’re tired of the zombie apocalypse trope, you will definitely enjoy Rag Men. But zombie lovers will love it, too. The story is action-packed and quite the page-turner. Don’t miss it.

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Night of the Living Dead

Arguably the scariest offering from the 1960’s, George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is more than the average zombie flick. For starters, it is the original zombie movie, and its original incarnation has served as inspiration for the myriad of humans-eating-humans in media for the last decade, most notably with television/graphic novel series The Walking Dead. In fact, at New York Comic Con in 2012, the creator of the series said his show was to Romero “What Fifty Shades of Grey is to Twilight.” Epic fan fiction. Even Roger Ebert, a budding critic for the Chicago Sun-Times regarded the film as “…something else.” At the time there was no rating system, and often children would show for the monster movies. No one expected the Romero film to elicit such a visceral reaction.

Though Romero’s zombies were the stuff of nightmares, the film has a very political and social focal point. It plays on many of the themes from the 1960’s—a time of civil unrest and dissension among the masses, and was one of the first horror films to feature an African American lead. Much of the dialogue from the film was ad-libbed, and though there was a script, it was Romero’s intention to capture as much surprise and candor from the actors, often telling them to “explain” a situation with no further notes than that. In many of these cases, there were only one or two takes before Romero moved on.

In a time when cinematography and film were in their prepubescent age, Romero brought a very new—and very dark—insight into what a horror film could be, and how it could touch upon the nerves of an already turbid and volatile apex in a societal realm. Though initially intended to be a dull-witted truck driver, the character of Ben was restructured by the actor Duane Jones. Jones, well-educated and mannerly, decided that if he were to play the character, the character should also be a reflection of the kind of people he knew. He once said he feared that if Ben appeared a lack-wit, that the audience would have a hard time liking him as a hero and respecting him as a leader.

The grainy black and white of 60’s era cinematography adds an additional haunting aspect to the film, the focal point of the movie is not the monsters themselves, nor the fear of them. The true core of the film is the fear of the unknown. In a world where the dead stalk the earth, they are a known fear. But the unknown fear of other people is in finding that, when faced with our own mortality, most people become monsters and would commit horrifying acts to save their own lives or the lives of their loved ones, and the moral codes that act as a cornerstone of our society and civility dissolve in that. The film seeks to explore what constitutes “moral” and “immoral” in a world verging on apocalyptic chaos.

As a movie, the acting is brilliant and the film itself pits strangers in a truly life or death situation to determine what manifests “good.” In a world where the dead come back to life as shambling monsters of their former selves, Romero executes a level of fear—not only from the dead rising, but from those of the living—rendering seven strangers struggling to survive in a world of the sick, the dying, and the dead, proving that the scariest monsters are not creatures of the imagination, but rather are people caught between the fear of death and the fear of the unknown.

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The Hungry 3: At the End of the World

Sheriff Penny Miller is back! This time she and her zombie-fighting gang have made their way to an isolated town in the mountains, hoping to hunker down in a ski lodge and regroup. But nothing is ever easy during the zombie apocalypse, and their situation is made worse when the lodge owner steals their ride and all of their money, leaving them stranded.

Although they are not as exposed as they were before, they still aren’t safe from the zombies making their way slowly up the mountain. Penny and her friends must find a way to protect and fortify themselves, as well as convince skeptics that danger is heading for the town.

The previous books in the series—The Hungry and The Hungry 2: The Wrath of God—were fun and exciting, and The Hungry 3: At the End of the World is no exception. The entire series is great, and unusual in that a woman is the badass leader of a survival group. She’s not weak, but she does show her emotions in protecting and caring for her “family.” Penny is not someone to piss off.

Authors Booth and Shannon have once again drawn me in to their world, and kept me reading far into the night. I know that The Hungry 4 is in the works, and I can’t wait.

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Sunday Digs: Angels & Other Flying Humanoids, Little People, and The Brothers Grimm B-Sides

Here are a handful of goodies from around the Internet that we found interesting this past week:

A general rule among successful murderers? Don’t provide evidence to the police by confessing and/or posting pictures of your victim on your Facebook page.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a fuzzy blotch…or a smudge on your camera lens…or a hoax! It’s the Mysterious Flying Humanoids of Mexico!

Five hundred brand new fairy tales have recently been discovered after having been locked away for over a century in an archive in Germany. Before you get too excited—as people are apt to do over the thought of brand! new! fairy! tales!—please note that one of the better ones is about a girl who escapes a witch by turning into a pond. In other words, it’s kind of like The Brothers Grimm decided to do their own prequels.

Hey, baby, how would you like six inches of me?

The SCP Foundation. To Secure, Contain, and Protect. Things like SCP-231-7, for example.

Lastly, do you believe in angels? Katie Lentz might.

This week’s Sunday Digs brought to you by those meddling kids

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Sunday Digs: Dracula’s House for Sale, Tattoos, and Cthulhu for Children

A country home in the UK, used as a film set for the 1958 Dracula starring Christopher Lee, is now on sale. The 118 bedroom mansion was also used as Frank N Furter’s castle in Rocky Horror Picture Show and several Hammer Films due to its close proximity to the studio.

Looking to get in shape this summer? Use the Zombies, Run! app for the extra motivation. Convince yourself that hundreds of lives are at risk from an undead horde and the energy to run an extra mile is just there. It’s better than caffeine.

This time of year seems to get people antsy for new ink. Here’s a lovely gallery of scifi/fantasy/horror themed tattoos. My favorite has to be the zombie Princess Leia.

Artist R.J. Ivankovich, also known as “DrFaustusAU” on DeviantArt, has combined an H.P. Lovecraft classic and illustrations eerily similar to favorite Dr. Seuss picture books to create The Call of Cthulhu—for Beginning Readers.

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The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse

Alone, on a deserted island research laboratory, three scientists with the hopes of the entire world resting on their shoulders slowly degenerate into madness and the not-death of Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome (ANSD)—Zombieism.

Scientist to the last, Dr. Stanley Blum records not only his experiments and discoveries, along with those of his colleagues, but also his own slow descent as he succumbs to the symptoms of ANSD. It is now down to us, fellow members of the UN emergency session, to take his discoveries and use them to save what remains of the human race.

This is the key conceit in The Zombie Autopsies, Dr. Schlozman’s work of zombie fiction. Laid out like a briefing packet for members of the UN’s emergency session dealing with the zombie plague that has almost completely overwhelmed the earth, the book is divided into three main parts. The first is a short introduction, which does an excellent job of setting the scene of desperation that has led to the events described in the rest of the book. The second, and primary, part of the book are the “Secret Notebooks” described in the title, the journal of Dr. Stanley Blum written during the last weeks of his life as a volunteer as part of a desperate, last ditch research attempt. The third and final section is similar to the first as it provides a fictional UN supplied appendix of material.

Throughout the fictional journal, there is a bittersweet sense of a desperately held hope. The characters have no hope for themselves; they already know they are lost, on a one-way trip, and once on the island they will become almost instantly infected and thus doomed as the symptoms of ANSD begin to take over and degrade their brain functions. They have to hold out hope, however, that despite past failures they can discover something that just might prevent the extinction of the entire race. No pressure.

The excitement as theories are put forward is palpable, and the fear and dismay as mistakes are made and mental problems begin to take hold in the group are easy to identify with. Portraying the story as a fiction journal combines with the not inconsiderable skill of the author to provide a very real and emotional journey of a sort that is not often associated with the more violent and visceral nature of modern zombie fiction. This is a more cerebral story and all the more effective because of it.

The background matter in the final section of the book is very effective in providing further setting information and the email evidence accumulated in the appendix gives context as to how the plague started and some characterisation to the nameless executive whose greed destroyed the world. However, this is by far the weakest section of the book and other than a certain amount of colour, it doesn’t add a great deal to the primary story of Dr. Blum.

Schlozman, in his writing of this book, has decided to leave the eventual fate of mankind and thus the final result of Blum’s sacrifice undetermined, and the email trail thus feels a little like the author is unable to leave his creation alone once finished. It hints at a possible cure already in existence but without any real indication of who is behind the faceless communique, or their current status (the emails date from before the plague). It’s difficult to know how or if it matters at this stage in the story. Is it attempting to suggest that the sacrifice of these brave scientists is, in the end, completely unnecessary?

The final section of the book seems to add another layer of ambiguity to an already ambiguous ending, and dilutes the primary impact. The rest of the book does such a good job at playing on the reader’s emotions that this final piece of the puzzle feels flat and contrived by comparison.

A book like this had to come along eventually. The genre cries out for first-person accounts of the zombie apocalypse. But Schlozman deserves real acknowledgement for what he has accomplished with this short work. As a doctor himself, Schlozman’s descriptions of the physiological stages of the disease are gripping and feel very real. This is assisted by some very graphic and realistic pencil sketches of the autopsies he performs on the “living” zombies during his research, showing the things he describes in excruciating detail. The nature of the story as a journal rather than a report or official communique means we get a first-hand look at the main character’s thoughts as well as his experiments, which adds a lot of further detail to the setting as he considers the decline of social order, the official rulings of authorities on the “humanity” of those afflicted with ANSD, and the ethical issues inherent in the research he is forced to perform. Schlozman gives us a living, breathing (for a short while longer, anyway) world on the brink of destruction through the eyes of a sympathetic and quietly heroic protagonist.

Comparisons almost invariably have to be made between the final days of Blum’s life and the short story “Flowers for Algernon,” by Daniel Keyes (which later became a novel of the same name). The Zombie Autopsies is somewhat less poignant and tragic than that older story and the difference in theme along with the direct medical viewpoint provides a radically different tone.

Any fan of the zombie genre and particularly those more concerned with the psychological effects of such stories as highlighted in the early Romero films rather than the gore central to more modern takes on the genre will definitely find a lot to enjoy in this one.

Finally, for those who are interested in the visual media, a movie based on The Zombie Autopsies is currently in production. Personally, given the epistolic style of the story and the ambiguity of the ending, it is difficult to see how a movie could be made without radically altering the story—or at least greatly expanding on it. Still, George Romero is on board to direct, so with excellent source material and the father of the genre himself, it could well be one to watch.

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Warm Bodies In the Flesh

Isaac Marion’s debut novel, Warm Bodies, was a breakthrough in 2011, a beautifully written genre-bending horror romance about an undead named “R” who falls in love with a living girl, Julie, after he eats her boyfriend’s brain. He even saves her from being devoured by his friends. So sweet and considerate, right? I was intrigued by the premise and bought a copy on Kindle, expecting a fluffy, easy read. Instead, I found a complex love story from a very unconventional point of view. What impressed me immediately was Marion’s prose and the fluid skill he used to give R a voice that many, dead or undead, could sympathize with.

The move adaptation last year opened to an 80% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. After loving the book so completely I went into the theater with a bowl of popcorn and a cup of skepticism, expecting watered down emotions and overblown special effects. The trailer looked good, but don’t the trailers always look good? I was pleasantly surprised that Jonathan Levine stayed true to the novel, with help from Marion, and preserved the innocent, Edward Scissorhands-like persona of R and his journey to connect with Julie and become human again.

This past month, advertisements began running every fifteen minutes for a new BBC America miniseries, In the Flesh, from debut creator and writer Dominic Mitchell. The first episode premieres tonight, June 6th, which happens to be two days after the DVD release of Warm Bodies. Some have said that BBC is attempting to imitate Marion’s romantic tale of undead meets girl, but from the clips I’ve been able to watch, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Although, without it’s predecessor, I doubt a zombie drama could have been greenlit. What the BBC has done, like Marion, is use an overdone horror trope with a fresh twist to tell a meaningful story with new perspective.

The trailers and sneak-peaks from BBC reveal a much starker zombie apocalypse than Warm Bodies, although both divert attention from the traditional monsters and create villains from apathy, prejudice and ignorance. The stories don’t focus on humanity surviving among monsters, but instead take the more complex approach of humanizing the traditional villain and exploring the darker side of the human condition. In these stories, the “rotter” can be the good guy. Although zombies in both periodically eat their neighbors, they feel conflicted about it, and doesn’t that count for something?

The undead of In the Flesh, called PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome) sufferers, could be a metaphor for the mentally ill or any other group with societal stigma that are feared and alienated. Two characters, Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) and Rick Macy (David Walmsley), are not only dealing with PDS prejudice from their community, but are exploring their connection to one another and struggling with the possibility of additional rejection from their parents and friends. They’re “partially deceased” and coming to terms with their own sexuality, a dual conflict which will make for multi-layered storytelling. Without going into each one, most of the characters of In the Flesh, both human and PDS sufferer, are equally as complex and compelling.

Although Isaac Marion has said he is not a horror writer and will not return to the genre, if the BBC series becomes even a moderate success, the market for similar zombie fiction can only grow exponentially, especially coupled with ratings boon The Walking Dead. However, I’m burnt out on the traditional zombie tale offered by Frank Darabont and company, and will be supporting In the Flesh by watching it tonight, June 6th, on BBC America at 10PM EST/9PM CST.

If you don’t have cable and can’t join, go pick up a copy of Warm Bodies, out on DVD as of June 4th.

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Psychos and the Appalachian Undead

Some staff news, ya’ll! Cue banjo!

This coming October, if not sooner, Apex Publications is set to release Appalachian Undead, a new anthology dedicated to the walking dead. I contributed a quirky tale called “Long Days to Come.”

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The brilliant artwork was created by Cortney Skinner. Quite a lineup, too: Elizabeth Massie, Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, S. Clayton Rhodes*, Maurice Broaddus, Bev Vincent, Tim Lebbon, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Skipp* & Dori Miller, and Gary A. Braunbeck, to name a few more than a few.

If you’d like to check out the full table of contents, click here.

You can also pre-order via the above link (and get 5% off if you tweet the link), but before you do, check out this groovy contest they’re running for those who do pre-order.

As always from Apex Publications, you can expect quality.

Not to be outdone, Mercedes and John each have stories—“Murder for Beginners” and “Intruder,” respectively—in Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, the latest slab—and I do mean slab; these things are massive—in an ongoing series edited by the inimitable John Skipp which has thus far included Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, and Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed.

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Psychos is due out in September via Black Dog & Leventhal, and features new and classic fiction from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Lawerence Block, Neil Gaiman, Leslianne Wilder*, Violet LeVoit, Weston Ochse*, Kathe Koja, and many more.

If you order now, Amazon has it for $10.07. That’s 608 pages for $10! No-brainer.

We hope you’ll buy both!

* Shock Totem alumni.

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