Category: zombies


Yes, yes, it’s December 1st, and November is over; therefore my Dystopias and Dead Things should be as well.  In my defense, I read this book in November, and yesterday I might have gotten a review done if the library hadn’t gotten in four great boxes of donated books that my boyfriend and I cleaned and cataloged until 11:30 p.m.

Excuses aside, here’s my take on The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.

Statistics
Checkouts: Personally bought at the Scholastic Book Fair; it will probably end up in the library collection
Typical reader: Teen girls who like the dystopian trend

Synopsis: Mary grew up in a village surrounded by fences through which the Unconsecrated reach, and ruled by the Sisterhood.  Her mother, who is bitten through the fence shortly into the book’s story, used to tell her stories of the ocean.  After her mother dies and reanimates, her life is in chaos until her childhood friend Harry asks for her hand.  On the day they are to marry, the Unconsecrated break through the fences.  Will Mary and her friends escape?  If so, can they find the ocean?  Or is there no end to the Forest of Hands and Teeth?

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars

This book started out with a lot of promise.  And throughout, the writing is excellent, the plot compelling.  But there’s something about Mary, and I hated her by the end.

The concept for the book was solid, and I enjoyed the story.  This is a post-apocalyptic zombie tale, set generations after the Return, and only pockets of fenced-in civilization remains.  The religious Sisterhood keeps the village in line, and the Guardians, including Mary’s older brother, keep the fences intact and secure.  Mary faces a lot of difficulties in the story, both before and after the fence is breached.  The Sisterhood definitely isn’t what it seems, and it would have been great if the author had chosen to explore that aspect of the setting more.  The plot keeps moving with twists that kept Mary’s life from ever getting dull.

There’s also a love triangle, which initially was a bit interesting.  Mary loves Harry, and his brother Travis.  They both love her.  Aw.  And while Mary is staying in the Cathedral with the Sisterhood, Travis is brought there to be treated for a broken leg, and they become closer during her semi-clandestine visits to his room.  But he doesn’t come for her before the day of her wedding to Harry, and is himself betrothed to her best friend Cass.

The story remained intriguing throughout the book, like I said.  But Mary is something of an unreliable narrator.  It shows most in her characterizations of her companions and acquaintances.  All other women are weak and useless, or stone cold shrews.  Harry and Travis love her, a fact that can readily be taken for granted; why they do is never explained.  The truth of the matter is that Mary is selfish and completely self-centered, caring only for herself unless caring for others benefits her.  Seriously, I would have been happy if Mary had been bitten.  Then at least she would have shown some interest in other people.  Her one good trait is that she’s actually handy in dealing with zombies and escaping.

Does this make the book bad?  I really have to say no on this, because I couldn’t be apathetic about Mary.  She was written well enough to be hated, if that makes any sense.  It just doesn’t make it a good book.

Apparently, my month of “dystopias and dead things” could have also been titled “a month of sequels.”  99 Coffins, Crossed, and now Dust & Decay are my reviewed books for the month, and all are the second book in their respective series.

Enough about that, though, right?  You’re here to read about Dust & Decay, the second book in the Benny Imura series by Jonathan Maberry.  (I’ve previously reviewed Rot & Ruin, the first in the series.)

Statistics
Checkouts: Soon to be added to the library collection; bought at Snowbound Books
Series checkouts: 1
Typical reader: People who enjoyed Rot & Ruin

Synopsis: Six months have passed since the events of Rot & Ruin.  Benny, Nix and their friends have been training with Benny’s brother Tom for months, and are anxious to go east and try to find the airplane they saw flying.  A bit earlier than intended, Tom sets out with Benny, Nix, Lilah the legendary Lost Girl, and Lou Chong on what was supposed to be an overnight camping trip for Chong and the beginning of a journey for the rest.  Things do not go as planned.  At all.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

This sequel does not spend as much time in the town of Mountainside as its predecessor.  This time, while we do get to see a bit of relaxing times for the group with apple pies and romantic concerns, the action heats up quickly, with a zombie attack in town.  After that’s dealt with, Tom moves the departure date for the trip up.  Chong tags along with permission from his parents for just one night.  They’ll go to Brother David’s way station, spend the night, send Chong home, and continue on their merry way.

But then a rhinoceros foils their plans.  That’s right.  A rhinoceros.  Yes, it makes sense in that animals have escaped from the San Diego Zoo, circuses, and other such venues.  Yes, it’s something that the group really was not expecting, and it’s a good way to throw everything off.  But, um, wow.  A rhinoceros.  That messed with my suspension of disbelief far more than, you know, zombies do.

That’s really my only quibble with the book, though!  The pacing is excellent, the action is awesome, and the characters are incredible.  Every review I’ve seen of this book talks about some new bounty hunter the reader gets to meet in Dust & Decay, and for good reason.  There are a quirky, dynamic bunch of people that live out in the wild of post-zompacalypse America.  Personally, I loved the Greenman.  He reminded me a lot of Tom Bombadil from The Lord of the Rings.  You’ll also come across some really nasty bad guys who have it out for Benny, his brother, and his friends.

Interspersed with the narrative are excerpts from Nix’s journal.  These are really a nice addition, adding both general information and a good bit of depth to her character.  I particularly liked how honest her writing was about her feelings about Benny.  “… Benny and I are never going back home.  We may not meet other kids our age.  Do I want to be with him because we don’t have a choice or because that was our choice?” (page 247, hardcover edition)  This sort of thing made Benny and Nix’s relationship far more believable than nearly anything you’ll read in any romance novel.  Massive kudos, Mr. Maberry.

My reviews always aim to be spoiler-free, but I will give you two little vague tidbits about the outcome of this novel.  One, the end battle is epic!  Two, I cried by the end of the book.

If you enjoyed Rot & Ruin, don’t miss this.

Happy Halloween!  I’ll try to get another seasonal book review up by the actual date, but I’m really busy these days.  Here’s a review of The Zombie Combat Manual by Roger Ma.

Statistics
Checkouts: Definitely not owned by the library (though I could see far too many of my war and weapons obsessed 3rd grade boys wanting it)
Typical reader: Zombie fans
Do the Dewey: 818.607 (miscellaneous modern writing)

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

According to the back cover of this book, most individuals will have to destroy this undead opponent without the aid of a firearm.  This is logical.  You’ll run out of bullets.  Your gun will jam.  You’ll wake up to find zombies breaking into your house and your gun will be out of reach.  What should you do?

You should read this book and be prepared to take on zombies with an assortment of melee weapons that are readily available and know how to fight at a variety of distances, as well as how far you need to run to get some down-time, the best infant protection/mobility options, and what’s fact and what’s fiction about the zombie plague.

I haven’t read other zombie survival guides, but this seemed like an excellent, well-rounded manual.  The anecdotes included are far superior to those in Max Brooks’ World War Z, because this book actually gives its characters flavor.  I was frustrated while reading World War Z because, while it was interesting for the history, it really lacked any differentiation between speakers.  A Texan would give an account with the exact same lexicon as a South African or a Japanese person.  The Zombie Combat Manual never had that problem.  The survivors’ stories were engaging and gave the book a decent plot, despite not being a novel.

The author really put a lot of thought into not only combat systems and survival tips, but also into how his zombies functioned and what happened in the zombie apocalypse.  The first chapter wastes no time in getting into the facts and myths about how zombies work.

If you’re worried about zombies, or need a good reference tool for writing your own zombies novels, this book is a must-read.

Yesterday was the first library day of the new school year.  Wow, was it busy!  There were scheduling mishaps, library etiquette to teach, shelves to straighten throughout the day, and a Scholastic order to catalog and shelve.  What happens on the shelf with R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series is usually a good indicator of my day, and at one point, it was a complete mess, with the series going every which way and partially in a heap.  Yup, the new 2nd graders were excited to be able to check those previously taboo (by teacher ruling) spooky books that have remained popular since my youth.

A new book is also on that shelf as of yesterday.  I read it before the big day, and now that I have some breathing room, here’s my review!  This is Zombie Winter, by Jason Strange.

Statistics
Checkouts: New to the library, courtesy of the Superiorland Preview Center
Typical reader: Elementary students who also like Goosebumps

Synopsis: Kane goes to school one winter’s day, and ends up being the sole human in a zombie-infested town.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

I was never a reader of scary stories as a child.  I can recognize their lasting popularity, though, and not just by how messy the shelf with all the Goosebumps novels is by the end of a library day.  Kids like things that spook them.  This is such a book.  It’s a quick read, aimed at children aged 8-11.  The sentences are simple, and the plot is pretty easy to follow.  It’s a chapter book with illustrations scattered throughout; the artist behind these did a good, realistic job.

I enjoyed it for its different zombie background.  These zombies were chocolate zombies, of all things!  Kane is allergic to chocolate and doesn’t partake of the lunch lady’s hot cocoa, unlike the rest of his friends and classmates.  This saves him from becoming a mind-controlled zombie, and the burden of curing the town falls on his shoulders.  The zombies were not undead, but more along the classic Haitian voodoo zombies – alive but under a spell that saps their free will.  I liked that.

Ever read a book, get to the end, and instantly want to know if there’s a sequel?  That’s how I felt about Z by Michael Thomas Ford.

Statistics
Checkouts: Not owned by the library
Typical reader: Zombie-apocalypse fans and gamers

Synopsis: Before Josh was born, humanity faced a zombie epidemic.  Now, zombies are the stuff of history lessons, and virtual-reality hunting games.  Josh is an excellent player as a “Torcher,” fighting against the “z” with a flamethrower in the holographic world.  One day, he gets a message inviting him to meet Charlie, an even higher-ranked player, and become part of an underground live-action zombie-hunting game.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

“OMG!  Is there a sequel?!” were my thoughts as I finished the last sentence of the last page of this novel.  As with the previous zombie novel I reviewed, Rot & Ruin, I read this as fast as life allowed.  This post-apocalyptic tale really held my interest.

The plot is good, with plenty of complexity and a healthy dose of “not all is as it seems.”  The action will capture the interest of teen boys, gamers, zombie-apocalypse fans.  And there’s plenty of it throughout this book!  The gory descriptions will also tantalize those that like zombies for their grotesqueness.

The main characters, Josh and Charlie, are interesting and believable.  Josh has plenty of drama in his family and social lives, and much of it is stuff teens can relate to.  The pacing of his realizations about the “meatbags” he’s fighting in both the VR and live-action games is excellent and realistic.  Maybe you can figure out what all is going on before he does, but the narrative offers an intriguing ride as he gets a clue.

The explanation of the zombie outbreak was something I found to be different and worth pondering.  A flu virus mutation altered the composition of the brains of its victims, rendering them into something akin to primitive beasts running on pure instinct.  It’s a diversion from the pop-culture undead zombie motif.  There is a slight plot hole between the eradication via vaccine explanation, and the fact that (minor spoiler alert!) zombies show up later in the book.  On the other hand, A) the virus could have mutated again, and B) in our own real world smallpox still exists in laboratories and could feasibly be spread again.  (Or maybe there was an explanation and my brain is omitting it while I write this review.  Ha.)

The title of this book stands for two elements of the story: lowercase “z” is the slang for the zombies themselves, while uppercase “Z” is a recreational drug some of the gamers use to feel like they’re one of the monsters.  The use of Z gave me some pause, especially as it is not shown to have lasting negative effects or consequences, but there are plenty of other YA books that have drugs in them.  Just take that into account if you’re thinking about this for the teenager or school library in your life.

I love young adult literature.  I’m not sure I can quantify why it attracts me so much, but I’ve enjoyed reading it, taking library science classes about it, reading reviews about it, seeking out the award winners and the yet-undiscovered gems.  Maybe it’s because it’s so accessible, yet unafraid to touch on deep topics.  Whatever the reason, I like to read books from all over this age group.

Except romance novels.  I can’t stand those at any level.  If you want some good YA romance reviews, please visit my friend Michelle’s book review blog, Never Gonna Grow Up!  They’re much more her cup of tea.

Anyway.  Here is a review of Jonathan Maberry’s book Rot & Ruin, the first in the Benny Imura series.

Statistics
Checkouts: Not owned by the school
Typical reader: Aimed at teens and zombie-apocalypse fans

Synopsis: Faced with needing a job at the age of 15 or losing half his food rations, Benny Imura becomes his older brother’s apprentice as a zombie bounty hunter or “closure specialist.”  In this post-apocalyptic world where “zoms” prowl outside the town walls, Benny learns much about the older brother he’s always seen as a coward, the bounty hunters he admires, the world outside the walls that most refuse to discuss, and the true nature of zombies and humans alike.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

These zombies eat more time than brains.

I used to be afraid of zombies.  I avoided media related to them in all forms.  And then I started dating a horror and zombie fan.  Slowly, I was introduced to the genre, first with the oddly cute movie “Fido,” where zombies are dangerous pets/slaves of sorts in a post-apocalyptic yet retro-1950s community.  I’ve worked my way up to playing stupid Zacebook applications like “Zombie Lane” and watching the classic George Romero films, most recently “Night of the Living Dead.”  To understand the monster is to dispel fear.

My experience actually mirrors Benny’s somewhat.  At the beginning of the book, he hated and feared zombies.  He could remember First Night, the time when the initial zombie outbreak occurred and humanity all but lost the war.  Though he was a toddler at the time, he had vivid memories of what happened to his parents – and how his brother Tom had run away with him.  Thirteen years later, he’s looking for a job and does not want to work for his detested older sibling, who hunts zombies.  After none of the other jobs in town suit him, Benny accepts his fate and joins Tom in the great Rot & Ruin that used to be America, learning Tom’s trade.

And man, does he learn a lot.  Tom teaches him survival skills and the ways of zombies.  These zombies are admittedly less frightening than one might expect, considering they cannot open doors.  As Tom shows his kid brother, they are also very recognizably things that used to be people – they used to be someone’s loved one.  Tom isn’t like the other bounty hunters who brag at the town store about their grandiose battles against the zombie hoards; he brings closure to the former loved ones of the townsfolk, reading them letters from his employers as the zombie sits tied up in its home, then quickly finishing them off humanely.  While zombies are certainly dangerous, Benny learns how to be smartly cautious and wary rather than fearful.  It’s important to know one’s enemy.

Then the book heats up, with intrigue, murder and kidnappings, legends and love, and doesn’t stop until the quiet epilogue that made me a bit misty-eyed.  There’s good reason why I finished this book in two days – and it would have been less time if not for those silly necessities like sleep and work.  The novel is a real page-turner, and the 458 pages in the hardcover edition just flew by.

The prose and plot are excellent.  The delivery is superb, with phenomenal pacing and the right amount of hints that allow an alert reader to predict what’s coming, without seeming either forced or too predictable.  Granted, a bit of hope doesn’t hurt, especially when things are looking really bleak for our heroes.

The character development is everything you could want in a coming-of-age story, as Benny learns about everyone around him.  Not one lead or supporting role is left flat; everyone from Benny to his friends, from the wickedly cool bounty hunters to the town sketch artist, has depth to their story.  And certainly, not everyone is as they seemed when Benny was young and naive.

For as dark as this book can be, I did find some humor in it.  The adventures in job hunting and the personalities the bounty hunters showed while telling their yarns in the general store were lighthearted.  And calling nomadic zombies “noms”?  That cracked me up.  Zoms and noms!

Overall, this is a fabulous book that I could easily recommend to any zombie-lover or teen looking for an adventurous novel (and who isn’t afraid of the massive size of this thing).  It’s not overly gory or vulgar, so even a mature middle school student might handle it.