Friday Book Review: The Tilian Virus

http://www.amazon.com/Tilian-Virus-Pandemic-Sequence-Book-ebook/dp/B005QRPRBY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397868221&sr=8-1&keywords=the+tilian+virus

Tom Calen’s The Tilian Virus (The Pandemic Sequence Book 1) tells the tale of Mike Allard, former newbie school teacher now leader of a band of survivors of the Tilian virus. The virus, which turns its victims into flesh-eating predators, quickly wipes out the majority of the world’s population and leaves the survivors to fight off the infected as well as other uninfected survivors competing for limited resources. The narrative switches back and forth in time from the early days of the pandemic to seven years later and allows the reader to watch Mike and his former high school students grow up and mature in a world gone bad. Refreshingly, they remain decent people, even when it is to their detriment.

Mike transitions from a twenty-something inexperienced teacher, whose greatest worry is bus duty, to a solid leader who keeps hope alive in a seemingly hopeless world. He is not a man of steel, a ninja, or Jack Reacher. He’s a regular guy making do with what he has. A thoughtful, hard worker, he allows his former students to use their strengths to assist in their shared survival. He doesn’t always make the best decisions, but when he makes mistakes he takes responsibility and does the dirty work to correct them. Definitely someone I’d put on my pandemic survival team.

The story moves along at a brisk pace and though there is plenty of bloodshed and killing, there is more relationship building and maturity than found in many books in this genre. I won’t spoil the ending of this most excellent novel, but it is rare I am reduced to a sobbing mess at the end of one as I was when I finished this. The Tilian Virus has one of the strongest, most evocative endings I’ve read recently and though it filled me with deep sadness, it also made me want to continue the journey into Books 2 and 3.  Get yourself a copy of The Tilian Virus and a box of kleenex and email me when you’re done to tell me what you think. I’m dying to talk about it!

Get your copy at Amazon or check out other offerings at Permuted Press because they really do enjoy the apocalypse.

http://www.amazon.com/Tilian-Virus-Pandemic-Sequence-Book-ebook/dp/B005QRPRBY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397914561&sr=8-1&keywords=the+tilian+virus

http://www.amazon.com/Tilian-Effect-Pandemic-Sequence-Book-ebook/dp/B007DZHS4G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1397914561&sr=8-2&keywords=the+tilian+virus

http://www.amazon.com/Tilian-Cure-Pandemic-Sequence-Book-ebook/dp/B00HZ4PE9Q/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1397914561&sr=8-3&keywords=the+tilian+virus

http://permutedpress.com/books/the-tilian-virus-the-pandemic-sequence-book-1#.U1J8nVfkpvA

 

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Book Review Friday: Blood Soaked and Contagious

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Soaked-Contagious-James-Crawford-ebook/dp/B005NF3SGK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1396569762&sr=1-1&keywords=blood+soaked+and+contagious

Blood Soaked and Contagious by James Crawford manages to entertain, educate, and horrify as it follows the adventures of Frank and his Man Scythe. Did I mention I love Frank? A great sense of humor, moves honed by numerous zombie death matches, and the desire to be a better man combine to make Frank a wonderful, yet deeply flawed, hero.

In Frank’s words: “I’ve been doing this gig, ‘Freelance Zombie Extermination,’ for just over a year and a half. My claim to fame is simple: Hey, I’m still alive! Better, I’m sure, than the other options.”

He’s sort of the American Juan of the Dead.

But Frank isn’t fighting brain-dead, sluggish zombies who travel in herds and eat anything in their path. These zombies are smart, organized, fast, and only attracted to people infected with the zombie virus. No infection with the virus means you can roam with impunity. Infection with the virus is akin to blood in shark infested waters, it’s only a matter of time before you end up as a zombie snack.

Sure, there’s plenty of zombie brain bashing, crushing, and skewering, but the real meat of this story lies in the bond between the inhabitants of Frank’s small, close-knit neighborhood.  When Frank’s good friend is asked to work for a zombie warlord and develop technology to allow the zombies to keep humans as cattle to feed upon, the friend must either submit to the request or endanger the lives of everyone in their community. If only it was as easy as putting up fences and stopping swarming zombies. Instead Frank and his compatriots must strategize against zombies with weapons, military tactics and discipline, and a rather casual attitude toward using their least gifted members as cannon fodder.

As if Frank’s life isn’t complicated enough, sibling rivalry and a hot female zombie killer, who admires Frank’s Man Scythe as much as he does, keeps the heat turned up on this page turner.  Blood Soaked and Contagious is a winner of a novel. Buy it at Amazon. If you can’t get enough of Frank, there’s a second book available called  Blood Soaked and Invaded.

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Soaked-Contagious-James-Crawford-ebook/dp/B005NF3SGK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1396569762&sr=1-1&keywords=blood+soaked+and+contagious

http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Soaked-Invaded-Blood-Soaked-Crawford-ebook/dp/B0079N8J04/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1396709790&sr=1-1&keywords=blood+soaked+and+invaded

Book Review Friday: The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery

 

The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery

The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery

We asked for zombie stories that showed humanity at its best, and Michelle Miller’s novel The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery sort of fit the bill, but definitely wasn’t a friend of Bill. In Miller’s zombie apocalypse, the zombie virus reaches flash over proportions at the same time worldwide. As the zombies rend flesh and create new zombies, a select group of people are able to avoid zombie detection. Turns out they’re either drug addicts or they have the alcoholic gene. Bill, a PR person for the New York lottery, survives the initial slaughter as does Courtney, a Lotto winner whose dreams are dashed when zombies interrupt the check ceremony. As they fight their way to safety, Bill and Courtney slowly figure out the secret to their survival, and pick up a few other former alcoholics or children of alcoholics to round out their band. Bill, a true AA adherent who believes in meetings and fellowship, is at odds with Courtney, the bitter child of an alcoholic, who despises AA and everything it stands for. Definitely no love relationship about to brew there.

The group grows to include a drug dealer, a zombie aficionado, a middle-aged woman, a former addict now Ivy Leaguer, and an illegal immigrant. Each of these characters must come to terms with the guilt of surviving while their loved ones died, as well as battle their inner demons. Let’s be honest, in a zombie apocalypse who wouldn’t want to drink or drug? When you’re surrounded by 12 Steppers, though, any use of alcohol or drugs becomes a group discussion.

The wanderers do find a sanctuary of sorts, a gated community that runs by the rules of Alcoholics Anonymous. Here, everyone is in recovery and the leaders impose a multitude of rules to keep everyone on track. Up until this point, the AA story line referred to in the title mostly consisted of Bill singing the praises of AA and Courtney suspiciously eyeing everyone as if they were hiding bottles under their coats. Once the survivors arrive at the AA community, the tone shifts and suddenly AA is a cult with a charismatic leader and arranged marriages.  The New York group, uncomfortable with “AA fundamentalism,” decide to leave the community and continue their search for a safe place to live.

For the most part, this was an enjoyable read. The zombies were easily dispatched and posed no real threat to the survivors. Rising radiation levels were another obstacle that seemed easily surmounted and not a true threat. The danger in this story came from other humans and there’s even a reference to Jonestown in an attempt to heighten the danger when the New York group flees the gated community. Even so, this isn’t a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat waiting to see if our stalwart heroes make it to safety.

The only parts of the book that kept me guessing were whether this was an indictment of AA and other 12 step programs or a very awkward tribute and the ending which was both convenient and unexpected. Still, a happy ending in a zombie novel is what we asked for and The Thirteenth Step delivered. If you’re looking for something short on gore and long on feelings, this might be for you.

Buy it at Amazon

Book Review Friday: Undead LA 1 by Devan Sagliani

http://www.amazon.com/Undead-L-Devan-Sagliani-ebook/dp/B00EW6S546/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1391265543&sr=8-1&keywords=undead+la

Undead LA 1, by Devan Sagliani, uses the landscape of sunny California as the epicenter of a zombie infection deliberately unleashed upon the inhabitants of Skid Row. The infection quickly spreads throughout Los Angeles and points beyond. Rather than focusing on assigning blame or following the narrative through the eyes of government or media, Sagliani employs a diverse range of 6 narrators who find their normal existence interrupted by the zombie apocalypse.

Each narrative is a self-contained story, making it easy to read one and ponder the what-ifs before turning to the next. The narrators include a burned out airline pilot reminiscent of Denzel Washington in the movie Flight, a police detective squaring off against a serial killer, and a terminal cancer patient living out her Make a Wish dream at the Emmy’s. Though there is plenty of blood and gore in each story, there’s also a strong thread of introspection and making amends as people face the inevitability of their death, either from the zombie hordes or from the government’s attempt to exterminate everyone rather than let one zombie break free.

The most gruesome story follows Detective Gary Wendell. Bitter and defeated after being outsmarted by a serial killer, Wendell discovers the zombie apocalypse is a perfect time to mete out his own brand of justice. The most hopeful story, Dogtown Locals Union, shows two surfing brothers as they attempt to survive in peace and harmony while still catching some waves. In between are all levels of hope, despair, triumph, and tragedy. Sagliani does an excellent job of showing a few of the millions of stories that lie beneath the surface of any mass disaster.

Undead LA 1 is a fast-paced, unpredictable adventure. Open it up and enjoy the ride.

If you like this, you might also like another book by Sagliani, The Rising Dead. Read our review here

Now, enough reading blogs. Time to buy a book. Undead LA is available at Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Undead-L-Devan-Sagliani-ebook/dp/B00EW6S546/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391267976&sr=8-1&keywords=undead+LA

Book Review Friday: Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski

This zombie hardboiled private investigator works for booze.

This zombie hardboiled private investigator works for booze.

“I woke up dead this morning,” begins Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski.  Jones is a zombie, yes, but he’s an intelligent zombie. Well, maybe more like he’s a street smart zombie who is still able to ask those important questions like “who am I?” and “why am I dead?” as well as “who killed me?” Set in the 1930’s, Braineater Jones evokes fond memories of the hardboiled sensibility of Sam Spade and the Nazi complications of Indiana Jones.

The story line is simple. Man is killed, returns to life as zombie, retains the ability to think, yet remembers  nothing about his past. Instead he finds himself in a world where zombies live in an uneasy truce with the breathers, doing the dirty work and keeping their brain-eating under control.  Jones gets a crash course in zombie-breather politics as he maneuvers his way around the Mat, the zombie section of town.

And there are politics. This isn’t a zombie world of shuffling, moaning, people-eating decomposing corpses. These zombies hold jobs (but not very good ones), mourn the lives they left behind, and drink copious amounts of alcohol to keep themselves from turning into brain-eating monsters.  Jones’ benefactor, Lazar, is a mysterious, maybe-zombie who lives with the breathers.  Jones’ sidekick is a wise-cracking zombie head by the name of Alcide. The boss of this underworld is an aborted fetus who lives in a jar of Old Crow whiskey and dreams of a day he can have a robotic body courtesy of the Nazis. Yeah, even zombies have dreams in this novel.

This book has it all.  A great pace, a fantastic story line, cool zombies, and a zombie world that is unlike any other I have entered. Braineater Jones is a refreshing find in a genre that too often follows a predictable pattern heavy on blood and gore.

As of 1/16/14, Braineater Jones is available on Amazon for 99 cents, an absolute bargain. Pick up a copy today and you’ll join me in asking the author for a sequel.

http://www.amazon.com/Braineater-Jones-Stephen-Kozeniewski-ebook/dp/B00FRT4CD0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389925676&sr=8-1&keywords=braineater+jones

Book Review: Dead Tide by Stephen North

Dead Tide, by Stephen A. North, provides an up close and personal look at the zombie apocalypse through a varied cast that includes a cab driver, a cop, a stripper, a street thug, a neighborhood activist, and a janitor.  Each character lends a unique point of view to the chaos as it unfolds.  Each struggles to figure out what’s happening, then how to escape it.

As expected, safety is hard to come by and self-preservation at a premium. There is a stark contrast between the good guys and those who seek to profit from a zombie apocalypse. In particular, the police and military are portrayed as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. This perpetuates the popular belief that in times of crisis the authorities will be busier protecting themselves than protecting the populace.

Overall the story was an entertaining take on the zombie apocalypse, but the myriad characters became distracting at times. The short chapters and point of view change in each chapter made it hard to get to know the characters at first and I found myself flipping back and forth, trying to reorient myself. Some of the characters veered into cliché land (bad cop, exotic dancer with a heart of gold) and others left me wanting more (Bronte in particular). The rapidity with which society devolved also came as a shock. The story takes place over several days, but within hours people are already raping, looting, and indiscriminately killing one another. This seemed a little premature to me, but I’m an optimist.

Personally I would have appreciated a smaller cast of characters and longer chapters, call it adult ADD but I struggled to keep up at first. Even so, the writing is good and the story moves along briskly. If you’re not daunted by a large cast and swift and frequent point of view changes, Dead Tide may be just what you’re looking for.  I liked it enough to plan to read Dead Tide Rising, North’s second installment in this series.

You can purchase either Dead Tide at Amazon and Permuted Press.