Book Review Friday: 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.

Book Review Friday: Brew by Bill Braddock

  Brew, by Bill Braddock, is a fast paced romp that combines the craziness of a college football weekend with a crowd of sex crazed, flesh-eating drunks. Though they are not identified as zombies, they do consider brains a delicacy. But in Brew these creatures, primarily college students, are avid consumers of all things flesh. Whether it’s snacking on the nearest bystander or having noisy, eventually mutilating public sex, flesh drives this story.

This is not a tale for the young or the squeamish.

The premise, the local microbew, affectionately known as Cougar piss, is spiked by eco-terrorists. Since the activists don’t have the know how to carry out their plan, they outsource the job to chemistry student Herbert Weston, a villain reminiscent of Harold Lauder in The Stand. This group of self-righteous zealots finds out that not everyone is as honorable as they are and Herbert’s glee at the turn of events almost makes him likeable.

Though Brew manages to show the worst in people, it also reveals the people who band together, help one another, and perform heroic acts under the shadow of imminent death. Steve and Cat, local drug dealer and sexy female, try to ethically survive the chaos. For all of her tight clothes and sex appeal, Cat comes across a strong female who is not afraid to make hard decisions. Steve, her companion in arms, takes a little longer to make the right decision, but eventually he always does the right thing. It’s a refreshing and welcome change to spend time in a world where the good guys outnumber the bad.

Overall Brew muscled along at a breakneck pace with vivid descriptions and interesting characters. It might even make you a little more cautious the next time you visit a college on a football weekend. Available at Amazon.

Book Review Friday: The Last Bastion of the Living by Rhiannon Frater

last bastion of the living

When Barnes and Noble posted a list of their top 20 zombie novels of the last decade, we were pleased to see we’d read some of them, but felt it was our obligation to read the rest. We started with number one, The Last Bastion of the Living by Rhiannon Frater (2012).

Frater creates a futuristic world in which nations banded together in the face of a zombie apocalypse and created The Bastion, a self-contained, self-sufficient city supposedly impervious from zombie attack. Unfortunately something goes wrong and the outer section of  The Bastion is breached. The outer section is the agricultural area, home to the livestock and site of the gardens. Without it, the occupants of  The Bastion face death by starvation.

The zombies, victims of the Inferi Scourge Plague Virus, are fearsome, but even scarier creatures hide among them outside the city gates. As  a group of soldiers ventures into the breached outer section, hopefully to reclaim it from the Inferi Scourge and restart food production, they find all is not as it seems. Special Sargent Maria Martinez, a volunteer for the dangerous mission, is willing to pay any price to leave the slowly dying Bastion, but finds the military and government is not above treachery, intrigue, and backstabbing. Even so, she works to fulfill her mission and return to the man she loves.

Definitely not your run of the mill zombie novel, Frater isn’t content to portray mankind as deserving extinction. She weaves a nuanced tale that reminds us there is good and bad in all of us, and the individual ultimately makes the decision as to do good or evil.  This thought-provoking read kept me awake several nights pondering the implications.

If you’re looking for something different in the zombie genre, pick up The Last Bastion of the Living here.

You won’t regret your decision.

Book Review Friday, Pay Me In Flesh (Mallory Caine, Zombie at Law

Pay Me In Flesh, by K. Bennett, is an excellent example of a novel that veers away from the tired, old stereotypes of shuffling, brain-dead zombies and shows a more realistic portrayal of an individual infected with the zombie virus.  Lawyer Mallory Caine has lost none of her intelligence, sharp wit, or desire to do courtroom battle since her unsolved murder and subsequent reanimation. Now, in addition to all of the other problems faced by a single girl in the big city of Los Angeles, she must eat brains to survive. At least until she can find the person responsible for turning her into a zombie.

Ms. Caine is no dirt covered ghoul content to stay on the fringes of society. Good grooming and beauty products allow her to pass in the world of humans. She takes her place in the courtroom, goes on dates with an old boyfriend, and trolls for brains in back alleys.  Reluctantly trolls for brains. Yes, a zombie with a conscience.

The tension is high and action fast as Mallory navigates a world of treachery and bias.  It’s refreshing to read a zombie novel that eschews the one-dimensional and gives us a vibrant, multidimensional character that is neither good nor evil, but somewhere in between.

A must read for zombies and anyone who loves them.

Pay Me In Flesh (Mallory Caine, Zombie at Law). Bennett has published two sequels, The Year of Eating Dangerously (Mallory Caine, Zombie at Law) #2 and I Ate the Sheriff (Mallory Caine, Zombie at Law).