Friday Book Review: The Ghoul Archipelago by Stephen Kozeniewski

Stephen Kozeniewski’s The Ghoul Archipelago is not at all like his previously reviewed Braineater Jones. Where Braineater Jones is a straight shot of adrenaline and action, The Ghoul Archipelago is a sweeping, panoramic view of a world gone mad.

http://www.amazon.com/GHOUL-ARCHIPELAGO-Zombie-Novel-ebook/dp/B00FTP5URO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401116018&sr=8-1&keywords=the+ghoul+archipelago

This seafaring novel, initially reminiscent of Heart of Darkness, branches off into various tributaries, including the Reverend Sonntag who attempts to integrate zombies into religion, billionaire Rand Bergeron who hasn’t found a situation he can’t manipulate himself out of, and Captain Henk “Howling Mad” Martigan who discovers zombies are the least of his worries. Needless to say, there’s enough tension, fighting, and crazed ambition to populate a trilogy.

Kozeniewski’s main characters are well drawn and come alive with great dialogue and descriptions. In the midst of the post zombie apocalyptic world, the testosterone level of his mostly male characters fuels plenty of chest thumping, ominous threats, and deadly double crosses. In this world of scoundrels, it’s hard to find someone to root for, but Howling Mad and his men provide an oasis of dysfunctional sanity in an insane world.  Summing this complex novel up into a few sentences is impossible, but it all comes together at the end and The Ghoul Archipelago delivers an excellent ending which left this reader satisfied.

Don’t worry, there is plenty of graphic sex, violence, and gore for those of you who demand lots of horror in your horror novel. In this case, Kozeniewski has also added plenty of heart. Check it out on Amazon, it is a story well worth reading.

 

http://www.amazon.com/GHOUL-ARCHIPELAGO-Zombie-Novel-ebook/dp/B00FTP5URO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401116018&sr=8-1&keywords=the+ghoul+archipelago

Advertisements

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: Still Dying 2

Too distracted to sit down and read an entire zombie book this weekend? Good news. You can read Still Dying 2, an anthology of delicious zombie stories.

Still Dying 2, a zombie anthology worthy of your weekend reading

Still Dying 2, a zombie anthology worthy of your weekend reading

The first story, “How Me and Bozy Became Dads” is an excellent example of an author who knows who to write dialogue and dialect. The title characters, two convicts unlucky (or maybe lucky) enough to be on work detail when the zombie apocalypse starts, provide a down and dirty view of what happens when the shit hits the fan. It also totally slaps down the stereotypes of criminals as self-centered losers, out of touch with the world and the people around them. Not so in this tale, the men with balls and heart turn out to be the ones we least expect. One of those stories that make you want more. Hopefully the author, Patrick C. Greene, is hunched over a laptop at this minute writing a full length zombie novel with Randall and Bozy.

Armand Rosamilia contributes “Dying Days: Television” which is a cautionary tale about relying too much on reality television and not enough on reality. Patrick, a city living hermit who has multiple televisions, DVR’s and a generator, dedicates his life to never missing a television show. To him, the zombie apocalypse is another scripted series and he sees it as an opportunity to be on television instead of watching it.  Rosamilia quickly had me hating Patrick as much as any reality TV star, but instead of riches and fame, Patrick gets what he deserves.

The other stories in Still Dying 2 are just as inventive and interesting. There’s a great mix of characters, and a healthy blend of the worst and best of humanity. I recently complained there wasn’t enough zombie fiction that celebrated the part of us that banded together in times of crisis and helped each other out. Still Dying 2 tells these stories, most notably in “The Old Man And The Apocalypse” by A.D. Roland. Roland did an excellent job of showing the fine line between preserving your life and preserving your humanity. I hope in a zombie apocalypse there are plenty of old men left.

Still Dying 2 will satisfy your craving for zombie destruction and make you check your moral compass. Check it out at Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Still-Dying-2-Days-ebook/dp/B00H4HHALO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390528474&sr=8-1&keywords=still+dying+2

For All the Zombie Authors Out There

Today’s post is a plea to zombie authors everywhere.

Please consider writing about the good side of the zombie apocalypse.

Signs of the zombie apocalypse

Signs of the zombie apocalypse

I know that a world covered with hordes of shuffling, brain-eating, slobbering, mindless idiots makes us think about purchasing firearms, stockpiling food and water, and, if we are lucky, shooting our way to the top of a new world order. Thinking that the police and our armed services will totally fall apart in a battle of these proportions and that only the heavily fortified and amoral will live is a tempting thought.

In a zombie apocalypse, anyone could be the next President.

But ponder the shift that has taken place around the idea of being overrun by intelligent beings from other planets. Movies like “Independence Day” and “Men in Black” show that we aren’t totally outmatched in a battle against superior beings, so why would be outclassed by zombies? Stupid, slobbering, brain-eating zombies. It doesn’t make any sense.

There have been a few zombie novels that have attempted to show an alternate vision of the zombie virus. Brains by Robin Becker, Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory and Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion all find the humanity in zombies. They look deep into the abyss and return with a message that mankind will be okay if we just stop trying to kill that which we don’t understand.

Perhaps we spend too much time focusing on the downside of the zombie apocalypse, and not enough time imagining all the good that might come of it. There will be bravery. There will be sacrifice. And, at the end, I believe there will a kinder, gentler society.

I’m probably in the minority on this one.

Still, I challenge zombie authors out there to show us a different side of the apocalypse. Stop relying on blood and  gore and sex and if you must show us the worst in people, show us the best too.

If this idea intrigues you, and you’re not sure it will work, I invite you to watch this short (7 minutes) film that hauntingly portrays all we are capable of.  Warning, kleenex may be necessary.

 

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