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

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: Tankbread by Paul Mannering

Tankbread

Tankbread

I was browsing through my Kindle the other night when I saw the title, Tankbread. Having no recollection of downloading it, and not even sure what it might be about, I clicked on it and was rewarded with a cool, fast-paced zombie tale that should be made into a movie. Not to say reading this book wasn’t enjoyable. It was. I stayed up into the wee hours to finish it in one night and kept thinking about it the next day. Still, a movie version would be cool. You know, for people who don’t like to read.
The narrator of Tankbread is a hero on par with Riddick in the movie “Pitch Black” and Clint Eastwood‘s the Man with No Name. In fact, I don’t think narrator ever reveals his name. He’s called “bad dog,” by the zombie who hires him to pick up a package and the “courier” by the scientists who make synthetic humans as zombie food. This is one twisted post apocalyptic world.

Right off the bat, the reader knows the narrator has been there, done that, and stole the t-shirt. Surviving in a world essentially run by zombies is tough. For once, instead of the humans being the real threat to mankind, semi-intelligent zombies are kicking their ass. Sure, there’s cowardly, craven humans kowtowing to the the zombies, including making their food, but there’s also plenty of humans who are banding together and trying to eke out more than a sustenance lifestyle. The real menace in this tale are zombies who can think and plan. They’re definitely not as swift on the uptake as humans, but with their sheer numbers, they don’t have to be.

Still, there are plenty of feral zombies who exhibit traditional zombie behavior, but the dangerous zombies are capable of thinking of more than eating brains. Luckily scientists have produced human clones, called Tankbread, to feed the zombie hordes. Perhaps we should call them the zombie overlords. If the humans continue to produce Tankbread, the zombies won’t eat them. Appeasement on a grand scale.

The novel follows the journey of our reluctant hero from the zombie slums to human settlements and back again. His journey fuels this story and kept me glued to the page. The author squeezes in plenty of gore and fighting and death, but he keeps hope alive in this bleak world. At the end, I felt surprisingly good about the outcome. Sure, the zombie apocalypse is going to suck, but imagine if it turned out to be mankind’s finest hour, rather than an excuse for power-hungry psychopaths to fulfill their sickest desires.

If you’re looking for something new in the zombie genre, check out Tankbread. I think you’ll be glad you did.  Click here for Amazon link for kindle book or paperback.

 

At Night, I Dream of Escape

This morning, I sip my coffee on the shores of Lake Keowee with a heavy heart. Powered by an internet video that purports to be the thoughts of a zombie child, a movement to euthanize zombie children has spread across our country like a  fast-moving plague. The Zombie Emergency Relief Organization’s site has been deluged with plaintive pleas to exterminate the children we have pledged to protect.

Last night, our New Hampshire headquarters was infiltrated by a member of an extremist group who claim zombie children deserve to be “released from their diseased bodies.” This group, Citizens for the Responsibility and Protection of Zombies, has taken to the airwaves and internet to demand the execution of every zombie as a humanitarian gesture. Even though they didn’t access the grounds of our zombie sanctuary, they did compromise our computer system and, to the best of our knowledge so far, managed to steal our donor list and blue prints for both of our facilities. As I write this, we have increased our security level to DEFCON 2, effectively sealing off both of our New Hampshire and Lake Keowee zombie preserves to anyone except security-clearance Alpha staff.  No family members, outside vendors, donors, or visiting professionals will be admitted to our facility until further notice. We are saddened to resort to these measures, but we must safeguard our zombie children.

After much soul-searching, I have decided not to post the video that has spawned this controversy on our website. It is an inflammatory mix of haunting music, disturbing images, and a voice-over that, quite frankly, breaks my heart. Instead I will provide a text-only version for our readers. As you read this, remember that this communication was allegedly transmitted to an interpreter through a combination of grunts and eye blinking. The 16 year old zombie girl featured in the video did not speak these words aloud or write these words down. This is an interpretation.

Transcript of video titled: At Night, We Dream of Escape

“Two years ago, I was taken from the world of the living and plunged into the world of the shambling. I became a zombie. I saw the fear in my parent’s eyes when they realized what I had become and I tried to tell them that I still lived within this decomposing body, but the words didn’t come. They put bars on the windows of my bedroom and pushed rotten meat in through a slot in the door. Otherwise, my room remained the same. They left the pink canopy bed and the rows of trophies that lined my bookcases. My closet hung full of clothes: the pale yellow, off-shoulder dress I wore to my eighth grade graduation dance, the burgundy gown from my aunt’s wedding, the uniform I wore to Catholic school. My drawers bulged with clothes: competition swimsuits, t-shirts from meets, my first bra. Nothing changed in my room, except me.

Time had no meaning for me in this room. No favorite T.V. shows to watch. No classes to attend. No family nights out for dinner, mini golf, and ice cream. The sun rose and set. The seasons changed from bright green foliage filled with the sounds of birds to a cold, white wasteland, the only sound the howling of the wind. I heard sounds outside my room, but the singing of happy birthday, Christmas carols, and the Star Spangled Banner didn’t include me. I was held captive in the room and ignored, except when the food slot opened and my mother or father hurriedly push3e the meat through as they looked the other way.

My neighbors came for me. Loud, angry voices that echoed outside our house. Bring out the monster, they called. But, my parents would not give me up. Shortly after that, my parents put me in a van and drove me deep into the woods and turned me loose.

When I was discovered, the locals took pity on me and built a dirt-floored hut to contain me. They tried in various ways to communicate with me, and finally they did. They asked if I had something I’d like to say to my parents and I do.

At night, I dream of escape. Escape from this life. Why didn’t you kill me, mom and dad, instead of leaving me in this shell of a body that rots a little bit every day? When I was born, you promised to care for me and put my needs first. Now that I’m a flesh-eating monster, because, yes, though I eat raw meat I crave human flesh and would gladly rip you to pieces and eat you if given the chance, why keep me alive in this torment? Every day I watch the world I used to live in slip further and further away. The grace and speed that won six state swim championships has been replaced by a staggering, lurching walk. Huge chunks of my hair have fallen out, strips of flesh are missing from my face, and my nose, the family nose dad always said, is only a gaping hole. I peer into my water bowl and see the destruction and if I could, I would cry.

I know you think keeping me alive is the right thing to do, but it is not. I speak for all of my zombie brothers and sisters when I tell you this, at night, we dream of escape. We dream of death. Help us.” End of Transcript.

We will provide additional information as it becomes available, but in the meantime ask you to continue to support the zombie children and the Zombie Emergency Relief Organization as we set out to prove that this communication is nothing but a scam.

Sincerely,

Renee Maynes, Chief Medical Officer, Zombie Emergency Relief Organization