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

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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.

Five Ways to Raise Your Zombie Child at Home Without Alarming the Neighbors

Set free by parents who couldn't control him or an escapee from a poorly reinforced safe room? Either way, he is now at the mercy of whoever finds him.

Set free by parents who couldn’t control him or an escapee from a poorly reinforced safe room? Either way, he’s now at the mercy of whoever finds him.

So you want to keep your zombie child at home, but you don’t want the neighbors defacing your house with graffiti or attempting to burn it down with your zombie child inside? Follow these five simple steps to keep your child at home without alarming the neighbors.

1. Order your reinforcing supplies from multiple, out of area, online vendors.

If the Home Depot truck pulls up and starts offloading chicken wire, steel window bars, and acoustic tiles for soundproofing, some nosy Gladys Kravitz type will be on the phone to the neighborhood watch before the supplies cross your threshold. Order your supplies online and all your neighbors will know is that you’re getting a lot of packages.  If they do question the deliveries, make vague comments about Rottweiler puppies, precious metals, or strange sexual practices and let your neighbor fill in the blanks.

An alarm on the outside of the bedroom door guarantees you'll be warned if the inner security is breached.

An alarm on the outside of the bedroom door guarantees you’ll be warned if the inner security is breached.

2. Buy your brains from vendors that disguise the package.

If you purchase brains at the butcher, expect a visit from curious neighbors or the police. No one in their right mind eats them, so buying them marks you as either insane or as someone harboring a zombie. Cow-Brains-R-Us packs their brains in triple layer, leak-proof containers and marks their insulated boxes as prescription drugs. You can choose to pass off the boxes as deliveries of insulin, birth control rings, or glaucoma eye drops – all items needing refrigeration. And, since the brains are fresh frozen and vacuum sealed, they smell good, too.

zombie apocalypse, cow brains, ZERO

The days of walking down the street with a bucket of cow brains are long gone if you don’t want your home overrun by an angry mob.

3. Clean up inside.

Zombie kids are messy. Clumps of blood, hair, stray fingers and toes can make a mess of their clothing and smear all over your protective gear. Taking your helmet with face mask outside to hose it off will attract the neighborhood dogs and cats and get tongues wagging. Install a large industrial sink and indoor clothes line in a walled off part of your cellar to keep things clean, hygienic, and private.

Preventing accidental bites starts with the right protective gear. Don't forget to protect the neck.

Preventing accidental bites starts with the right protective gear. Don’t forget to protect the neck.

4. Plan trips out of the house under cover of night or costume.

Nothing alarms a neighbor more than looking out the window and seeing a muzzled zombie kid on the end of a hook. If you can’t wait until a moonless night to move your child, some proven techniques include placing the zombie kid’s head through the rungs of a ladder and resting it on their shoulders while you do the same. Onlookers will see two people carrying a ladder. You can also set up a catch stick on the middle of a kayak or canoe and have the zombie kid’s head inside the middle of the boat while you and another adult carry the front and back. Add authenticity by bragging about your midnight fish haul!

Mount one of these on the bottom of a ladder or kayak for a quick disguise when you need to get your kid out of the house.

Mount one of these on the bottom of a ladder or kayak for a quick disguise when you need to get your kid out of the house.

5. Decorate your house with anti zombie propaganda.

Yes, it’s hard when your loved one is a zombie to jump on the hate bandwagon, but it’s easy enough to keep the propaganda out of your house and away from your child. Try small, discreet yard signs near your shrubs, license plate holders, and small window decals to proclaim your hatred of all things zombie. Occasionally hinting that a neighbor is acting suspiciously also keeps the focus off you. If anyone should question you, racking a large shotgun while proclaiming you’d kill your mother if she turned into a zombie is usually enough to deter even the most annoying neighbors.

Even if it's a replica, the crisp realistic sound of a shotgun being loaded gets attention.

Even if it’s a replica, the crisp realistic sound of a shotgun being loaded gets attention.

Following these steps will make it less likely your secret is discovered, but the only guaranteed method to keep your child safe is to enroll them in a certified zombie preserve, such as the one we operate at Lake Keowee. Our preserve has all the safety and security features of a Supermax prison combined with the warmth and coziness of home. If nosy neighbors threaten your child, give the Zombie Emergency Relief Organization a call.

Remember, we feed the zombie children so you won’t have to.

Book Review Friday: The Undead Situation and The Undead Haze by Eloise J Knapp

Opening a second facility and dealing with internet craziness  has resulted in our backing off on our usual posting schedule and concentrating on daily operations. Luckily, the one thing we haven’t stopped doing is reading zombie fiction. Today we not only post Book Review Friday on a Sunday, we also give you a two-fer as we review Eloise J Knapp’s The Undead Situation and The Undead Haze.  Enjoy!

The Undead Situation

The Undead Situation by Eloise J Knapp
Cyrus V Sinclair doesn’t mind the zombie apocalypse. He’s got a crate of Guns and Ammo magazines, a well stocked pantry, and a bird’s-eye view of the chaos from his Seattle apartment. But when the chaos winds down, the magazine articles get repetitive, and Cyrus’ sweet tooth starts acting up, it’s time to enter the fray. Searching for his survivalist pal, Frank, and joined by a motley crew of survivors, Cyrus needs to dodge the zombies and avoid the crazies – survivors who have turned to religious fervor, cannibalism, raping and pillaging – to find safety.
Cyrus isn’t your typical leader. He’s cold, he’s cruel, and he’s a self admitted sociopath. When he isn’t hanging his pals out apartment windows by their feet or abandoning them to a zombie feast, he dispatches the crazies and the zombies with equal glee. The only warmth in his cold, two-sizes-too-small heart belongs to his albino ferret, Pickle and his allegiance to his friend, Frank.
Despite his cruelty, Cyrus is an interesting, almost charming protagonist. He’s like the misogynistic frat boy or arrogant asshole who you can’t stand but still hang out with at a party. Turns out,  there isn’t a lot of room for compassion when undead zombies roam the city and, despite his faults, Cyrus manages to keep himself better off than the Mother Theresa types.
The Undead Situation takes longer to get into than most zombie fare. Cyrus’ personality coupled with a slow start make the first couple of chapters difficult to engage with, but once the action starts, it’s nonstop to the end. In fact, I flew through this novel and went straight onto the second book of Cyrus V Sinclair’s story.
The Undead Haze

The Undead Haze

The Undead Haze by Eloise J Knapp
Cyrus V Sinclair should be in the clear. Sure, he lost his best friend, his protegé, and the only woman he considers his equal but he’s found Frank’s safe house. Pickle and Cyrus would be set if he could just forget the past. Instead his nightmares force him back into the zombie infested towns and cities in search of Blaze, the woman he left for dead.
To say Cyrus has had a change of heart in the sequel to The Undead Situation would be giving him too much credit. Sure, Cyrus is questioning himself: Was he ever truly a sociopath? Does he really want to help the survivors avoid the crazies? Is his search for Blaze something more than missing a friend? Luckily none of his questions undermine his basic self-preservation skills and weaklings be damned if they come between Cyrus and his survival.
If you enjoyed The Undead Situation as I did, The Undead Haze is a fantastic follow-up. The plot is more streamlined in the second novel and a whole new batch of crazies is introduced.  When I was done, I wanted more and am hoping there’s a third novel in the works.
The Undead Situation and The Undead Haze are available at Amazon. Now stop wasting time, go buy them.

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.