Recommended reading – Maberry’s Dead of Night

Something else I’m planning to do with increased regularity throughout 2012 is recommend more books. I have a massive ‘to read’ pile which I’m steadily working my way through (actually, make that a ‘to blurb’ pile*), and I thought it would be good feature here some of the books I’ve recently blurbed and genuinely enjoyed. No reviews as such, just the publisher’s blurb, my blurb and, occasionally, a few words from the author.

Okay, I’m several months late with this one, and most self-respecting zombie fans will already know about it or own it, but I’d like to recommend Jonathan Maberry’s DEAD OF NIGHT.

“A prison doctor injects a condemned serial killer with a formula designed to keep his consciousness awake while his body rots in the grave.  But all drugs have unforeseen side-effects.  Before he could be buried, the killer wakes up.  Hungry.  Infected.  Contagious.  This is the way the world ends.  Not with a bang… but a bite.”

Great stuff as usual from Maberry. This is a fast-paced, by the numbers zombie story, written with confidence and style by a man who knows a thing or two about the living dead. I have a fascination with what goes on inside a zombie’s brain: do they remember anything? Are they trapped and helpless? Are they as evil as we frequently assume them to be, or are they victims too? One of the highlights of Dead of Night for me was the way Maberry handles this question, presenting a terrifying disconnection between the reanimated corpses and the conscience which once controlled them.

I said: “Dead of Night stands drooped head and lurching shoulders above most zombie novels. The nightmare increases exponentially – from minor outbreak to major crisis with unstoppable speed, building to a heart-stopping climax you won’t be able to put down.”

Highly recommended reading!

* On the subject of blurbs – I’ve committed to enough to last me about six months, and I’m steadily working my way through them. Please don’t send any more my way, because there’s just no way I’ll be able to read them for the foreseeable future. Sorry to be a pain. Thanks for understanding!

Children of Men

It’s been far too long since I recommended any films on this site. Here then is another classic up for consideration as part of my Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club. I’m going to try and post these with much more regularity throughout 2012.

The film I’ve chosen today is one of my all time favourite movies, and one of those rare instances when a film adaptation clearly surpasses the source material. I’m talking about CHILDREN OF MEN, directed in 2006 by Alfonso Cuaron, and starring Clive Owen, Michael Caine and Julianne Moore.

Where do you begin with a film like this? It’s a matter of personal tastes of course but, for me, Children of Men is almost note perfect.

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Recommended reading – Outpost

I’ve got a few book recommendations to share with you over the coming weeks, and today it’s the turn of Adam Baker’s wonderful OUTPOST. A few months back I saw the cover popping up with increasingly regularity online and I was intrigued. Several people recommended the book to me and when I discovered that Adam himself was a member of Moody’s Survivors, I immediately got hold of a copy. For anyone who hasn’t yet read it, here’s the blurb:

Outpost by Adam Baker“They took the job to escape the world. They didn’t expect the world to end.

Kasker Rampart: a derelict refinery platform moored in the Arctic Ocean. A skeleton crew of fifteen fight boredom and despair as they wait for a relief ship to take them home.

But the world beyond their frozen wasteland has gone to hell. Cities lie ravaged by a global pandemic. One by one TV channels die, replaced by silent wavebands.

The Rampart crew are marooned. They must survive the long Arctic winter, then make their way home alone. They battle starvation and hypothermia, unaware that the deadly contagion that has devastated the world is heading their way…” 

OUTPOST is a great, fast read. Baker presents a truly nightmarish scenario (on many levels) which twists and turns like you wouldn’t believe. Considering the isolation and inaccessibility of the refinery location, he manages to spin the tale off in several unexpected directions whilst still maintaining an air of claustrophobic hopelessness. I really enjoyed the book, and I contacted Adam to ask a few questions about the novel and his career in general.

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The Dead

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I was at last weekend’s Grimm Up North festival to talk zombies after the Sunday afternoon screening of The Dead, the Ford Brothers’ Africa-set zombie movie. I thought it was a fascinating, yet strangely unsatisfactory film which is certainly worth your time. Here’s the trailer. Click the link below the video for my full thoughts.

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Recommended reading – The Panama Laugh

It’s been a while since I recommended any books (hell, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to read any!) so here’s an interesting one for you…

Over the summer I blurbed Thomas Roche’s THE PANAMA LAUGH. It’s safe to say I hadn’t read anything like Roche’s book before. It defies categorisation, so it’s probably best to leave it to the author to describe. He calls it a “a gonzo pulp action zombie thriller”, and here’s the synopsis:

Ex-mercenary, pirate, and gun-runner Dante Bogart knows he’s screwed the pooch after he hands one of his shady employers a biological weapon that made the dead rise from their graves, laugh like hyenas, and feast upon the living. Dante tried to blow the whistle via a tell-all video that went viral – but that was before the black ops boys deep-sixed him at a secret interrogation site on the Panama-Colombia border. When Dante wakes up in the jungle with the five intervening years missing from his memory, he knows he’s got to do something about the laughing sickness that has caused a world-wide slaughter. The resulting journey leads him across the nightmare that was the Panama Canal, around Cape Horn in a hijacked nuclear warship, to San Francisco’s mission district, where a crew of survivalist hackers have holed up in the pseudo-Moorish-castle turned porn-studio known as The Armory. This mixed band of anti-social rejects has taken Dante’s whistle blowing video as an underground gospel, leading the fight against the laughing corpses and the corporate stooges who’ve tried to profit from the slaughter. Can Dante find redemption and save civilization?

Fast-paced, smart and never predictable, The Panama Laugh is well worth checking out. And perhaps even more intriguing is the great ‘semi-hoaxed group storytelling campaign’ which Roche and his publishers, Night Shade Books, have just announced:

“Night Shade Books and Thomas Roche are launching a social media disinformation campaign under the title “The Dante Bogart Project,” in the hopes of creating a large mythology of shared, semi-hoaxed group storytelling.

“The author’s intent is not to convince anyone that zombies are real, but to satirize the ways in which the democratic nature of the web (and particularly of social media) can make it disturbingly vulnerable both to corporate and governmental “spin” and to the promulgation of fringe beliefs that may be utterly at odds with the facts. The real story, however outrageous, may get lost in the white noise.”

Awesome.

Recommended reading #3 – ONE by Conrad Williams

I spent much of last week sitting around a swimming pool in the sun (wish I was back there now…). As well as making me realise I’m writing for the wrong market if I ever want to make serious money from books (I was the only one reading horror while a huge volume of chick-lit and formulaic pulp fiction was being continually consumed all around me), it was a great opportunity to read a few books because I wanted to, not because I’d been asked to or I’d promised to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always happy to blurb whenever I can, but there’s something supremely satisfying about choosing a book from your shelf and reading it because you’re in the mood to read it, no other reason.

One by Conrad WilliamsThe book at the top of my pile last week was ONE by Conrad Williams.

“This is the United Kingdom, but it’s no country you know. No place you ever want to see, even in the shuttered madness of your worst dreams. But you survived. One man.”

ONE blew me away. Beautifully written (I am supremely jealous of Williams’ descriptive skills), it’s the story of Richard Jane, a diver working on a rig in the North Sea. As Jane and his colleagues rise to the surface, dead fish and bodies sink the other way – the first indication that something terrible has happened. By the time he makes it back to dry land several days later, it’s clear that the world he remembers is gone forever. The land around him is scarred beyond recognition, every living person dead. The rain burns like acid, and the sky is a constantly swirling mass of browns and reds. Bewildered and terrified, Jane has no option but to walk virtually the entire length of the devastated country back to London, back to his son.

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Recommended reading #2 – Night of the Living Trekkies

Another book from the catch-up pile… This should have been posted before Christmas(!) so apologies to Mat from Quirk.

What’s the definition of good summer holiday reading? Escapism? Humour? A collision of two disparate but well loved genres in a story about a convention full of science-fiction geeks being devoured by bloodthirsty zombies controlled by an alien intelligence?

Night of the Living Trekkies by Anderson and StallI’d heard about Night of the Living Trekkies (by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall) at a convention, strangely enough, and I was intrigued. I’m not a huge fan of the idea of mash-up books – it often seems like a lazy way of making a quick buck (although there are exceptions, of course). Even though this book is an original story rather than a mangled classic, I approached it with trepidation. Could zombies and Star Trek be successfully combined? The answer… just about.

I think I pretty much summed up the plot in my first paragraph. It’s simple and uncomplicated, and that’s okay. The by-the-numbers zombie action at the heart of the book is really secondary to the characters and setting. To get the most out of NOTLT, you need at least a working knowledge of Star Trek because it’s crammed with references and in-jokes. Characters, locations, and dialogue are filled with nods to Trek with even the chapters being named after episodes. It’s actually done extremely well, as is Anderson and Stall’s handling of that most deep-rooted of science-fiction rivalries – the conflict between Star Trek and Star Wars fans.

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Recommended reading – The Ritual by Adam Nevill

I’m off on holiday next week (providing the volcanic ash blows the other way), and I’ll be taking a stack of books to catch up with while I’m away. I’ve actually managed to get through a few books recently (unusual for me) and I thought it would be good idea to share some of them here over the coming weeks. First off, Adam Nevill’s The Ritual.

The Ritual by Adam NevillFour old university friends take a short holiday to escape from the pressures of their lives and rekindle fading friendships. As you’d expect, things don’t go to plan. A short cut proves to be anything but, with the men soon heading deep into inhospitable, uncharted territory. Tensions rise, but the group’s internal conflicts prove to be the very least of their concerns.

“And on the third day things did not get better. The rain fell hard and cold, the white sun never broke through the low grey cloud, and they were lost. But it was the dead thing they found hanging from a tree that changed the trip beyond recognition.”

I really enjoyed The Ritual. It’s a beautifully written book which has a deeply ominous and foreboding atmosphere from the outset. The initial premise may sound like by-the-numbers stalk and slash horror, but that’s far from the case. The story takes a few wild and unexpected turns. It’s a book of two halves, but both halves are wonderfully gruesome and unpredictable. Awesome.

The Ritual is out now in the UK, with a US release to follow in 2012. Moderately interesting fact of the day: Adam and I actually grew up within a couple of miles of each other, but it took our mutual US publisher in New York to get us talking. There must have been something unpleasant in the water in Birmingham forty years ago…

The War Game

I thought it had only been a few weeks, but it’s actually several months since I last posted an entry in my ‘Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club’. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s an (increasingly) irregular look at some of the post-apocalyptic movies I’ve seen, particularly those which have gone on to have an impact on my work. You can read previous entries here. No in-depth analysis or anything heavy here, just a recommendation or two.

The War Game by Peter WatkinsToday I’m writing about Peter Watkins’ The War Game, a BBC drama made in 1965, but not shown until twenty years later, despite winning the Best Documentary Oscar in 1967.

The War Game depicts the build up, impact and after-effects of a global nuclear conflict, concentrating particularly on the people of Rochester, Kent, who are hit by an off-strike weapon originally aimed at Gatwick airport.

The film was commissioned by the BBC as part of a weekly drama series, but was withdrawn from transmission as it was adjudged to be “too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting”. I watched the film again several weeks back, and despite its age and having seen it several times before, it still shook me with its power. It’s little wonder that it wasn’t shown on British television until 1985. I can only imagine what audiences in the 1960’s would have made of it.

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Recommended reading – Can YOU Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

Remember those ‘choose your own adventure’ books which used to be hugely popular? Many a wasted hour was spent back in the day, working my way through the stories… getting killed, going back a few pages, taking another option until I’d finally been through all the alternatives and fought my way to the finish. It seems the popularity of these books declined proportionally alongside the rise of the Internet, and they do feel dated now, but they’re still a lot of fun.

Can YOU survive THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSENow someone’s had the bright idea of setting a choose your own adventure book in the world of the zombie apocalypse, and that someone is Max Brallier. Max, coincidentally, works for Thomas Dunne Books (my US publisher), and my editor, Brendan Deneen, hooked us up just before Max’s book – the superbly titled Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? – was released. I approached reading it with trepidation, knowing that ideas like this usually only go one of two ways: they’re either superb or awful. Fortunately for all concerned, this book is a blast.

Once you start reading CYStZA?, you’ll be hooked. Max has crowbarred in a huge number of zombie scenarios – some cliched, some hilarious, some downright bizarre – and there are a vast number of wildly different potential outcomes. I mentioned working my way backwards through ‘choose your own adventure’ books when I was younger. With this book I found myself ferociously flicking back and forth through the pages, not wanting to miss anything. From gangsters to baseball, zoos to sewers, George Lucas to George Romero, CYStZA has pretty much everything you could imagine coming across in Manhattan when the dead rise.

I took the opportunity to ask Max about the book, and also about his bizarre novella VATICAN ASSASSIN WARLOCK – co-written with Brendan and inspired by the recent exploits of Charlie Sheen…

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