Matthew J. Costello’s VACATION is an interesting spin on the traditional zombie story. In the aftermath of devastating food shortages around the world, groups of humans become predatory, cannibalistic creatures. Elsewhere, life goes on after a fashion. After a near-death experience, an NYPD cop takes his family on a much needed vacation to an idyllic compound paradise where they’re free to roam in the open air and swim and play and live life like they used to. Of course, things don’t go according to plan…
“In the near future after a global crisis causes crops to fail and species to disappear… something even more deadly happens. Groups of humans around the world suddenly become predators, feeding off their own kind. These “Can Heads” grow to such a threat that fences, gated compounds, and SWAT-style police protection become absolutely necessary in order to live.
After one Can Head attack leaves NYPD cop Jack Murphy wounded, Jack takes his wife and kids on a much-needed vacation. Far up north, to a camp where families can still swim and take boats out on a lake, and pretend that the world isn’t going to hell.
But the Can Heads are never far away, and nothing is quite what it seems in Paterville…”
I had a lot of fun reading VACATION. A fairly standard zombie set-up is given a new lease of life in unusual settings.
I said: “Costello takes a typical family and throws them headfirst into a situation that’s anything but. What would you do to protect those you love at the end of the world? A thrilling, fast-paced story of priorities, secrets, and survival.” And I’d be interested to hear your thoughts…
Here’s another book recommendation which I intended to make when it was released last year: Iain McKinnon’s REMAINS OF THE DEAD.
I love the concept of parallel sequels, and on this occasion McKinnon tells a story which starts at the same point as his previous novel DOMAIN OF THE DEAD, then shoots off in a completely different direction. And it’s all the better for it.
“The world is dead, devoured by a plague of reanimated corpses.
Cahz and his squad of veteran soldiers are tasked with flying into abandoned cities and retrieving zombies for scientific study. Deep in infected territory, hundreds of miles from their support vessel, the ever present dangers weigh heavily on Cahz’s mind as he shepherds his team to make quick, clean extractions.
Then the unbelievable happens. After years of encountering nothing but the undead, the team discovers a handful of disheveled survivors in a fortified warehouse with dwindling supplies.
Surrounded by hordes of ravenous corpses, Cahz is faced with the terrible responsibility of determining the five passengers who will escape in the helicopter. While those left stranded must continue to fight off the infected and starvation long enough to be rescued.”
I enjoyed this book a huge amount, and relished the glee with which McKinnon leads us and his survivors through the dead world. As I said at the time: “Believable characters trapped in a nightmare scenario—REMAINS OF THE DEAD is a breathless, high-octane zombie thriller. [McKinnon has] written another great book here…”
This week at the Post-Apocalyptic Movie Club, a little known gem from the 1980’s: SPECIAL BULLETIN.
You might not have heard of this movie, but it’s certainly worth checking out. It’s a well done (for the time) faux news broadcast covering a breaking story. A group of terrorists have docked a boat in the port of Charleston, USA. It’s soon established that they’re a group of nuclear scientists and peace campaigners, and their demands are simple: the government has 24 hours to disarm the stockpile of 600+ nuclear missiles at a nearby military base and deliver the triggers to the dock, or they’ll detonate the nuclear bomb they have on the boat.
At the time of writing the whole film is available on Google Video and I’ve embedded it below. So why not watch it first, then come back and read my thoughts. In fact, for reasons which will quickly become apparent, I’d definitely recommend doing it that way. Okay, video first, my comments after the break.
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!
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.
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:
“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.
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.
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’sTHE 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.”
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.
The 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.
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?
I’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.