World War Z and the Hater movie

I wanted to talk about WORLD WAR Z for a couple of reasons. A discussion of the film follows (stick around for a half hour video review from Mr Simmons and I) but, before that, I have a more personal reason to be interested.

world-war-z-movie-posterFor a long time I’ve thought that the immediate future of the zombie sub-genre would, to a large extent, hinge on the success or failure of the WWZ movie. It’s fair to say that after all the well-documented issues with budgets and scripts and reshoots etc., I don’t think anyone expected the success the film has had, nor for a sequel to have been greenlit so rapidly. That has to be a good thing, I think, and I’m hopeful that, as a result, Hollywood will have a renewed interest in large budget, zombie-style movies. I would say that… the HATER movie rights have just been re-optioned.

As an enjoyable, effects-laden, dumb old zombie flick, WWZ certainly delivered. As an adaptation of Max Brook’s novel, however, it failed on just about every level. But does that really matter? Looking at things from my perspective, with a film adaptation of Hater on the horizon, I can see two sides. Sure I’d like a fairly literal interpretation of my original story to be filmed, but I’d also like the publicity and sales that a more commercial movie would hopefully generate. I have to accept that such publicity and sales might come at the expense of the integrity of my story. As wrong as it might sound, at this stage in my career with mouths to feed and bills to pay and many projects in the pipeline but few under contract, if I’m honest I’d have to say I’d rather take the cash. With Guillermo del Toro still attached to Hater I’m happy to take that chance of course, and regardless of how any movie turned out, my original book would still be available. It’s not like it would disappear or be replaced. Despite his understandable frustrations with the filmmakers, I’m sure Max Brooks is more than happy with the thousands and thousands of people who’ve picked up his book because of the film…

Right, back to WWZ. Rather than write a long blog post, I’ll let Wayne and I do the talking.

If you’ve not yet read the book, I’d definitely recommend it. If you have and you’ve seen the film, what were your thoughts on the movie adaptation, and what are your hopes/fears for a Hater adaptation? I’d be really interested to hear them. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter etc.

Recommended reading – THE RETURN MAN

A while back I was sent a copy of a new zombie novel to blurb. Nothing unusual about that you might think, but when I looked into the history of the book and its author, I immediately wanted to know more. You see, THE RETURN MAN by V M Zito had very similar beginnings to AUTUMN.

The Return Man by V M ZitoZito had been dabbling in short fiction writing for some time, but when it came to writing his first novel, he didn’t want to risk shutting himself away in isolation: “I knew I’d go mad in a vacuum of space and time if I locked myself in my office for a year, working on a single project. I was nervous about going so long without a sense of completion, or feedback, or knowing if I was on the right or wrong track. Posting chapters online, one at a time, was a great way around that dilemma; the feedback and support I received from online readers kept me motivated and engaged in the writing process. I think I’ve grown from the experience, and writing a second novel the “traditional way” would be possible for me now – but I’m pretty sure this first one would still be a draft on my desktop if I hadn’t gone online.” Those words certainly rang a few bells with me!

THE RETURN MAN is a novel I thoroughly enjoyed. Here’s the blurb:

“The outbreak tore the USA in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness. They call it the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead to deliver peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco, for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who – or what – is watching you . . .”

I talked to Zito about the book and his influences. Watch the trailer, then click the link below to read more.

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Recommended reading – JUGGERNAUT

Last December I recommended OUTPOSTAdam Baker’s Arctic-set thriller. Today I present the prequel: JUGGERNAUT. I’m pleased to report that Adam’s written another cracker here. It’s the fast-paced, sun-scorched story of the genesis of the disease which has destroyed the world in Outpost, all set against the beautifully rendered backdrop of war-torn Iraq.

“Iraq 2005 – Seven mercenaries journey deep into the desert in search of Saddam’s gold. They form an unlikely crew of battle-scarred privateers, killers and thieves, veterans of a dozen war zones, each of them anxious to make one last score before their luck runs out.They will soon find themselves marooned among ancient ruins, caught in a desperate battle for their lives, confronted by greed, betrayal, and an army that won’t stay dead…”

Great characters, an amazing level of detail, an insane yet wholly believable plot – Juggernaut is an excellent read, full of grotesque images and unexpected revelations.

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!

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…

Tooth and Nail by Craig DiLouie

As a writer, I’m regularly approached by people who want to tell me about the incredible new book they’ve just written. I try to be accommodating and look at as many manuscripts as I can, and I’m always happy to share my experiences of publishing with anyone who asks. You’ll probably appreciate though, it takes time to read a book properly and provide the author with constructive, useful feedback, and that’s part of the reason a). why I’ve got a backlog of such books right now (apologies to all who’ve sent books to me in 2010 – I will get back to you), and b). why I’ve had to start saying no to new approaches. Please don’t contact me for blurbs etc. until I post something to the contrary here: it’s not that I don’t want to help, I just can’t right now…

Another problem with agreeing to read books like this, is that you never know what you’re going to get. I’ve had long and involved conversations with writers about their fantastic sounding ideas, only to eventually receive an incoherent, uncorrected mess of a manuscript. However, that’s the exception, and I’ve read some truly great books from people who’ve started out as either readers, friends or both.

Today – very belatedly (sincere apologies, Craig) – I want to tell you about one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. If you’re a lover of zombie fiction in any way, shape or form, I urge you to pick up Tooth and Nail by Craig DiLouie.

On the face of it, Tooth and Nail looks like any one of a hundred other zombie stories. The plot sounds standard, almost clichéd: a mutated form of the rabies virus is causing chaos around the world, and a battle-hardened Lieutenant must lead his men (recently back from Iraq) across New York to protect a research facility which may just hold the cure…

Right; forget all your preconceptions. Tooth and Nail is about all of that, but it’s so much more too.

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