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Review: “The Walking Dead” by Robert Kirkman

October 28th, 2010 Comments off

Books one through six have been released, with seven soon to come.

This Sunday, AMC will debut their brand new series The Walking Dead, based on the Robert Kirkman comic book series of the same name.  I don’t actually know if you’re supposed to call them graphic novels or comics.  It is more sophisticated that the cartoon books of my youth and it is easily closer to literature than one would associate with an Archie or X-Men book, so I’ll go with graphic novels.

I don’t quite recall what drove me to pick up TWD for the first time.  It may have been on a recommendation from G4TV’s Blair Butler or some interweb publicity, but I’m darn glad I did.  I’ve had a long-time fascination with the zombie genre of film-making that has extended beyond the George Romero staple to be highlighted by recent movies (be they comedies such as Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, or action thrillers such as 28 Days Later) and even the under-exposed Max Brooks tome World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

The Walking Dead is a tale that starts off a bit like your typical zombie fare, but it evolving rather quickly into something more akin to literature.  That is not a knock on any of the movies in the genre (particularly 28 Days Later, which film’s beginning is quite aped by Kirkman in Book 1), nor is it a hack at World War Z, which very much so is a piece of unique literature, trading the oral history motif from the documentary to the sci fi.  The key, distinguishing element of TWD is that it doesn’t focus on the zombies.  The story is, instead, about the humans in their endeavor to survive.

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Review: The Passage (2010)

July 26th, 2010 Comments off

Released this past June, The Passage was a very well deserved "break in" fiction for the Kindle.

So what happens when you turn over to a “legitimate author” the dystopian, post-apocalyptic genre with a mix of vampires and the “fast-zombies” of 28 Days Later?  Well, the long and the short of it (and this will be the last reference to “short”) is 784 pages of frackin’ awesome.

The author is Justin Cronin, whose prior works, “The Summer Guest” and “Mary and O’Neil”, were less mass-marketable titles.  They were, however, popular and well received, with each earning pretty solid reviews and critical acclaim.  In “The Passage”, he breaks out into the world of big, Hollywood-tie-in fiction.  And he does so by journeying into a realm that, to be honest, few “legitimate” modern authors have ventured into.

Yes, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker became legends with the monster book story, and each did so with sophistication. But the modern face of monster fiction is the drivel that Stephenie Meyer has made a fortune off of.  I’ve not read and have no intention to read Twilight books.  One only needs to understand that they are written for an ADD, tween audience with film in mind.  I imagine her books must be like Dan Brown vomited up a trilogy with no religious underpinnings and a lot more self-cutting.

I’m probably not being fair, as this isn’t really a genre I seek out in books.  I generally read more non-fiction than fiction and I tend to stick with the classics or some Michael Chrichton (who, to be honest, probably actually would qualify as something not far off this genre).  Nevertheless, I imagine most horror fiction is somewhat like a harlequin novel or the Star Wars spin-off books.  Not a lot of thought, but mindless enjoyment.

“The Passage” is so very much more than that.  Click on through for why. Read more…

Photo: Bookstores stimulate brraaaiiiins

January 5th, 2010 Comments off

Seen at Borders on Park Avenue last night, the #9 Non-Fiction book is The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.  The #8 Fiction work is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

I’ve read TZSG as the add-on to World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which is a book I greatly enjoyed.  I can’t really say the same for TZSG.  I’ve not read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and admit that I don’t see myself doing so.  But I wholeheartedly recommend World War Z.

Do the walking dead read? At Borders they apparently do.

Review: Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”

December 23rd, 2009 Comments off

Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" has been hailed by many as the best English language fiction of the young millennium.

I just completed reading the post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his boy fighting to live on.  Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is, for lack of a better description, the most interesting book I’ve read in a while.  I’m still not really sure quite what I feel about it, but I know that I feel.

I hustled to read the book as the movie version is already out, starring Viggo Mortensen as the Man with Robert Duvall as the Old Man and Michael K. Williams as the Thief.  For those unfamiliar with MKW, he is better known as Omar Little from The Wire and is one of the best casting calls that I can recall.  Most telling, perhaps, will be the casting call on the book’s central character, the Boy, played here by Kodi Smit-McPhee.  Although the movie has been out in limited release for a while, this is a review of the book only.

The problem, of course, is that I’m having trouble figuring out how to put my thoughts on the book together.  So part of this review will be an exercise in discovery… a review that hopes to draw out the substance underlying itself.

As a whole, “The Road” has been almost universally hailed; however, it also is risky.  McCarthy utilizes a challenging theme, dangerous taboo and a staccato means of writing which all represent big gambles.  For the author of The Border Trilogy (“All the Pretty Horses”, “the Crossing”, “Cities of the Plain”) and “No Country for Old Men”, “The Road” has, thus far, been his most acclaimed work.

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The Reality and Realism of Zombie Apocalypse

December 4th, 2009 2 comments
No word on whether the living dead will have the franchise in 2012.

No word on whether the living dead will have the franchise in 2012.

OK, I must admit that I have a completely immature interest in the genre of zombie entertainment.  I love the movies, the video games and even the literature.

Sure, I enjoyed Night of the Living Dead as a kid, but it wasn’t until the modern additions to the genre that I really started to get into it. Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, in particular, opened my eyes to how intriguing the zombie (and zombie apocalypse) genre could be.  It wasn’t just the fast zombies, it’s the more evolved understanding of zombies.  Since then we’ve seen even more forays that challenged the genre, such as the recent low-budget UK film shot from the perspective of a zombie.

Well, despite the need to have some suspension of disbelief, there’s been some effort to actually look at the science of zombie apocalypses of late.

This post will examine some of the ways the zombie genre has turned more serious with looks at how new examinations review Historical Perspectives, Human Experience, Scientific Analysis and Finding Parallels to Actual Conditions.

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