Friday, October 26, 2012

World War Z

To be honest, I wouldn't call myself a lover of zombie fiction. But I'm not a hater either. I've actually wanted to write my own zombie book one day but it would always be complicated by, no pun intended, a dead end.

For me I'm not attracted to the gore or disgust factor. When I read something, I want it to engage me. I want my curiosity to go into overload. I've always been drawn to a certain genre which I think zombies fall under: Survival Horror.

From the Resident Evil Series by S.D. Perry, I found that zombies became a backdrop, more of an underlying danger. The series focuses mainly on shooter, puzzle solving and object collecting. Every once and a while you get hit with hordes of flesh-eaters busting through a window or completely coming out of nowhere. The focus was mainly being trapped in a building with the threat of zombies hanging over the characters heads.

Those books were good for a while. Not groundbreaking but they reminded me of the games.

Then I stumbled across this one called The Zombie Survival Handbook by Max Brooks. I got a kick out of it. I thought it was supposed to be funny. I combed through a hundred or so pages and laughed occasionally but what really surprised me was how serious this author had taken it. The guide was reading like an actual survival guide, each piece of instruction told with the utmost meticulous care. It kind of creeped me out that it felt so heavily researched, almost as if I were living in an era where the undead once roamed and survival tactics were common place. In the end, I gave the book to a friend, but the tips were tightly tucked away in the corner of my mind.

Then a couple days ago, I decided to rent a copy of World War Z, expecting the same old stuff. What I got was an eye-opener. As the book's subtitle says, the story is meant to be "an oral history of the zombie war" and boy, does it deliver. I can't believe its taken six years to finally pick up this one book.

This book is made popular by the fact that it accomplishes a thorough narrative while still being compelling. In it, a man responsible for writing the United Nations Post War Commission is dismayed by the fact that the government left out a lot of the personal stories. They just wanted to collect the facts. So, in an effort to tell the human side of the zombie war, the man compiles this document of one-on-one personal stories, interviews and narratives. They vary and are rich in detail as well as personal thoughts and struggles.

The war has been over for about a decade but the scars still run deep. Through these characters we found out how life really was in those times. The origin of the infection is documented as well as the social, government, military, economic, and environmental effect of the growing plague.

New weapons and armor had to be invented, governments were scrambling to contain the threat, people had to use their wits to outmaneuver the "zacks" - i.e. what they call the zombies.

This is such a unique take on the genre, focusing on the survivors and have them tell it in their own words. It gives the words weight and paints a lucid picture.

It was more lucid for me because I listened to the six hour audio-book version, which cast people like Mark Hamill, John Turturro, Henry Rollins, Carl and Rob Riener and Alan Alda as some of the survivors.

A film is in the works, naturally, but I'm not going to see it. Film will never compare to that magic that comes between you, your imagination and a really good book.

5/5 stars

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Whatever Happened to Gooflumps?

(This book is deep.)
The year is 1995. I was still in grade school and slowly coming to the end of the Goosebumps series. While only two or three of these books still hold a soft spot for me I always wondered, whatever happened to Gooflumps?

Did you hear about this?

I'd always get my Goosebumps book off of this one endcap in the book and magazine section of Target. But one day I saw two books included on the six shelves of R.L. Stine's hit series. These were called Gooflumps and they were a parody of two original books (Say Cheese and Die, Stay Out of The Basement) which were called Say Cheese and Barf and Stay Out of The Bathroom.

The details are still a bit shady in my mind but from what I remember, they were pretty funny. True, gross at times but when a kid reads something gross that's just because he has nothing better to do. There were only two in the series and it even said it on the cover: BUY 2- THAT'S IT.

But whatever happened to the author?

I did a little digging and found that the pen name which these books were written under (R. U. Slime) was just a clever cover for a man named Robert Hughes.

Apparently I can't find him doing anything after this short lived series.

I wonder where he went?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Under The Dome

(Third time's a charm.)
I gotta admit...I liked it.

Of the few reviews that I have read of this book, I have to say, I don't think they are altogether fair.

First, this is a gargantuan book which was previously started several times. The last time Stephen King got 400+ pages in and lost the manuscript.

I have to say that for his third outing, I think he nailed it.

Second, this book was a bit of a risk for me. I like reading Stephen King's stuff as much as the next guy. But, alas, I have been disappointed in the past.

The last long book of his that I gave a try had been Duma Key, a story of a man coming to grips with the loss of his arm by retiring to Florida  He learns to paint with his remaining arm but supernatural elements have a tendency to stick to his artwork. If there's one thing I learned from that book its that it had to be 1,000 pages because the details really drive the story. Because that book thrilled me, I'm more open now to reader some his longer works. But for now, let's focus on Under The Dome.

It all takes place in a small town called Chester's Mill. A former Iraq vet turned fry cook, Dale "Barbie" Barbara, is making his way out of town because he doesn't want no trouble. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a dome quietly but forcefully encapsulates the town.

Before the dome, it was a very corrupt town. After the dome, it escalates. A selectman named Big Jim Rennie, previously a used car salesman  ran some shady deals and since the dome cut off the town he feels more empowered than before. A well-crafted villain who believes he's doing right by the town every step of the way. Those are the villains that scare me the most.

By trapping these characters in this dome, not only do you feel their struggle, but you can also see how bureaucracy suddenly transforms into neglect and a hidden dictatorship.  The dome also wreaks havoc on the environment on the inside, trapping all manner of gas and heat, making it very difficult on the inhabitants.

This novel perfectly blends Sci-fi with survival and touches of horror. Although the dome itself is otherworldly, there are still some basic rules that come with it.

1. Nothing can break the thick glass-like structure.
2. The dome disrupts some electrical devices.
3. You get a static shock when you touch the dome.
4. Even though the structure is rock solid, air can still permeate through.

There are also political overtones in what happens when the wrong people take over, masking their intentions as being for the good of the people.

But the whole driving force for me reading is the need to find out what would happen next. It kept me guessing until the very end.

One of the many things people say is that this was too long and the characters were thin. I couldn't disagree more. Each character was well-crafted, had a history. This is a common thing with king. It can either help him or harm him. Sometimes the details of just one character can go on ad nauseam. But the back story on each character was well-written to the point as if I had met them before.

Maybe its because I got a bit of a bias when sitting down with this book because I hail from a small town. But the way the town operates is a little too close to home. I wanted to escape just as much as the characters in the book.

The book was also very unpredictable. Every time I thought I got a handle on things, King would surprise me with something else.

Although I'm not ready to tackle big books like It or The Stand, I may in the future now that I know that they are rich in details and very unique.

The book is part Science Fiction/ Dystopian novel.

This book was so intriguing, it made me launch right into his next book...11/22/63.