Warm Bodies

warmbodiesMy skin is always cold. I don’t like people to touch me, to try to hold my hand or touch the back of my neck because the skin there is always cold. Even in the middle of a scorching August day parts of my body are cold. Passing mirrors or shop windows I’m startled into remembering I’m inside this body. I feel like I just fell into it, that I was somewhere else a few minutes ago and then boom! I’m human again. Being inside this skin is almost ridiculous. I think that’s how zombies would feel if they were real. Or had thoughts beyond “That brain looks tasty.”

Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies is a beauty of a book. It’s an atypical zombie read with surprisingly beautiful writing. There’s R, a zombie who lives at an abandoned airport along with hundreds of other zombies. There are out-posts of survivors who go on foraging missions for supplies and weapons. Some make it back in one piece. Some are lost to the world of the dead. There’s no explanation for the zombies or how they came to be. We seem to be the cause or the wrong we’ve done to the planet and to each other:

We released it. We poked through the seabed and the oil erupted, painted us black, pulled our inner sickness out for everyone to see. Now here we are in this dry corpse of a world, rotting on our feet ‘til there’s nothing left but bones and the buzz of flies.

From the very beginning R is a different kind of zombie. He loves Sinatra and lives alone in one of the grounded airplanes while all the other zombies group together. He can’t remember his name or who he was before becoming a zombie. He dreams. “Normal” zombies don’t sleep much let alone dream. R gathers bits of memories when he eats people. He sees their lives spread out before him. He savors their lives the way a zombie savors….well, human meat.

One day R and a few other zombies go out on a hunting mission and run up against human survivors. There’s a battle (the humans lose, of course) and R meets Julie. He’s chomping away at her boyfriend’s brain and quickly falls in love with her. He feels an overwhelming need to protect her and this freaks him out. He’s a zombie. He’s not supposed to feel protective of anyone or anything except maybe what bit of flesh belongs to him.

Surprisingly, the feelings are mutual for Julie. The only problem standing in their way, besides the whole he’s a corpse and she’s alive thing, is Julie’s father who’s a big muckety-muck in the service. He runs the small city Julie and other survivors live in. There’s always a psychotic father/general/sheriff in the zombie world, huh?

R tries to get across the message that the zombies are changing, evolving into something different. Julie sees this and tries to explain it to her father but Crazy General Dad can’t and won’t see the changes. All he sees is death and destruction and his own place eradicating the zombies from this world.

The one thing both zombies and humans have in common is their fear of the Boneys. These are zombies so ancient that they have only the slightest of skin stretched tight over their bones. They’re walking skeletons. They do not evolve. In fact, they seem mighty ticked off at R for becoming something and someone new and try to put a halt to it.

Part love story, part survival story, Warm Bodies is a novel about change and acceptance and loving someone even if they eat your boyfriend’s brain. I was once told that there’s a lid for every jar when it comes to being loved, that there’s someone for everyone. If you can love the zombie who ate most of your boyfriend then you, my friend, have found the best kind of love.

Just make sure your zombie boyfriend brushes his teeth before he leans in for that kiss.

Jennifer

Melvil Dewey’s Odditorium

The Dewey Decimal System can be a cruel mistress. She promises to organize knowledge into nice neat sets of 10 and create a world of order and method. For the most part she succeeds. But oh those exceptions. They are enough to drive a certain type of highly organized personality, aka pretty much anyone who works in a library, a little bit mad.

Take fiction anthologies for instance. Here at EPL, if a series of short stories is written by one author the book is located in the fiction section by the author’s last name on the first floor. If, however, a tome has the audacity to have works by different authors between the covers, it is banished to the 800s at the back of the second floor. An outrage you say? I heartily agree.

To make things right, why not check out a few great recent anthologies that are worth rescuing from their Dewey enforced obscurity. Be warned though, it’s as if these books have sensed their shunned status and no longer care for the mainstream. They seem to have taken a turn for the odd, quirky and slightly disturbing.

The Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories is as you might expect, pretty weird.  But it is a good weird. These aren’t stories of monsters and elves; they are more concerned with the hazy boundary between what is normal and what isn’t. The authors are an eclectic bunch (including the likes of Haruki Murakami, Franz Kafka and Stephen King) but they are all willing to push the envelope of reality. It is a large collection, clocking in at 1126 pages, but there is no need to read it cover to cover. Find a story that sounds intriguing and see where it leads.

As the cover might suggest, The Big Book of Adventure Stories is a visit to a somewhat foreign literary landscape from the past. While it might seem peculiar to modern tastes, the stories in this volume are chock full of tales of derring do, I believe that is still a word, where obstacles are faced and overcome with bravado. Featuring a cast of authors both famous and obscure, this title is anything but dull with intriguing story groupings such as: Megalomania Rules, Man Vs. Nature, Something Feels Funny, and Future Shock.

There are plenty of horror story anthologies but House of Fear stands out for the architectural setting of the stories contained within: the haunted house. Don’t expect a set of classic stories set in dilapidated Victorian mansions with creaky floorboards and door hinges in need of oil. Instead, the authors experiment with ideas and spaces that push the genre in unexpected directions while retaining the creepiness and unrelenting dread of a horror tale.

Much like the T-Virus in Raccoon City, the zombie story continues to spread and mutate at a seemingly unstoppable rate. If you are one of the infected, you will definitely want to sample some of the newest anthologies. 21st Century Dead: A Zombie Anthology lurches into the future with stories from an eclectic group of writers including Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter and the renowned Orson Scott Card. The New Dead also updates the genre and even incorporates social media in the story “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” by Joe Hill. If you still aren’t sated, check out The Living Dead 2 which has even more stories of brains and mayhem.

So the next time you visit the library, do something unexpected. After checking out the well placed popular materials, stroll on up to the 2nd floor and see what the freaks and geeks of the 800s have to offer.

Richard

Zombies: New and Improved, with 20% Less Brains

One of the things I always enjoyed about vampire movies is that the vampires had to follow a (somewhat flexible) set of rules. It’s comforting to know that if you haven’t invited a vampire into your house then he cannot enter it, and you are more-or-less safe.

Then filmmakers and authors began to play with these rules, and this too was interesting. Charlaine Harris’s vampires, for example, have a blood substitute available so that they do not have to use humans for their nutritional needs.

Zombies also exist within a fairly tight set of rules. They typically crave brains and thus try feed off humans, they can survive loss of limbs and other severe bodily damage, they don’t sleep or breathe or feel pain, they do not remember their previous lives, typically they moan but do not talk, and they are strong but slow moving. The standard method of dispatching a zombie is to destroy its brain.

Zombie infestations are generally caused by objects from space, chemicals, or disease. If a living person is bitten by a zombie, he or she joins the ranks of the brain eaters. Most zombie stories feature groups of the living trying to survive zombie attacks and to wipe out the zombies.

So what fresh zombie twists have been unleashed on our zombie-hungry nation?

In Handling the Undead by John Ajvide-Lindqvist, strange weather causes the dead to come back to life. In addition to your typical zombie mayhem, the author examines the psychological side of the undead.

In Dead Mann Walking: a Hessius Mann Novel by Stefan Petrucha, a criminal is executed, exonerated, and then brought back to “life” as a zombie. This story looks at the details of zombie life, culture and slang.

In My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland, Angel Crawford dies in a car crash and then comes back as a zombie. In life Angel was a drug addict, but in death her only addiction is to brains. Fortunately for her, a local serial killer seems to prey upon a victim whenever Angel craves brains.

In The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse by Steven C. Schlozman, a medical team studies zombies in an attempt to find a cure for the zombie epidemic. This book details the unique biology of zombies and includes anatomical drawings.

Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S. G. Browne is a romantic zombie comedy that details the day-to-day life of zombies.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks tells about the zombie wars as if they were an historical event. Included in the text are interviews with survivors of the zombie apocalypse.

In I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked it by Adam Selzer, a high school student starts dating a zombie without realizing that he is undead. When she does find out and tries to break up with him, things do not go as easily as planned.

 
In My So-Called Death by Stacey Jay, a freak cheerleading accident leaves Karen undead. She is sent to a boarding school for the “death-challenged” and discovers a mysterious plot that might bring about the end of all the students.

Ron

Ashes

I am so over zombie books.

At least I thought I was until I picked up Ilsa J. Bick’s Ashes.

At the beginning of this young adult novel we meet Alex who has a brain tumor and has been given 6 months to live. She’s an avid hiker and decides to go on a last hike to make peace with her impending death. She goes well prepared. I’m talking SURVIVALISM prepared. You throw me out in the woods and I wouldn’t survive more than five minutes unless you gave me a book to read.

Alex is settling down to camp when an older man and an 8-year-old girl come out of the forest. She is cautious (with good reason….anyone remember  the movie Deliverance and what a fun camping trip that was?). Alex listens to the man’s story, how he and his granddaughter Ellie have been hiking with their German Sheppard, Thor. The granddaughter has a gigantic chip on her shoulder (deservedly so since her father was killed in Afghanistan) and mouths off, sounding more like a bitter 40-year-old instead of an 8-year-old kid.

And this is where it gets interesting.

There is a humming in the air, a vibrating, pulsating noise.

Ellie’s grandfather goes into convulsions, blood bursting from his nose. Thor, the dog, also goes into convulsions. A terrifying sound flattens Alex to the ground. An EMP, electromagnetic pulse, destroys everything: electronics, digital watches, iPods, power grids. The world’s population is decimated but Alex, Ellie and Thor survive the EMP, although Thor goes a little nuts and acts like he is reenacting every scene from the movie Cujo. The survivors go in search of other people and answers as to what happened.

This is where the zombies come in. And not just any zombies but some of the best zombies I have ever come across.  Each survivor has been affected differently by the EMP: some have supernatural abilities, some are just plain lucky that they lived through it, and then there are those called The Changed. The Changed live to hunt the living. Forget about zombies lusting after brains, these zombies rip into any flesh they can find.

Along the way Alex and Ellie meet up with Tom, a soldier home on leave from serving in the Middle East. He has some demons of his own to exorcise. They form a weary group of survivors whose motto could be “If we survive the night…well, it’s just good that we survived the night.”

A lot of crazy stuff happens, things I didn’t see coming and I’m not going to ruin anything for you. Suffice it to say these zombies are fast and clever. Alex is one tough 17-year-old girl. I found myself thinking if I had to face an apocalypse I would want her on my team because if I was one of the Changed I’d live in terror of her abilities. But I might leave the 8-year-old brat behind.

This book is for anyone who is tired of the usual zombie and sparkly vampire books and wants a book with a meaty plot. But watch out for those zombies because I hear they like meat.

Jennifer

Alternate Seattles

Ever wonder how Seattle might have turned out if, say for example, it was inhabited by zombies, werewolves and vampires? Or what if, perhaps, in the late 1800s a virulent gas that turned people into flesh-hungry undead monsters was released in an accident caused by an enormous digging machine? Answers to such ponderings abound as countless authors are turning Seattle into the supernatural capital of the literature world.

Not for the faint-of-heart, Battle of the Network Zombies  by Mark Henry tells of a present-day Seattle that is inhabited by ordinary humans (also known as “meat”) and supernatural beings of all sorts. Amanda Feral, flashy fame-seeking zombie, is in a financial crisis. She owes a large sum of money to the reapers—beings who provide medical services for the supernatural, look like young schoolgirls, and are as nasty as hellspawn—and her advertising business is about to go belly up. Oh, she’s also been attacked by an irritable yeti and dumped by her werewolf boyfriend. Other than that, everything is fine.

When Amanda is offered a role on a reality TV show, she sees it as an opportunity to gain clients and revenue for her struggling business. And when the host of the show is apparently murdered, well, what’s a zombie to do? She takes over the show, turning it into a hunt for the murderer! Sure to offend everyone (and I do mean everyone) at some point, this chick-lit-of-the-dead cum whodunit is a fast-paced, flippant journey into the nasty netherworld that lurks beneath the shiny bright sheen of the Emerald City.

In Boneshaker by Cherie PriestBriar Wilkes’ Seattle is not a happy place. Sixteen years ago the Boneshaker, a colossal machine designed to drill for gold in the frozen Klondike, ran amok below Seattle unleashing a toxic fog which turned people into ravenous undead monstrosities. In an effort to stop the spread of this blight, a massive wall is built around downtown Seattle. Leviticus Blue, the Boneshaker’s creator, is blamed for the disaster. 

 Now it’s 1880 and Briar, Blue’s widow, and her son Zeke, are simply trying to make ends meet. But her exhausting job at the water purification plant pays little, and her husband’s legacy continues to bring unwanted infamy. When Zeke, longing to clear his father’s name, sneaks into the walled city with little more than a vague notion and a gun he doesn’t know how to use, tragedy seems certain to follow. Flesh-hungry “rotters,” humans of varying ethical persuasions, and an evil inventor (who is eerily similar to Zeke’s allegedly dead father) all wait within the walls. It’s up to Briar to rescue Zeke while keeping herself alive.

This alternate history delivers heroes, demons, cool gadgetry and copious nail-biting in a slick steampunk package. Picture Here Come the Brides being remade as Here Come the Zombies.

Other alternate Seattles worth checking out can be found in the following titles: 

 Ron 

Not Your Parents’ 800s

Pity the poor 800s. Of all the Dewey sections they are the most misunderstood. Officially they house the books about “literature and rhetoric.” Sounds pretty exciting huh? Now before you fall asleep, dear reader, let me share a little secret with you. The 800s have a side you don’t know about. A hilarious, raunchy, cutting edge and sometimes disturbing side. You see, the 800s also house all the books on humor.

We’re not talking knock knock jokes either. To begin with, there is a lot of what my colleague Carol eloquently defines as “Voyeuristic Literature.” Consider if you will Awkward Family Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack. Based on their popular blog, this book offers up a collection of some of the most cringe-inducing family portraits ever taken and provides the awkward stories behind them. This book is worth a look for the Star Trek themed portrait alone.

If you want to be exposed to more public humiliation definitely check out People of Wal-Mart: Shop and Awe by Andrew Kipple. Also based on a popular blog, this book provides frightening examples, with photos naturally, of what some people consider appropriate to wear and do while picking up necessities. 

One person’s chuckle is another person’s essential information so some may question the inclusion of The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks in the humor section. After all, who will be laughing when faced with the conundrum of how to dispatch the living dead? Brooks will provide you with lots of answers—shotguns are a no-no surprisingly—and guide you to relative safety.

After surviving an onslaught of the undead, you will be entitled to a good stiff drink. But what kind? Take a look at How to Booze: Exquisite Cocktails and Unsound Advice by Jordan Kaye to find out. The creation of cocktails is taken seriously with instructions on everything from proper measures to the type of glass to use. The actual reasons for drinking? Not so much. Who knew that an Old Fashioned was the perfect drink for “Endless arguments over easily ascertainable facts”?

Finally, if you feel like kickin’ it old school definitely check out Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead  by Rich Meyerowitz. Meyerowitz selects some of the funniest writing from National Lampoon magazine in its heyday and also follows up with the writers and where they are now. As the title suggests, few have retired to suburbia.

Richard