Of Musings and Wonderings











rot and ruinI loved Patient Zero, and I loved the short story, focusing on the same characters as Rot and Ruin, in Zombie.  So I was super excited to start reading this, and I was not disappointed. The book starts years after ‘First Night’, when the dead stopped just being dead. Now, fourteen years later, Benny Imura has to find a job or have his rations cut in half. After trying a variety of work, Benny opts to apprentice with his brother Tom, a man he has hated since their parents died, when he thought Tom simply ran away.

But when Tom takes Benny out into the Rot and Ruin, the land beyond their small town, Benny begins to understand exactly what it is his brother does. And his world changes as he realises bounty hunters, the men who hunt down zombies, aren’t as cool as he originally thought.

Benny at first comes across a little bit of a brat. Him and his best friend turn down job after job, for the main reason that they’re just too hard. He refuses to see his brother as a person, and admires men like Charlie Pink-Eye and The Motor City Hammer, men who, it’s clear, are rough and tough, so completely opposite to Benny’s brother Tom. He’s not unlikable, but he is a character you urge to grow. And that works nicely for the plot of the book, where Benny’s world changes and he starts to realise that the way he sees things might just be wrong.

Nothing is overly explicit in the book. Maberry lets us, as readers, make up our own minds about these characters and this world, dropping hints here and there towards what they’re really like. As well as that, even though it’s mostly from Benny’s POV, Maberry draws us in and allows us to see much more than Benny can. The characters of his friends, his brother and the others in the town are interesting in their own right, and none of them feel like they’re shoved in there just as a plot device, or just for the sake of the book. They are feel like real people, even when we only glimpse them for a few moments.

There aren’t twists, as such. More like revelations, mainly ones that Benny has but the reader is able to pick up on beforehand. But it’s not a book to read for major plot twists and startling moments. Instead, many of the best parts are the quiet, understated ones, where we glimpse into the characters and see their emotions, either hidden or bubbling quietly to the surface. There are some truly touching moments, not just on the part of the human characters, but moments when we see that the zombies aren’t just undead people who need to be re-killed, but instead are former humans who had lives and families.

When the action does happen, it’s gripping and engrossing. There’s real fear for the characters, real worry for them as they find themselves in severe danger. And most of that is down to the way Maberry has introduced them to us, the way he has them laid out and the way we feel for them before they face too much.

Rot And Ruin is a different type of zombie book, one where the zombies are more background than the main monsters, and one in which the quietest moments are the strongest. A great read.

 



casebookI have to admit, I was a little apprehensive going into this. For no other reason than my disappointment from Carrion In The Crow’s Nest. Yeah, I judged the second author based on a completely different author for no other reason than I picked up both books at Scardiff, and they both, I assume, were self-published. But I actually had the chance to talk a little to the author of this one, got the book signed, and was intrigued by the idea. Partly because of my own novel Moonlighting, still working on and which can be found at my Fictionpress page, which centres around a Private Investigator called, of all things, Sam, who ends up working with and for supernatural creatures that enter our world when something goes wrong in theirs. Part of me wanted to see if the two were in any way alike, part of me was just interested because I love supernatural novels.

It’s nothing like Moonlighting. Yay! And, luckily, my fears about the book quickly disappeared.

The Casebook Of Sam Spallucci follows the main character in his first week as an investigator of the paranormal. While trying to solve cases, he often finds himself in tricky situations, but is, lucky, helped out by those around him. Included are stories of a Satanic cult of daytime TV actors, a vampire Sci-Fi geek trying to adjust to his new life and a possible werewolf threat in Lancaster.

The book is, as the name suggests, a collection of the cases that Sam deals with, all split up into their own short stories but connected to each other via the characters and a couple of over-arching mysteries. It feels, almost, like reading a TV series.

There are a few typos, but they are fairly easy to overlook. The voice of Sam is entertaining, even when he seems a little dense at times. The supporting cast, as it were, is made up of Sam’s close friends, and each brings their own charm to the book.

There are a few questions that could have been answered; some people seem to fully accept the paranormal in the book, while others scoff at the idea. It’s hard to tell if the paranormal is something known and accepted in Sam’s world, or something that most people don’t believe in. After all, surely it would be difficult to be a paranormal investigator if most people don’t believe in that sort of thing? It’s a little confusing, and something that Chambers could maybe work on a little more.

Anyway. The Casebook of Sam Spallucci is a fun, entertaining book. It has its faults, but in amongst the drama, horror and Sam’s very likeable voice, the faults are very easy to overlook. Worth reading if you’re looking for something slightly different.



{December 21, 2013}   Darkness [Film]

imagesCATE8IGIIn supernatural horror Darkness (2002), Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) finds herself, and her family, in dangerous trouble, though due to her father’s past, she doesn’t know if this comes from him or from outside sources.

One of the scariest things about this film is how everyone in Spain speaks perfect English, and how the family – despite living in, working in and going to school in Spain – don’t seem to have bothered picking up on any of the language. Seriously, Regina (Paquin) has a Spanish boyfriend/love interest, and you’d think at some point he could maybe say something to her in his native language. Just one scene, maybe a little light-hearted, trying to teach her the language. Or, seeing as the father grew up in Spain, and his father is Spanish, maybe he could use just a little bit of Spanish?

The film wasn’t bad. It was actually kind of enjoyable. The plot was, however, weak in some points, and the decisions made by Regina just make absolutely no sense whatsoever. The acting…okay, with Anna Paquin and Iain Glen – yeah, Jorah Mormont is the anger issues father in the film – I know they can do better acting than what’s seen here. It’s like, in some parts, they’re really not even trying. And Glen just can’t do extreme anger, without it coming across as feeling fake and forced. As for Paquin, until this film I thought some of her acting in True Blood was just her trying to get across Sookie’s simplicity and whatnot. Err, apparently it’s just part of Paquin. Not that I don’t like her, I liked her as Rogue and I like her as Sookie, but does anyone else notice that weird smile thing that she seems to do, when it feels like the character should totally not be smiling?

I still don't understand how these guys fit into anything...

I still don’t understand how these guys fit into anything…

The twist is a little obvious, and the ending…well, feels like I’ve seen it a fair few times, but then again this is over ten years old by now, so maybe when it came out the ending was a little more fresh. Either way, some of the moments that are meant to be scary do kind of jolt you a little. There are typical moments when I felt like screaming why are you doing that? at the screen, and found myself shaking my head at some idiotic decision made by the characters. And, God, the parents are crap. Seriously. Like, your husband has a history of a bad temperament and possibly violence, your youngest child has random bruises that appear in the middle of the night and as a mother, you just…accept it? Say the kid must have done it in his sleep?

Jesus.

Like I said, it was enjoyable. But nothing more. Not a great film and not one I’d suggest going out of your way to watch, but if you’re really stuck for something to watch, you could do worse than Darkness.



zombie(The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology in the US)

As soon as I finished reading this, I went through every author that had contributed and added their books to my to read list. This book is brilliant, a real must for any fan of zombie stories. Every story is unique and different, and the styles really stand out against each other. I finished it on the train, and I was gripping the book so tight to me, completely absorbed in the last story (Twittering from the Circus of the Dead by Joe Hill).

The book opens with Lazarus, by John Connolly, a brilliant take on an old resurrection story. What Maisie Knew, David Liss, shows a world in which zombies are known and common place, where they are used as strippers and servants, and seen as pretty much useful decorations, unless they are pushed into speaking. Closure, LTD, by the brilliant Max Brooks, was the only one I had read before. I was tempted to skip it, but made the right choice and re-read it, feeling the same spine-tingling horror I had the first time around.

This collection is made up of brilliant authors, all bringing their own skills to the table. And it works brilliantly. Each story is completely captivating in its own right, and the tales will still with you in a way that only really well written stories can. Even though they’re short,  the characters will draw you in right in, make you feel everything they feel, and more. It’s one of the few books I’ve picked up this year that left me completely in awe.

In case you can’t tell, I loved this book. Mainly because each story has a completely different take on zombies – they are not all apocalypse stories, and none of them feel similar in any way. Even the zombies themselves are different in each story. So yeah, if you love zombie fiction and want something you can really bite your teeth into, check this out.

 



carrionCarrion In The Crow’s Nest tells the story of Jane, a former horror writer who now writes stories for kids. Jane has a good life, with a husband and two children. But her past haunts her, the abuse she suffered still has lingering effects on her and her world. One day, she finds a novel in the post titled Carrion In The Crow’s Nest, and as she reads, she realises the book is detailing her own life.

The second of the novels I read from Scardiff, I really wanted to like this. I’ve been reading a few self-published/indie published novels since I started this blog, and each and every one was much better than I expected. This, however, was not. Carrion In The Crow’s Nest’s main character is flat and, to be honest, boring. Almost all of the characters felt like that, actually. Like 2D cut outs, put in there just as plot devices rather than bringing anything solid to the story. Jane herself suffers from a phobia of schools, and Stanford makes a huge deal out of this when it shouldn’t be the most interesting aspect about her. Even her love of horror feels flat, put in there simply so she comes across as a horror author.

The plot itself contains one major twist, and again, it’s literally just a plot device. There’s no hints towards the presence of this character, no subtle signs towards it at all, which makes it feel like it was thought of as the book was coming to a close, like the author just realised towards the end that they had to make the author of the novel a surprise. It really didn’t work.

On top of all that, the book is riddled with typos. It’s also written in the past tense. Now, don’t get me wrong, some people can pull that off. Some. But it’s very difficult and in this book, it makes things a lot worse. And yeah, the typos. The writing didn’t flow well, it was awkward to read and difficult to get through. A lot of it also didn’t make sense, the scenes were jumpy and jarring, going from one thing to another way too quickly. No suspense or tension either, which is kind of a must in a plot like this. The book could really do with an editor. (Or, at least, a better one if there was an editor involved)

Saying that, I am going to give Scott Stanford another chance. Mainly because I picked up another of his books (there was an offer on getting both of them), without realising it was actually a sequel. So, we’ll see. Maybe, just maybe, the other books will be a bit better.

Skip Carrion In The Crow’s Nest. It’s really, unfortunately, not worth the time.



et cetera