Guess Who Won the Zombie Week Giveaway?

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

If you answered LinBee, you were correct!

I’ve said it several times but Zombie Week was about a million times more entertaining and interesting than I expected. I got behind on comments and hope I catch up but if I failed to respond, it’s just because I’m stupid busy at the moment. I also have a list of new zombie authors a mile long and there will be a second Zombie Week if enough of those titles turn out to be truly odd in any manner (I’m thinking the Star Trek/zombie crossovers people recommended are going to be a winner).

Thanks again, all you zombie-lit readers!

Zombie Week is over!

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Wow, that went fast! I really enjoyed it and hope some of the new names who came to visit stick around for some of my non-Zombie discussions in the future. All of the recommendations I received over the course of this week have pretty much ensured there will be a Zombie Week II at some time in the future.

Noodle, doing what he does
I will announce the winner of the book drawing on Monday. Until then, Noodle sez, “Aim for the head. It’s the only way to take them down.”

Dust by Joan Frances Turner

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Dust

Author: Joan Frances Turner

Type of Book: Fiction, horror, zombies

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It’s not wholly odd but it’s inventive and it was a great life-saver for me when I realized the zombie-western I wanted to review was too short for me to have much to say about it.

Availability: Published by Berkley Publishing in 2010, you can get a copy here:

Comments: We have reached the final day of my first Zombie Week and I can’t thank all of you enough for making this a fun, instructive and interesting experiment for me. I have dozens of new authors on my radar due to the excellent recommendations people have shared, I’ve learned much about zombies and I’ve met some pretty cool people. Thanks to everyone who commented to my entries and contributed their love of the genre.

And today is the last day to comment in order to win the five books I am giving away. Here’s how you enter the contest to win all five books:
–Leave a comment on any of the Zombie Week discussions.
–You can enter up to five times by leaving a comment on all five of the Zombie Week entries.
–Only one comment per entry will count. So if you comment 50 times in one entry, you’ve only entered once.
–Alternately, you can leave one comment on all five entries at any time you want, as long as you make all comments by 9:00 pm CST on Friday, 4/1/11.

I bought Dust because regular IROB reader, Anton, suggested it. I was in a book store, saw it on the shelf and bought it with Anton’s recommendation in mind. It sat in a stack of books in my bedroom until last week. I was thisclose to canceling Zombie Week because I ended up with problems with two of the books I had planned to discuss. I picked up Dust, not knowing a damn thing about it other than Anton liked it and was happy, happy, happy it turned out to be about Zombies. So I booked it and got it finished in time. Anton and Dust saved Zombie Week. Yay.

There is a blurb for this book and I don’t remember who said it, but it says to the effect that with this book, Turner has done for zombies what Anne Rice did for vampires. Initially I thought that was utter bullshit, but then I thought about it and it may be right. Before Rice, did anyone tell the story of vampires from the mind of the vampire? There may have been some outliers here and there but until Rice, I am unsure if the story of the vampire from the vampire’s perspective was typical. The only other person I can think of at the time who presented the vampire’s perspective in a manner invoking sympathy for the devil was Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and I am unsure who technically got there first, but for better or worse, Rice is definitely credited with giving us the mind of the vampire in a manner that influenced just about every vampire writer since.

And since I have not read nearly enough zombie novels, I don’t know if there are others out there that give us a look into the mind of a zombie, but if there are, then they are in pretty good company with Turner’s Dust. In Dust, Turner really has created not only a zombie culture wherein zombies have personal identities, but has also combined several mythos in order to create her zombies. People die and rise from the dead. The zombies rot but they take years to do it, even centuries, becoming bug-filled, nasty, shambling messes. Eventually the zombies dry out as their flesh and viscera are eaten away, falling to dust. An elderly zombie sounds more like an unwrapped mummy to me. These zombies rise from the grave with sharpened teeth, pointed in a way that reminded me of vampires more than anything else. And these zombies are able to communicate with each other telepathically, which is important because tongues and throats rot away. Unless a zombie turns to dust from old age, they can also be killed if their brains are stomped more or less into oblivion. The condition cannot be spread by bites. It simply happens because of a specific plot device in the book, and anyone can become a zombie when dead. And there is an apocalypse but it would be hard to call it a zombie apocalypse.

Jack’s Magic Beans by Brian Keene

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Jack’s Magic Beans

Author: Brian Keene

Type of Book: Novella, short story collection, extreme horror, zombies (kind of)

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: There are some scenes in this book that classify as extreme horror, which I always consider odd when compared to mainstream tastes.

Availability: Published by Deadite Press in 2011, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Let me begin Day Four of Zombie Week by reminding everyone that I am giving away a free copy of every book I discuss this week to one lucky reader. That’s right – five books, one box, you could totally strike it book-rich. How do you enter to win? Easy as pie. Just leave me a comment on any of my Zombie Week book discussions. If you want to increase your chances to win, leave me a comment on each of the five book discussions. I count each comment each day as a separate entry, with a maximum of five chances to win. All you have to do is make all those five comments (or two of four or however many) by 9:00 pm CST, 4/1/11.

Now, let me begin this discussion by saying outright that this book very likely cannot be considered a zombie book by purists, and even I, a zombie novice, am reluctant to call the characters in Jack’s Magic Beans anything but berzerkers. If you have read One Rainy Night by Richard Laymon, you might consider its rain-demented characters to be very similar to the violence-bound, utterly mad characters in Keene’s novella. People acted upon by an unseen force become unspeakably violent, and while the character motivations and victim/hero situations are different, that was one of the best references I could think of in trying to explain the lunatic berzerkers in Keene’s novella.

Why did I read this and include it, then? Well, couple of reasons, really. I had Zombie Week planned out for about a month in advance, only to realize that one of the books I had selected was so short and shallow that, even in my most verbose state, I would have to pad a 200 word discussion. Okay, replaced it at the last second with another book. Then I went online to buy the copies I am giving away and realized the Keene book I wanted to discuss, The Rising, is out of print and I needed to read something else fast or I would be screwed. I had a copy of Jack’s Magic Beans on hand already, so I just decided to go with it. I do these “weeks” for my own benefit, so don’t imbue much nobility in what I am about to say, but I infinitely prefer it if my efforts here produce sales for the authors whose work I discuss. That won’t happen with The Rising because of Keene’s travails with Dorchester Press/Leisure Books, which have made for horrific reading in and of themselves.

If I discussed that very excellent zombie book of Keene’s, a book that is most decidedly a zombie book, he wouldn’t have received a cent if anyone bought it, and he wouldn’t have received a penny if I managed to find a new copy for my giveaway. Worse, there is every likelihood a e-book sale could in some manner enrich Dorchester Press because despite restoring his copyright, even for electronic books, Leisure Books still continue to sell his e-books illegally across various venues. Keene is not the only author who has been exploited by Dorchester. In fact, Brian Keene got his rights returned to him in exchange for unpaid royalties and yet Dorchester continues to sell works they no longer own the rights to. Because of this, I will not purchase another new book or e-book released by Dorchester Press or any of its imprints and I urge others to do the same. I generally do not participate in boycotts because it all too often only hurts those who can least afford it. But this time, it’s pretty clear that those at the bottom, the authors themselves, will not be receiving any money anyway. Dorchester’s been stiffing their writers since 2008 and any money given to the press cannot be relied upon to make it into the writers’ pockets. This is one of those boycotts where the people who get hurt are going to be hurt either way, and in such a case, why give the company a dime?

Much of the recent news of Dorchester’s wrong-doings came out after I decided just to discuss berzerkers under the wide banner of zombies, because as I perversely maintain, my site, my judgment call, but it also felt good to do this one little thing to help out an author whose work is excellent and who, by my own personal experience, is a good man. Yes, I met Brian Keene and if he remembers it, it is because he either feared for his well-being or just has an excellent memory.

The Vegan Revolution… with Zombies by David Agranoff

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: The Vegan Revolution… with Zombies

Author: David Agranoff

Type of Book: Fiction, horror, zombies

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It’s published by an Eraserhead imprint and while not odd in the vein of complete bizarro, there are enough odd elements in this book that I likely would have discussed it here whether or not Zombie Week happened.

Availability: Published by Deadite Press in 2010, it’s available but wait about a month or so to get a copy, and I will explain the reason for this recommendation.

Comments: Okay, let me get site business out of the way. I am giving away a copy of all five books I am discussing for Zombie Week and one lucky reader will get a chance to win all five of them. All you have to do to enter the drawing to win all five books is to leave me a comment on any of the five Zombie Week discussions. If you want to increase your chances of winning, leave a comment on all five entries. And while only one comment per day per entry will count as an entry to win the books, please leave more comments if the spirit moves you. I rather have enjoyed the comments and conversations that have taken place over the course of Zombie Week.

Now that the site business is out of the way, let me get two unpleasant points out of the way as well. First, this book discusses veganism. It discusses it earnestly while having the social, ethical and emotional honesty to poke fun at and satirize elements of vegan beliefs. But it has been my experience that there are a certain subset of people in this world who read the word vegan, remember That One Time a Vegan Yelled at Me For Eating a Hamburger, and start frothing at the mouth, typing in all caps, posting pics of mutilated animals and behaving like a complete asshat. As a failed vegan whose failure is not the diet but rather that I am a complete headcase, there is nothing anyone can say that I haven’t heard before nor is there any abuse anyone can hurl that won’t already be familiar. I will say that should such behavior start, I will let words stand (no pictures and if you post any you are a terrible person and even your dog knows it). If you are particularly egregious, I will be tempted to post your IP address so a couple of my more paranoid readers can track you down so the rest of us can send you tofu and vegan hotdogs via e-mail. We might slut shame your goldfish. We might even laugh at your socks. None of that seems threatening? No shit, Sherlock, and neither will any attempts to mock vegans. It’s all so dumb, so rise above, okay?

Second, the reason I did not link to the book and recommend waiting a month to get a copy is because this was one of the worst edited books I have ever read. Hands down, it wins the prize, and the problems so abundant and at times over-the-top that if I even attempt to discuss them, readers would think I was either engaging in hyperbole or assholish behavior. I contacted the publishers to ask them a generic, “What the hell, OMG?” and I have it on very good authority that the book is going to undergo a pretty substantial edit and that it should be complete in a few weeks. The editing issues are so bad I would not recommend anyone buy this book until Deadite gives the all clear that it has been cleaned up. Be sure to check back because when that happens, I will update with a link to buy it.

That also means that the person who wins this contest will get four books sent immediately and one book to follow – the contest winner will definitely get a clean copy when it is ready.

Now for the book. Aside from the editing problems, it was clear to me that Agranoff is still a green writer. He has a great ear for dialogue but has a tendency to make all his characters laugh a lot, even when it seems inappropriate. Worse, there’s a lot of giggling going on (am I the only one who thinks a sober, male character who giggles is probably a serial killer, or do others just not find the concept of giggling as creepy and annoying as I do). His characters also point and shake their heads a lot. Not sure what that was about – probably just one of those writer-crutches that a good editor shines a light on and makes disappear. I mention all of this now because with the editing issues that will soon be fixed, that’s all I have to criticize about this book.

Seriously. It’s been a while since I read a book that, editing issues aside, got every damn thing right. Agranoff’s book is clever, satirical, gross, touching, sad, and filled with more pop cultural references than you can shake a stick at. Music, movies, hipsters, Juggalos, books, vegan culture, non-vegan culture. This book is a near perfect example of the saying that sarcasm is the body’s natural defense against stupid, or, in the case of one character, mindless regurgitation of useless pop culture trivia is the best defense against awkward situations.

This book also employs the most traditional use of zombies of all the story-oriented books I will discuss this week. The agent that causes zombie-ism makes people die and come back from the dead. The transition from life to death is slow but the living are sick, and then the next moment, they are zombies. They are brainless, driven only by the impulse to attack non-zombie humans. They tend to arrive in packs but they are not organized – they don’t have the mental capacity for it. These zombies are driven so exclusively by impulse that they no longer know how to climb, how to open doors, how to escape from the buildings many of them died inside. These are creatures that can also eventually starve to death if they don’t have access to fresh humans. The way these zombies came to exist precludes the already dead rising from the grave – if you weren’t alive when the agent struck, you won’t come back.

I had an interesting conversation with the guy over at Bitterly Books in an e-mail exchange. He made an intriguing point – that the zombie tale is essentially one of exile, of a person being isolated from their own society. In the abstract, I think that’s a good way to look at this book – people who were self-exiled in the normal world find themselves the last people on Earth, and even then, some were still isolated and exiled as the world struggled to redefine itself. There are times when I wonder if I am reading too much into books, especially books from branches of the bizarro tree, but then I generally think I am on track, and I feel pretty strongly that this book is quite layered, telling a specific story and relating a specific message even while it entertains us with zombies.

Here’s a plot synopsis: Dani works for Fulci House Press, where she is editing Of Mice and Men… and Zombies. Despite the fact that her zombie-fanatic boyfriend Magik pulled strings to help her get the job, she is sick of zombies within days of starting work, even though Magik plays her his favorite zombie movies in an attempt to draw her in. At a hipster “Bacon Night” at a Portland club, Dani has an awakening and decides to become vegan and Magik joins her, just in time because Stress-Free Meat is being introduced to the country, debuting in Portland first. Animals bred so that they don’t feel pain, stress, boredom or unhappiness enter the market and consuming those meats cause people to grow more and more sick, feeling flu-ey, turning purplish, growing more and more lethargic until they die and almost immediately reanimate as zombies. The vegans who survived this food armageddon descend upon a vegan mall in Portland and together they squabble, kill zombies, and try to keep their ideals in perspective as they rebuild the world. And oh yeah, they do their best to find the best soundtrack to blast while blowing away zombies.

I very nearly stopped reading this book because of the editing issues and I am so glad I kept on because the errors were repetitive enough that I could get used to them and enjoy the story anyway. And there was much to enjoy. Agranoff has a way with dialogue that reminded me of earlier Stephen King works. He is a dedicated vegan in real life but is acutely aware of and clearly sees the the humor in the various factions that make up the vegan community. He also is immersed in all sorts of elements of pop culture, cleverly lampooning the …with Zombies series of books, fans of Insane Clown Posse, and the more negative elements of hipster culture.

I think some of my appreciation for Agranoff’s skills as a writer come from his characterization of Dani. In order to poke fun at vegans and hipsters and Juggalos, those characters must be painted with a broader brush. There isn’t going to be a lot of truth in the obese, chain-smoking Juggalo mom or the stinking, trash-digging freegan who will eat anything he finds in a dumpster, or the strident animal-liberation vegan who feels that shooting zombies is unethical. But there is some truth to be had in Dani.

Dani is an interesting character. I both liked her and was irritated by her. I understood all too well the nausea that comes when one is surrounded by bacon (and I don’t really mind that hipsters dig bacon so much – I have my own theories about hipsters and why they like bacon but that has little to do with this review so I will just shut up about that topic). Having grown up in the South, there were times I could smell bacon in my hair and clothes after a family breakfast and there is no force that will ever make me eat pig again. It’s a visceral reaction when that happens, when a food you have eaten your entire life suddenly disgusts you, and Agranoff very neatly set up this visceral disgust before animal rights veganism is really a plot point in the book. This read as utterly true to me.

Dani hates her job. Yes, most of us would be very happy to be an editor at a press, even one that is as jaded culturally as many consider the press that brought the …with Zombies franchise into the literary landscape. I think we’ve all had that experience – a friend with an enviable job who finds their work day tiresome. Her co-workers are for the most part disgusting or annoying and Dani hates them all. But even as they irritate the everloving hell out of her, Dani is not a nasty person. She loathes her hipster and freegan coworkers, but when one of them seems like she is in jeopardy, she reacts with alarm. Sally eats McDonalds every day, sometimes twice a day, and she’s become slower in speech and movement until she is… wait for it… practically a zombie. Perhaps no one else noticed how sick Sally was because they were all ill themselves. But Dani notices and tries to help reason with Sally that maybe her fast food diet is having a negative effect, all to no avail.

And while I wonder how much this element of the book will resonate with non-foodies or omnivores, I especially appreciated the satirical spears Agranoff throws at Michael Pollan, Pete Singer, Ingrid Newkirk and Gary Francione… I mean Professor Francione. With the exception of Singer (whom I just always found a little… I don’t know… uninspiring?), the rest of these people are not wholly bad, but each comes with a set of problems that have made reflecting one’s political beliefs through food choices and activism difficult. Pollan’s message is ultimately elitist and shows a false concern for animals that will ultimately be killed and eaten, Newkirk has been discredited by the insane and often offensive PETA ads, and I have to suspect that every person who hates vegans loathes them because they tangled with one of Professor Francione’s fanatical acolytes. That Agranoff is willing to dissect veganism and show it, warts and all, means a lot where his sincerity is concerned. That most of it is funny helps and that “Sanger,” Agranoff’s pseudonym for Pete Singer, is one of the first to become a zombie, was one of the best parts of the book.

I was torn over some of the dialogue in some places but then I had to just remember that half the people I know would likely sound the same. Take this exchange, which I hope does not give away too much of the plot:

“Today is a good day to die.”
“Stop it,” Dani shook her head. “We don’t know that yet.”
Bru-Dawg whispered to Mark, “Dude. Who quotes Klingons when they’re dying?”
“It’s an old Native American saying,” Mark whispered back.
“No, I was quoting Klingons,” Magik said.
“See,” Bru-Dawg shook his head. “Nerd.”

I live with a nerd-geek hybrid who shares a birthday with Leonard Nimoy. We will have this conversation, I suspect, when the zombie apocalypse finally comes.

Here’s another section, that seems sort of glib but on second thought is pretty hilarious to me. The worst has happened and the zombie apocalypse has begun and a group of people are at a vegan supermarket in a vegan strip mall. But not all who are in the store are actually vegans. There are a handful of raw foodists, who drank raw milk from Stress-Free cows, and some freegans, including Dani’s gross coworker. One of the store owners shoots Freddy the Freegan in the head, a smart move as Freddy had just turned. But Freddy’s friend remains.

Dani turned her eyes toward Freddy’s other freegan friend. He stood now and walked toward them with his mouth open. Mark pointed his Glock at the freegan zombie. Samantha appeared in the doorway. Emily blocked her from coming in the back room.
“You don’t want to see this, Sam,” Emily pleaded with her as she held her back.
“Stop. Violence doesn’t solve anything!” Samantha screamed.
“I disagree.” Mark pointed the Glock at Freddy’s mostly headless body. “I think it solves the Freegan problem quite nicely.”

And though this is funny to me (and hopefully to others), it also sets up the final struggle, which is not with the zombies, but how the surviving vegans will organize themselves and find a way to live in the world they always wanted and that they finally now have, though none of them would have seen the price the world had paid in human death to be worth it. The last 20 pages of the book are both heartbreaking and inspiring.

But let me tell you this. As much as I found Agranoff’s characterization spot-on, his insight into zombie, hipster, and pop culture to be trenchant and hilarious, and as interesting as the struggle with the zombies was, the best parts of this book were the tests at the end of each chapter. Here are a couple of examples:

Mike Poland would eat a human baby if:
A) It was locally produced.
B) It had not been given growth hormones.
C) A prayer was said thanking the baby for its sacrifice.
D) All of the above.

I guess you sort of have to dislike Michael Pollan for that to seem funny but to me, it was quite amusing.

Or take this one:

The only reason a cow would be on a desert island would be:
A) Some idiot human put him/her there.
B) To prove without a shadow of a doubt that humans being vegetarian is impossible.
C) To film an episode of Lost.
D) To get away from humans.

Okay, indulge me, but here’s one more:

At this point Sally should:
A) Eat her breakfast.
B) Get some rest.
C) Have a drink.
D) Be shot in the head immediately.

These tests are a litmus test of a sort. If, like me, you are enough of a dork that you think this was all very funny, you need to read this book.

So, what we have here is a novel in which traditional zombies do traditional things, like mindlessly attack the living for sustenance and then get shot in their heads. We have a couple of well-developed characters who contrast nicely with some humorous social stereotypes. We have a funny novel with lots of nasty gore of people slowly dying, zombies both undead and finally dead, and the horror of animal husbandry. We have the gut pleasure of watching the apocalypse from the sidelines as the worst happens, people get their guns, establish control and assert their morality as best they can. But we also have a novel that is just a nightmare in terms of editing, and take my word – do not buy a copy until it has been updated, but again, I have it on very good authority that it will be fixed up sooner rather than later. But once that happens, I think the mass of the zombie fans who have showed up here would enjoy the hell out of this book, and I think my regular readers would find this odd and off-beat enough to be worth reading. I also hope some of you zombie fans become regular readers, too. The conversations here and the book recommendations I have received have made me very happy I decided to soldier ahead with Zombie Week.

Now comment so you can enter to win the five books I am giving away, and be sure to come back tomorrow. I will be discussing a book wherein the zombies are probably berzerkers, but there’s a good reason I didn’t review this author’s awesome book that is both indisputably about zombies and awesome. Luckily, this book is also awesome, even though it wanders off the path of true zombies, so don’t miss out.

Dead Bitch Army by Andre Duza

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Dead Bitch Army

Author: Andre Duza

Type of Book: Extreme horror, zombies, fiction

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: This is one that would have been discussed here whether Zombie Week happened or not. It’s a strange book and it’s published by an Eraserhead imprint.

Availability: Published by Deadite Press in 2005, you can get a copy here:

Comments: First, let’s get my site business out of the way. This is Zombie Week and there are five free books to be won by a single, lucky reader. How do you enter the contest to win the five books I am discussing this week?
1) Leave me a comment on any of the five Zombie Week book discussions.
2) You can increase your chances of winning by leaving a comment on all five discussions because each comment on each entry counts as an entry to win the books. Only one comment per entry counts, but that still means you will increase your chances of winning if you comment each day.
3) There is no time frame on when you must comment except to say that you must have all your comments posted by 9:00 pm CST on 4/1/11. So if you wait until the last minute or don’t get wind of Zombie Week until the last minute, you can leave comments whenever you like as long as you make them all by the end of the contest cut-off.

Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Now to the book. Dead Bitch Army is an excellent follow up to Monday’s zombie offering because it violates, alters and subverts the zombie canon. Duza’s book may cause purists to argue over his use of zombies (or rather one zombie), but fans who love a good, nasty tale of revenge, blood, guts and just plain nastiness will love this book.

I am torn, and this is one of those reviews that I hate giving because there is nothing worse for me than seeing the amazing potential of a book, recognizing clear talent, but feeling as if the potential was not realized and the talent needed a bit of redirection. There is also nothing worse than damning a writer with faint praise so let me just state plainly what didn’t work in this book and what did.

Brief plot summary: Natasha Armstrong has been tracking the Dead Bitch, a woman named Mary Jane Mezerak, also known as Bloody Mary, and her small but creepy collection of hangers-on for years. She believes the Dead Bitch Army kidnapped her son, and after years of brutal entanglements, Natasha is framed for some of the Dead Bitch Army murders and ends up in prison. She is exploited by a reporter, a sort of dogpatch Barbara Walters named Linda Ludlow, who is later shown in an extremely brutal way that Natasha, “Tasha,” was not deranged and that she especially was not a murderer. Linda helps Tasha break out of prison and Tasha confronts the Dead Bitch Army at a gothic gathering on New Years Eve, 1999. The confrontation does not go as planned, and the end of the book is both sad, sobering and a good set up for a sequel.

Now, in terms of zombies, Mary is not a zombie Dr Dale would recognize. She does not attack people to eat them, though her clan does eat the bodies. She does not use her mouth as a weapon. Rather, her murders are for revenge, though some appear to be the result of just the desire to mindfuck because she is a deranged, otherworldly creature. She is very much capable of higher thought, as she organizes and runs her small army, uses weapons and, of course, is fueled by vengeance. She did die, and came back from the dead for reasons that are not entirely clear to me (and more on that in a moment), so in that she is a typical zombie. And while she is rotting and eventually may fall to pieces, her rot has been slow and she seems more mummy-like, with bones protruding from dry skin, and tissue like fragile silk falling away from her face. Of all the novels I discuss this week, this one presents the least amount of zombie for your buck, and we end up understanding far more about Tasha, Linda, and Mary’s ex-husband than we do about Mary herself. I am unsure if that is a problem, as keeping Mary enigmatic is sort of creepy, but keeping so much of that information from the reader makes it hard to really understand the point behind Mary needing the army or her desire to see the world end. We get tantalizing clues, but none of it ever pans out in terms of cold, hard explanation.

There are many instances wherein I wanted to just find Andre Duza’s phone number and call him up and ask him to explain. Here are some plot issues I had:
–Mary’s father was a high priest in a religion called the Church of 1000 Earthly Delights, an “Ergeister” religion and her father inculcated Mary in tales of violence, hexes, and Armageddon, and so we get a sense of where she gets her desire for revenge and her desire to see the world end. The church is mentioned also as the place where Mary met her right hand man, Griff, a telepath. So the church is important but it is never explained why. The beliefs of the church, how it might be linked to Mary rising from the dead set on vengeance, are never explained aside from a sort of primal anger that her ex-husband lived while she and their unborn child died. If her rage is something no one is expected to understand, there are too many potential explanations that go no where.
–Mary died in a fatal accident (and god help me but I don’t recall how she died) when she was pregnant. She was married to a football star, who is not gonna set the world on fire with deep morality but didn’t seem like such a bad guy. But Mary rises from the dead with a rabid desire to track down Carl Mezerak and kill him, which she does in a scene that is quite gory and sickening and will satisfy any gorehound. But why? Why did she hate Carl so much? Carl smokes way too much weed, has a wandering eye and is kind of a cad but I don’t ever see him doing anything to create a need for beyond the grave vengeance. If so, it isn’t supported by the text. So Mary’s deep need for revenge against her husband is odd. Add to it that it took her years, and I mean years, to finally kill Carl, and her psychotic drive for vengeance makes even less sense.
–We find out in the book that Mary and her army wanted Natasha to follow them. Griff, whose mind can alter reality for an entire crowd of people, implanted ideas in Tasha’s head, letting her know where they would be. Why? Why did they need this one woman, who is not believed, to follow them for years? Mindfuck? If so, that was one of the more pointless mindfucks I have ever read.
–There are political side plots that, in my opinion, sap the Dead Bitch of her power, or at least the implied power that I assume is there because of the strange church and her unrelenting violent tendencies.
–There are so many peripheral characters with deeply interesting but truncated stories that it’s hard to know if you are meant to absorb their part of this book because it is going to be important later or if it is just a throwaway with a tiny bit of relevant information. This is all the more distracting and disconcerting because two of those side stories wherein you wonder, “Who the hell is this person, where did he/she come from, and what the hell does any of this mean,” you are also reveling the utter creepiness and nastiness.

It took me much longer to read this book than I would have liked because I, being the sort of person who is certain there is order in the universe, was certain that there was an explanation for all these plot dead ends, that all those characters who popped up with no explanation, that all those asides about the church, Carl and his girlfriend, hallucinations, people kidnapped, a shootout, must play a part in the plot or Duza would not have wasted so much time. So I backtracked and tried to find the link I felt I missed and of course, I never found it. While I am not going to go so far as to recommend that anyone buy and read this book, if you do, I encourage you to handle the book in this manner: Read the parts with Mary, Tasha, Griff, Carl and Linda as the novel. Had I been the editor for this book, all those side plots of the train car going missing, the shootout at the end, the kidnapped people, the girls hiding in the bathroom would have been cut out and run with the last few strange chapters in the book called “The B-sides.” Or I would have cut them and the B-sides out entirely and encouraged Duza to flesh them out slightly and put them in a collection of short stories that were all strangely linked together. So if you read this for the gore and the at times damn excellent writing, just ignore that which is not Mary, Tasha, Linda, Carl or Griff and read the rest later as bonus short stories.

And my common Eraserhead lament of less than stellar editing comes up again. Sorry. I know that many who come for the gore and foulness may not care if a nauseated character “wretches” and frankly, as I also always say, mistakes happen. They happen. Even in the best edited books released by the largest publishers who have tons of money to pay lots of copy editors. But this one was really problematic because there weren’t just usage issues. Sentences ended in the middle and never picked up again anywhere else. Words in the middle of paragraphs were missing the first letter. There were spacing issues that defied any logic as to why a human being didn’t catch them and, frankly, these problems were distracting.

But there are some reasons why you might want to read this book about a Dead Zombie Bitch and her army of freaks and their quest to bring about the end of the world so they can rule the Earth. First, it is a book wherein a completely different kind of zombie rampages. She is in complete control of her faculties, despite the violence that dominates her mind. She doesn’t shamble. She moves in stop motion. She isn’t mindlessly attacking people for food. She may eventually eat her kills but for Bloody Mary, the confusion and terror she creates, the sort of theater she produces around her kills, is the point of the hunt. She is rotting slowly, but very slowly, reminding me more of an undead, demented Miss Havisham more than she reminds me of anything you will see in a Romero movie. There is something very Biblical to her rage and there is something very Victorian to her rot. She died and came back for reasons that are not entirely clear to me but she is a mythos unto herself. When you read this book, for all its flaws you will not be reading anything derivative.

Second, despite the fact that the book often read like a short story collection got spliced into a novel, within the totality of each story, side story and character, Duza creates interesting characters, creepy situations, unsettling scenarios and some outright terrifying, disgusting prose. I won’t spoil the plot points of what happens to Linda Ludlow, but the way she is finally shown that Tasha is not a delusional spree killer is absolutely sickening, a profoundly disturbing scene. For those who want a fix of nasty, this scene may be worth the price of admission.

But there are other examples of some very good writing. That Duza can write horrific content this well is one of the reasons I didn’t dismiss the book as I muddled through the plot. Take this section where Mary has finally attacked Carl, finding him in the middle of kinky sex with a new girlfriend.

The second blast blew Sharlene’s head apart. The bulk of it ended up all over Carl’s face and in his mouth. The impact threw the remaining flap of Sharlene’s head to the right, where it smacked her shoulder and bounced back. The whole thing happened so fast that poor Sharlene never knew what hit her.


Tightening her hand around the sawed-off, Mary watched in silent ecstasy as Carl bounced from wall to wall, bound to Sharlene’s body, which twitched uncontrollably. His massive arms worked frantically against Sharlene’s flailing limbs. Her fingers grabbed his face and forced their way in and out of his nose and mouth.

“Git her off me! Git her off-a-me!” Carl kept his face turned as far as he could from Sharlene’s and promised himself that he’d never take another breath, not if it meant tasting one more drop of her saline blood. He pretended not to hear the flatulent bursts that accompanied the blood that oozed from her cranium.

Yeah, this may be the worst conclusion of consensual bondage sex I have ever read. Just the horrific implications of being bound, in mid sex act, to a person who got a shotgun blast in the head and is suffering from pre-death brain flailings, is bad enough. Then add in the fact that the sheer indignity of it all, while horrific, is just a little funny, just makes me uncomfortable, and I like it when I am made uncomfortable.

This is not a case of a writer trying to create a horrific scene and having it verge into the ridiculous. Duza, for all the plot failings in this book, has a tight grip on his characters and on the things they do. His horrific slapstick was intentional, to make the reader feel sort of sick as they fight a small grin. There is another example of this, in one of the subplots that was only tangentially related to the rest of the book. Tasha has taken shelter on the run from the Dead Bitch Army in the basement of a bar, where there is what appears to be the dead body of a young black man, shot by the racist proprietor of the bar after he found his daughter having sex with the young man. A couple of days after being shot, the kid, merely brain damaged, rises and goes after the man who shot him. Joe, the racist dad and tavern owner, has greased back hair, really bad aim, and a series of events set his hair on fire:

He knew that it was all over if he fainted. The flames were halfway down his back. STOP! DROP! AND ROLL, YOU IDIOT!

His mind began to wander as it struggled to overcome the pain and fear, both of which worked together to bring him down. Joe tried his best to get a grip on the situation.

1. Need water.
2. The sink behind the bar is broken. You’ve been doing the dishes in the bathroom for the past week.
3. Gotta find something big enough to… God it hurts so bad… something like a toilet…

Joe broke from his daze and sprinted into the bathroom.

Will Joe get the water he needs? Uh oh, his friend Paul is tripping balls on acid in the bathroom, peeing sitting down, when his friend aflame rushes in.

Paul lowered his head to get a look under the stall door.

“Joe?” Paul said, curious. Paul recognized the worn boots and jeans that Joe wore every day.

Paul smelled charred meat. He was hiking his pants up, preparing to stand, when the stall door flew at him and found his teeth.

And that’s where we leave Joe and Paul and are certain Joe’s likely gonna cook some more.

But there are moments of utter creepiness that don’t invoke humor or even attempt to be anything more than just a look at the delirium of horror that Mary’s army can dish out. Again, not discussing it in depth but the torture scene and the aftermath when Linda learns Tasha was telling the truth all along is an upsetting, repellent, effective scene. But being able to marry such mayhem with a sense of the absurd helps when reading a book like this.

So this is how this zombie book boils down: An atypical zombie, a hardcore woman, has a thirst for vengeance I am unclear about and the narrative is muddled with an often unclear plot and irrelevant characters. However, had an editor cleaned this up, Duza’s prose is excellent and with a buzz-killing hellbeast of an editor keeping his active imagination from running amok, I can see Duza’s next book being sound in all respects. But the interesting thing about this book is that while a zombie is the impetus of the action, she is just one character in a book teeming with characters. She is a force of chaos but in a completely different way than brain-dead but flesh-seeking zombies are. She wants an apocalypse but must rely on political unrest to get it. She is a cult symbol, and not at all feared the way a traditional zombie would be (though that’s a mistake for those who are unlucky enough to meet her). Her goal is not to munch intestines but to lure people into her army. But it’s interesting to me that Duza subverts the paradigm, creating chaos with one zombie rather than a hoard and makes her just one character out of many.

So while I cannot unreservedly recommend this book, I think those who like extreme horror will appreciate this book. I also think that rabid zombie fans who must read all zombie books will want to give this a look. I suspect the casual reader may not find this to their liking. For me, I know Duza has other books out there and at least one appears to be a sequel to this book and I intend to check that book out and see if his writing evolved from this effort (and for new readers, I do my best not to know much about authors who are new to me aside from locating their websites to link to them for this blog and I really do my best never to read any one else’s review of a book before I discuss it here). He showed enough raw talent and an eye for an interesting story that bodes well for later efforts.

Tomorrow, I will discuss a book that takes a traditional approach to zombies, and blends it together with plenty of social commentary, literary criticism and the potential frustrations that will come if the only people who survive the zombie apocalypse are vegans. Don’t miss it!

Dr Dale’s Zombie Dictionary by Dr Dale Seslick

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Title: Dr Dale’s Zombie Dictionary: The A-Z Guide to Staying Alive

Author: Ben Muir

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It is not full-force odd, but this is Zombie Week, dammit, so my criteria for what is unspeakably strange will be a bit more flexible this week.

Availability: Published by Allison & Busby in 2010, you can get a copy here:

Comments: So, Zombie Week begins! And a merry and quite disgusting time will hopefully be had by all, but before we begin, let me get the business out of the way. You see, this time I am doing things a little bit differently. I am still giving out a free copy of every book I will discuss, but this time, there will be only one winner. That’s right! One lucky winner will get all five books. Here are the details about the contest:

–You enter by leaving a comment on any of the Zombie Week discussions.
–You can enter up to five times by leaving a comment on all five of the Zombie Week entries.
–Only one comment per entry will count. So if you comment 50 times in one entry, you’ve only entered once.
–Alternately, you can leave one comment on all five entries at any time you want, as long as you make all comments by 9:00 pm CST on Friday, 4/1/11.

Hopefully that’s clear: One comment per day equals one entry to win, with a max of five entries. But I hope this doesn’t limit people from commenting often because zombies are not my bailiwick and I wanna know what y’all think about these books or zombies in general.

Okay, so I have read a few zombie books in my time and appreciated them in so much as zombies go. I was not a reader who sought out zombie books – I read them mainly because an author I liked was dabbling in zombies or a book I selected in my typical haphazard manner ended up being about zombies. I never “got into” zombies until last fall, when Mr. Oddbooks was all hepped up about a new series on AMC, the television adaptation of The Walking Dead. Not really expecting much, I tuned in with him and found myself thrilled.

I guess I had expected it to be sort of like the zombie equivalent of True Blood, wherein a bunch of unspeakably attractive people and supernatural creatures lead unseemly lives, do lots of stupid things, wander around in a plot that verges on dadaism and then have sex with each other. I really was thrilled watching The Walking Dead. I remember the same, “Holy shit, this is gooood!” feeling I had when I first read Stephen King’s The Stand back when I was but a wee girl. I suspect part of it was the apocalypse, because, of course, most zombie stories are stories about the of the end of the world. But I suspected that there might have been more to it than that.

Zombies are hip right now, and I feel sort of ashamed talking about them here, but at the same time, I had access to some interesting and unlikely books about zombies, so why not? Why not find out if the thrill from watching a television show would translate into books? Also 2009 and 2010 were some really craptacular years for us here at IROB and part of me wondered if maybe the show fed into my latent desire to see the world just crumble into a state wherein I might, potentially, find myself with a shotgun, picking off the shambling corpses of those who so richly deserved it, you know, should the zombie apocalypse happen. I needed to decide if it was the zombies or my nihilistic and borderline psychotic urge to wallow in the end of the world, and maybe it could be both. Who knows?

So I did it. I read five zombie books (well, six, but one was so short that I did not have enough to discuss after reading it) and I was lucky enough to have read Dr Dale’s Zombie Dictionary first because it gave me the grounding to understand zombie canon, because all supernatural monsters have a canon, the thing by which all purists measure the genre, and which must be subverted eventually if the genre is going to survive. But before you can subvert you have to know what entails subversion and this book is an excellent place to get a purist’s look at what zombies are and how a person should respond to them.

Overall, this is a book meant mainly to be a humorous look at how to live through the coming zombie apocalypse. There are moments of outright hilarity but I do have to admit that there are moments of what I call “Dad Humor.” Dad Humor is a benign Family Guy episode, or a Mel Brooks film as interpreted by Jim Carey. Sometimes the jokes go on a bit long and weren’t that funny to begin with and it happens enough to notice but not enough to be a deal killer. Here’s an example of what I mean:

You will not be able to appeal to their better nature or their human side because they will not have one. They will have forgotten it. They will have no memory. But (and it’s a big but) BUT (sorry, there we go. That’s a big but – the other but was just a regular sized but – maybe I should make my point more clearly) BUT (now that’s a big but – and we like big buts, I cannot lie…) even though a zombie may not retain its human memories, it may have subliminal memories of certain aspects of its human existence.

See? Dad Humor. Not egregious, and I dare say some of you may find that sort of thing amusing, but at times, I found it distracting, especially in this passage wherein an important part of zombie canon was discussed – the fact that zombies retain a sort of muscle memory of things they did when alive, but when you see them wandering around the mall, it’s important to remember that they have no idea why they are doing what they are doing and that if your mom becomes a zombie, she may sort of recall your face but will have no idea why that recollection is important and will attack you anyway.

And since a large chunk of my readership is American, you may do some Googling to get some of the references. Not many, and luckily, I saw a Yakult commercial just before I had to find out what word referred to, but there may be handful. Like this reference in the entry for “Parasitic Zombie”:

Can affect both the living and the previously dead as the parasite is only operating the body like a puppet – like Rod Hull used Emu – although Emu didn’t try and kill you… much.

Hint to Americans: Picture Shari Lewis and Lambchop, only Lampchop cannot talk and is completely demented and occasionally attacks people. Hope this helps. I enjoy things like this, finding out the vast differences between The United States and England. We speak the same language, more or less, but they have curry shops and we have Taco Bell. They have demented emu puppets and we have Sesame Street. The cultural variations are staggering.

This book was pretty instructive, Dad Humor and intrusive cultural references notwithstanding, in teaching me some essential canonical facts about zombies. Among them:
–Zombies really aren’t interested in brains, contrary to popular opinion.
–There is no cure if a zombie bites you. There is no cure for existing zombies. This is a point that bore much repeating.
–Zombies are monsters and their weapons are their mouths, which is such a manifestly obvious statement that I had to wonder why it seemed so revelatory when I read it.
–One has to have died in order to have become a zombie, which also is a pretty obvious statement and explains why people refused to accept 28 Days Later as a zombie movie. (I still think it’s a zombie movie but I’m also not vested enough to be a purist.)
–The only way a zombie can be killed is to destroy its brain. Which, in my opinion, may have given rise to the idea that zombies somehow need brains in order to survive.

If all of that is obvious to you, chances are you are far more advanced in your study of the genre than I am but as the week progresses, I will be discussing fare that is not so obvious and books that outright subvert the genre, but you gotta walk before you can run.

Overall, this was an amusing, interesting book. Given that it is literally a dictionary of all you need to know about zombies and what you will need to do to survive the inevitable zombie apocalypse, there’s really not much I can discuss outside of just quoting the parts that I found amusing or informative.

Take this snippet from the entry for “Bacteria”:

Should you, however, discover a way in which to destroy all bacteria I implore you – DON’T – Bacteria is also our greatest natural asset in the war against zombies. It is bacteria that makes them rot.

Although this may seem like a rather time-consuming way to defeat the undead, bear in mind that given the right conditions (hotter climate) and with the help of insects, a human body can rot away to just bone in anywhere between 50 and 365 days.

Again, I guess I was operating under the assumption that zombies, when resurrected from their corpse-like repose, sort of get frozen in time and they don’t rot further. Is this rot factor addressed in movies? I’ve mostly only seen a handful of Romero films, but in those it doesn’t seem like the rot-over-time factor is an issue. But then again, I may not have been paying attention. But it is good to know that equatorial Africa and Austin, Texas are the best places to be if one just wants to passively wait out the apocalypse.

But then there are loony sections, wherein we learn which sorts of dancers will be of the most help when the zombies come. Pro tip: Tap dancers are likely going to create too much noise unless they take off their shoes and use them as weapons or are so fleet and nimble that they can tap along and just kick the zombies in the head. Line dancers will be of no use at all.

But in among all the silliness, there are some interesting gems that transcend the sort of Monty Python tone the book sometimes assumes. I, for one, though a zombie tyro, would never have considered the use of drugs in the war against zombies:

There is also the very interesting possibility of using psychotropic drugs as weapons against zombies. Drugs like LSD, Cannabis and Ecstasy are all mind-altering substances which affect the brain. As the brain is the only operating organ in a zombie, would these drugs be useful? Depending on the dosage, it probably wouldn’t kill a zombie but it may disorientate them for a while, giving you a chance to escape (this could be particularly useful when faced with large crowds of the undead).

Dr Dale goes on to discuss the difficulty in administering drugs to the zombies, but it is a tantalizing idea. (And, because I evidently am all that stands between sanity and vocabulary chaos, is “disorientate” really common usage? Is this another quaint difference between the UK and the US? Because part of my intestinal tract dies when I read or hear “conversate” or “disorientate” instead of the plainer but far nicer “converse” and “disorient.” I mean, my opinion on “alright” is well known but it’s in the OED so maybe I should just stop getting my panties in a wad, no?)

One more point, and I realize that this is a strange thing for me to focus on, but for those of you who are deeply into zombies, you may appreciate how this book addresses the meta of the zombie experience. One of the best examples is “Nazi Zombies” and this is gonna be a long quote, but it’s worth it:

…the thought of zombies is quite grim. However, despite this fact, there are still media executives sitting in shiny offices worldwide trying to find ways to make zombies more frightening.

‘Hey,’ one of these executives might say at these meetings. ‘We’ve got a new movie coming out but we need to find a way to make these zombies a bit more terrifying than your average zombies.’

‘How about making them into clowns?’ another executive might suggest.

‘Been done in Zombieland and Left 4 Dead 2,’ someone else would point out. Then they’d all look thoughtful for a moment until one of them bangs his fist on the desk.

‘Got it!’

‘Hey! Bob’s got an idea!’

‘Well – and run with me on this – what’s a really scary thing? You know, totally scarier than anything else you ever thought of?’

‘Your wife first thing in the morning?’ They would then all guffaw and punch each other on the arm and make manly bonding sounds and nudge-wink faces. Once this has subsided the conversation would continue.

‘Go on, Bob, we’re listening.’



‘Zombie Nazis!’

‘Wow, Bob – I think you may have just come up with a winner!’

‘Let’s put it to a focus group!’

‘To hell with a focus group – let’s do it!’

‘Jeez, I feel good – let’s go grab a steak and kill a hooker!’

‘High five!”

This is obviously only an estimation of how the conversation may go and I, of course, have no definitive proof that media executives either eat steak or kill hookers – but my point is (and I do have one): is there any need to make zombies any scarier than they already are?

The fact is that Nazis weren’t really nice people – what with their xenophobia and silly moustaches and all. But if you turn one into a zombie they’re not going to be any different than any other zombie – they are still going to want to kill and bite everyone they see. The only difference between a Nazi zombie and any other zombie is that the Nazi zombie would be wearing a Nazi uniform…

See, I may not know much about zombies, and given this, feel free to snert at me, but this made me very happy because it confirmed my initial “Oh lord!” reaction I had when people in the LiveJournal community ontdcreepy were talking up the movie Dead Snow. It’s actually got pretty good ratings on Amazon and maybe it’s a clever inversion or subversion of the genre but I mostly got Dr Dale’s vibe that it really makes no difference if zombies were Nazis because zombies really can’t spring from the grave and continue as they were when they were alive unless the genre rules are bent. And for all I know, the movie is satire but it was nice to see that even as a novice, some of my initial impulses were backed by an expert.

I think that for a n00b like me, this is an excellent reference. The humor is a little hit or miss for me but mostly it was a hit, the information is expansive and it’s a good way to find out zombie rules before you move on to fare that breaks the rules. I also think that collectors, those who must have all that is zombie-related, should have a copy of this book on their shelves. Frankly, it was also just a fun read because while I comment on the Dad Humor and similar, that’s a pretty damn small criticism, rendered as much in jest as a real problem with the book. So people who just enjoy fun books would like reading this, I think.

And don’t forget, you can potentially win a copy of this book and all the others I discuss this week. Just leave me a comment to this entry and you’re entered to win all five copies. Up your chances to win by leaving a comment to every Zombie Week discussion, with a max of five chances to win. And talk amongst yourselves, please. I want to know what my readers have to think about this genre. You’re a smart, entertaining, twisted bunch of people and I can’t wait to read what you have to say.

Come back tomorrow, because I am following the book that helped me establish the rules with a book that breaks every one of them. Good times!

Zombie Week is coming! Zombie Week is coming!

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

I know things have been quiet here at IROB. I’ve been busy doing all the usual things I do, like steam cleaning the carpets every other day, baking for assorted family members, getting a bone marrow biopsy, and having a complete personality meltdown after a mega dose of Versed. Pretty much a normal March. You know how it is.

But now that the voices in my head have stopped telling me to eat my own hair, I’m back in the saddle and ready to talk odd books, so look for some reviews this week. But mostly you need to look out for Zombie Week, which will begin on 3/28/11.

Now, bear with me, because not all of the zombie books I am going to discuss are full-bore odd. Some are incredibly violent, and some take the definition of what is a zombie to a new place, but these books may push my own admittedly liberal criteria of what is “odd.” But you know, what’s the point of having your own site to discuss books if you can’t do whatever the hell you want from time to time.

Like all my past themed weeks, I will be giving away free books. This time, I am giving away all five books to one winner. All you have to do to enter is to leave a single comment here to any of the Zombie Week reviews. Give me a comment before 9:00 pm CST on 4/1/11 on any entry for Zombie Week and you’ll be entered to win ALL FIVE BOOKS. You can leave as many comments as you want but I will only count one each day, a max of five (5) entries. So that means that if you get into a multi-comment thread discussing whether or not combining zombies and vampires is the best thing ever, only one of those comments will count. But hey, five chances to win a big ol’ box of zombie books isn’t bad. Not bad at all.

So come and comment and comment often, not only because winning five books will be AWESOME, but also because I am a zombie novice. I generally am not one for supernatural monsters (aside from Gary Oldman as Dracula because he righteously owned that role), and this is my first heavy-duty foray into the zombie genre. I wanna know what you think. I want you to recommend books. I did my best to avoid the usual ringers, like all the Max Brooks novels, because I suspect they are mainstream enough that people who read here regularly might e-moon me, but I think I found some excellent books to talk about. So keep your eyes peeled, because Zombie Week is coming!

The books I plan to discuss:
3/28: Dr. Dale’s Zombie Dictionary: The A-Z Guide to Staying Alive
3/29: Dead Bitch Army by Andre Duza
3/30: Vegan Revolution… with Zombies by David Agranoff
3/31: Jack’s Magic Beans by Brian Keene
4/1: Dust by Joan Frances Turner