Zombie Books For The Deadly YA Reader

There is something decidedly fantastically creeptastic about zombie books. I’m basically the lone zombie enthusiast in my family, but they’re all missing out — and you might be too. Which is why I’ve graciously collected a list of zombie novels you should definitely try. Maybe with the lights on, though.

Caution: Brains and dead things ahead.

 

Y A     Z O M B I E     N O V E L S 

 

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  • THE END GAMES: Not only is this one of my all time favourite books, it is an incredible zombie apocalypse tale. It’s about two brothers who are trying to survive (obviously) while dead things want to eat them (obviously). The special twist is the older brother has convinced his 5 year old brother that it’s just a “video game”. It’s mildly heartbreaking and extremely well written.
  • REBOOT: What if being a zombie was a semi-regular occurrence? This one is set in a world were zombies are soldiers and the longer you “were dead” before “rebooting”…the more not-human you are. And besides breaking bones and guns and screaming — there is quite a cute romance between a very emotionally dead zombie girl and a barely zombie adorable boy. This book calls to you, I just know it.
  • SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY: But how about a zombie tale set in the 1800s? Eleanor Fitt is a Proper Lady, and also investigating her brother’s disappearance. She’s cautiously worried about the dead rising and necromancers too — AS IS LOGICAL. It’s a very proper book with tea and scones and the undead.

 

(Apparently zombie covers are either black and red or yellow and black? I’m not complaining! It’s awesome.)

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  • EAT BRAINS LOVE: The title is a parody off “Eat, Pray, Love” and the book is just as ridiculous as the title promises. It’s funny and lighthearted and seriously gross. Basically there’s a zombie outbreak in the high school cafeteria. Jake and an unattainable-beautiful-wonderful-girl are stuck on the run together. It’s hilarious and mildly silly!
  • CONTAMINATED: It is always awkward if your mother is a zombie. This one is set in a world were the zombie outbreak has been “stabilised” and zombies are being returned home to their families. Their brains have basically been zapped and they’re little more than vegetables…leaving devastated families trying to patch their lives back together and look after disabled loved ones. It takes a more serious look at the moral side of being a zombie. And it’s VERY family focused, which is an insta-win for me!
  • THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS: Okay, this is cheating. This is an adult book, not a YA one, but it’s partially narrated by a 10-year-old zombie, so I’m sneaking it onto this list anyway. This is one of my top zombie reads. It’s all about the apocalypse and the fighting — so cue guns blazing and zombies screaming. It’s also very science-y (I confess to getting lost there) and the author does not spare the characters. It’s basically the most EPIC book of them all and then ending had me howling. Go read it.

 

Turns a Popular Genre Completely on it’s Head

9780356502847Review – The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

What a book to kick off 2014! This book totally blew me away from the first page. It is definitely one of those books where the less you know about it the more you are going to enjoy it. So I am going to break my review into two parts: Spoiler free and Spoilerific.

What makes genre fiction so popular is the rules and lore past writers have created and passed on. Readers get to know and appreciate all the tropes, major and minor, and new writers get to play around with these rules, bending, braking, changing them as they see fit. Sometimes these changes don’t work or go too far but every now and again somebody changes a genre completely. Which is what M.R. Carey has done in The Girl With All The Gifts. He has taken a popular genre and turned it completely on it’s head. In doing so he not only breathes in fresh air but he has brought a whole new perspective to a very familiar scenario.

The book opens with 10-year-old Melanie. She is sitting in a cell waiting for the Sergeant who is going to strap her to a wheelchair and take her, under guard, to her classroom where she will learn about the world with the other children. Something has happen to the outside world and Melanie and her classmates might be humanity’s only hope.

If you loved The Passage you will love this even more, grab a copy now. If you want to know a bit more (spoiler warning) scroll a bit further down

SPOILER ALERT [you have been warned]

This a cross between The Passage, The Walking Dead and 28 Days/Weeks/Months/Years Later. Not only does M.R. Carey (Mike Carey) completely flip the zombie genre but he also brings more humanity to the genre than anyone else I can think of. Set in England, it has been 20 years since the ‘Breakdown’ which has nearly wiped humanity out (you know the drill). ‘Hungries’ roam the countryside and control the cities.

Scientists have been trying to figure out what has caused the infection, if it even is an infection, with no luck. But ten children seem to hold the answer. They aren’t like the other hungries: mindless, feeding machines. They are cognitive. However when they get the scent of food, in particular humans, their infected natures come to the surface. These children are part of a last ditch study to try and find a vaccine or even antidote.

The book is told mainly from Melanie’s perspective and she captures and breaks your heart in equal measure. The strength of Carey’s writing is in his characters and as we get to know the people around Melanie; her teacher, the Sergeant, the doctor in charge; we (and they) learn about what it truly means to be human. At the same time Carey keeps the story moving at a perfect pace. Not only are the the hordes of hungries an ever present threat but feral humans known as ‘junkers’ also put the vital research being done at risk. But the biggest threat is time itself which is running out.

The other part I really loved about the book is the science behind the hungries. Zombie stories have toyed with many different explanations, mainly virus or bacteria infection spread through blood or saliva (see biting). Nearly all zombie explanations rely to some extent on either a supernatural element or a slight (or major) suspension of scientific belief. Carey takes a different tack and uses elements already present in nature, namely fungi. The way this scientific element is woven into the story is the icing on an already incredible the cake.

Buy the book here…

If you are growing weary with The Walking Dead this is the boost you need.

Book Review – World War Z

9780715643099After watching the film, and being pleasantly surprised, despite all the production/screenplay problems it was rumoured to have had, I thought I should check out the original.

The movie was a welcome change from the slow (slow) burn of The Walking Dead and even though the book’s zombies were back to the more traditional shambling zombies the scope of the book was also refreshing from the, bordering on tedious, Walking Dead.

The book is told as an oral history, very similar to many of the military history books I love. The “author” has been writing a report for the UN on the Zombie War but hasn’t been able to included many of the personal stories he encountered while researching his official report. The book is therefore the “history book” of the war.

The ‘author’ interviews people from all around the world and who have all had various experiences during the war. We hear from soldiers, doctors, divers, politicians, civilians. We learn how the zombie plague spread and how the world reacted to it. Brooks brings some really interesting ideas to the zombie genre. I especially loved the military reaction. Conventional weapons and tactics proved ineffectual and had to change. The big one being it was impossible to instill fear against a brainless, undead horde. The way Brooks demonstrates all the different worldwide reactions is fascinating and makes for compelling reading.

9780804165730I highly recommend the audio version which is done with an all-star cast including Max Brooks himself as the narrator.

If you are growing weary with The Walking Dead this is the boost you need.

Buy the book here…

Buy the audio here…

Zombies and Darth Vader

I love picture books! I have a four-year-old, so I reads LOTS of picture books to her. But I also read picture books for my own pleasure. And I want to tell you about two rather unusual ones that I LOVE!

Zombies! They’re the in thing, aren’t they? Everybody seems to love ‘em. People even like to dress up like them. It seems like every state in this country has an annual zombie walk. Now, zombies are usually scary. Sometimes they can be funny as well (think Shaun of the Dead). Recently, they’ve also been romantic — case in point: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. But a picture book about zombies?

Zombies Hate Stuff is a picture book, written and illustrated by Greg Stone. And it is BRILLIANT! Basically, this book is a series of lists divided into 4 sections: “Zombies Hate…”, “Zombies Don’t Mind…”, “Zombies Really Hate…” and “Zombies Love…”. Each list item has its own page and its own highly amusing picture. So, by reading this book, you can discover that zombies hate kittens, but they don’t mind mimes; they really hate bagpipes, but they love… Well, there’s only one item in this last section and I’m not about to spoil the surprise. 🙂

Despite the gruesome subject matter, the illustrations are cute and never gory.

Zombies Hate Stuff is a really cool book!

So is Darth Vader and Son, written and illustrated by Jeffrey Brown. Okay… so you have to be a Star War fan to like this book. But who isn’t? 🙂

This book is a series of scenes from a Star Wars reality that never was. A “what if?” scenario in which Darth Vader raises his son, Luke Skywalker, (OMG… I hope I haven’t just spoiled The Empire Strikes Back for anyone.) and engages in a bit of father-and-son bonding. They play baseball with a lightsaber, they go trick-or-treating with Luke as a stormtrooper (“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”) and they visit the garbage compactor aboard the Death Star. The illustrations are cartoonish and very engaging, with lots of wonderful detail. A fun book! An there’s a follow-up book — Darth Vader’s Little Princess.

I bought these books for myself. Who would have thought that both my kids would love them as well? Now I have to share them.

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Catch ya later,  George

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Third Time, Er, Lucky With The Trilogy

Dark and Hollow PlacesWere I the superstitious type, I’d say I wasn’t meant to read The Dark and Hollow Places, the third book in first-time and break-out author Carrie Ryan’s trilogy. I’d read the first two books, which were classed as ‘zombie romances’ and, having already invested significant time and energy and interest, I figured I should finish the reading journey.

I’ve blogged previously about these zombie-themed young adult books penned by someone afraid of zombies. I’ve confessed that I have an overactive imagination, am absolutely terrified of zombies, and have to run and jump into bed in the middle of the night lest I be bitten by the ones I for some reason think might be lurking about in my apartment. I reasoned, though, that it’s not like I can be any more scared of zombies than I am now, ergo reading book three would be easy.

But knowing the third book was coming out and getting my reading hands on it were two very different things. I emailed Ryan twice to request an interview. Tumbleweeds. I emailed the Australian distributors three times to request a review copy and perhaps an interview with Ryan. More tumbleweeds. I pre-ordered the book with my own moolah so it would be shipped to me as soon as it was released and tried to give Ryan and her publishers the benefit of the doubt—maybe my five emails got lost in the internet ether.

Forest of HandsThen I checked my mailbox daily (sometimes twice daily) once Boomerang Books had started the book on its merry way. No book. No book for 10 days. I followed up and confirmed that it had been delivered. Within two days of being shipped. I checked with the post office just in case they’d withheld the package as it may not have fitted in my mailbox (they know me well; I buy a lot of books; they hold a lot of my packages), but this time came up empty-handed.

I have a theory about what happened to The Dark and Hollow Places, but can’t prove it. Let’s just say I find it a little suspicious that my highly anticipated package went missing the same day as one of my other neighbours’. And that both packages’ non-arrivals coincided with the departure of our sketchy, sketchy neighbours who’d inflicted the whole apartment block to six months of unhappiness and who were finally, after much legal wrangling and served notices, being turfed out.

But regardless of my alleged, impossible-to-prove theory, I remained book-less. So I re-ordered The Dark and Hollow Places and waited for Boomerang Books to re-ship. They were quick as always, so I didn’t have to wait long, and the new package arrived without issue. I guess you could say it was a case of third time, er, lucky with the trilogy.

I offer this background simply because it kind of upped the expectation ante. Waiting so long for the book to be released and having to work so hard to get it into my hands once it was meant that I was always going to want it to rock my reading world. That and the fact that I’ve recently read some absolute page turners that cover similar themes. I’m talking, of course, about Vampire Academy and The Passage, both of which I’ve blogged about here before.

EragonI hadn’t encountered these books when I found the first Ryan book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and while I inhaled The Dark and Hollow Places—all 370-odd pages in a five-hour reading frenzy—when I stack it up next to these other books it doesn’t seem so amazing. It’s good and it’s compelling, but I can’t help but think it lacks a bit of the sophistication and downright cleverness of the others.

I also can’t shake the gnawing (no pun intended) feeling that there are only so many scenarios you can prop up with zombies—faceless, personality-less antagonists that are a dime a dozen and that stick to a formulaic script of moaning and shuffling and biting. It gets a bit tired (or maybe I have) by the third book and I found (without revealing any major plot devices and ruining the story for you) that Ryan was coming up with increasingly unbelievable scenarios to try to propel the story forward or get herself out of a dead end.

Specifically, I was confused by how everyone seemed to suddenly be scrambling over rooftops and then scurrying through pitch-black subways without any kind of light. I rolled my eyes at how one island could still be standing when the massive, unstoppable horde took what is, I think, meant to be New York City. And Ryan pretty much lost me when she had the characters building life-saving but insanely complex contraptions. None were particularly feasible and the characters seemed to be avoiding almost certain death by zombies like, er, the plague.

The PassageTo be fair, though, I did devour the book in one burning-the-midnight-oil sitting and I am pleased to have finally read the book after a very, very long wait (there’s a lot to be said for discovering a series only after they’ve all been written and released so you’re not waiting on tenterhooks for years in between).

It’s also worth noting that I foolishly didn’t refresh my knowledge of the trilogy with a quick re-read of the first two books and perhaps some of the nuances and interwoven plots were kind of lost on me. I know. All this time spent waiting and I could have been prepping with two re-reads. Shame on me.

So, the verdict is that The Dark and Hollow Places is worth a read, including after much difficulty in obtaining a copy. I think it’s the end of the trilogy—I was a little worried Ryan was going to pull a Christopher Paolini, who talked up his tale as a trilogy and then extended it beyond the doorstopper of a third instalment; the fourth and maybe/who knows final book has just been announced for release in November. At least, I hope it is the end. Ryan’s left it pretty open-ended, but while it’s been fun, I think even she is starting to realise there are only so many ways you can tackle zombies.

The Zombification of Fiction

Sadhbh’s talked about Feed, by Mira Grant.

Will’s talked about World War Z, by Max Brooks.

And EVERYONE has talked about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith’s masterpiece (disasterpiece, perhaps?).

Yet there are other zombie books out there, threading their fingers through the literary soil, hoping their hungry groans will reach the ears of consumers… I’m here to single out the ones that I can vouch for, or ones that I wish I could.

Firstly, one of my favourite offerings of recent years is The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan. Marketed at young adults, this is one of those reads that really has to transcend the young adult category and can be read by those people posing as ‘adults’, too. A zombie apocalypse occurs, and Mary believes her village to be the only survivors left. Secured by wooden fences, the village is fast becoming depleted of its citizens because The Unconsecrated, as the zombie creatures are called, are fast encroaching on Mary’s village territory. What I love most about this book is its 19th century feel, and the love triangle is pretty spectacular as well. And if you’re a fan of M. Night Shymalan’s film The Village, you’ll find some comforting similarities here.

I know you’ve probably had it up to HERE with Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, but its follow-up Dawn of the Dreadfuls, taken over by Steve Hockensmith, is much more my style. Think less petticoats, more bloodlust and mashed brains. The fact that Hockensmith didn’t have an original Austen text here lets his imagination go from wild into the realm of utterly ridiculous fun. Its zombie-riffic!

Blogger Rhiannon Hart has me craving the scrummy-looking An Anthology of the Undead, edited by Christopher Golden. The word on the street is that its more gory than scary, which would suit me just fine. And contributions by paranormal/horror authors like Joe Hill and Kelley Armstrong should satisfy even the most ravenous of zombie fans.

And finally,The Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks, is top of my Christmas wish list. It looks like everything you need to know about how to protect yourself best in a zombie apocalypse. And it seems like Max isn’t taking the mickey out it – he’s completely serious about how to defend against the inevitable zombie attack. I’m a slow runner, so I like to think I could learn a thing or two from this guide…

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It’s pretty clear from recent releases and not so recent releases that we are suffering from zombie-itis. I’m not sure how long it’s going to last, but I’m happy to slobber after the craze until it’s ready to settle into its grave again.

Brains Wanted at Baltimore University

And I thought it couldn’t get any better than a Harry Potter course. Well, it’s at least comparable.

The University of Baltimore in the US has offered a particular subject called English 333. Sounds typical, right? Well, it’s been dubbed by the participant students taking the course as “Zombie 101”, because the entire course is about…yep, you guessed it – zombies. Instead of grades weighted on horrid essays and mean-spirited exams testing what you don’t know, Zombie 101 will be expecting their class to follow a syllabus of reading zombie comics, watch 16 of the most prominent zombie movies of the last century, and create zombie storyboards. Oh, there will be a research paper at some point on the role of zombies in popular culture – so expect a little bit of study! The course will also consider zombies and their role in folklore. Wouldn’t you love a title like ‘Doctor of Zombies’?

Lecturer Arnold Blumberg decided to wear a shirt with a skull pattern on his first day of teaching, and brought with him his ‘friend’: a delicious zombie head.

“Even major fans of zombies—and they’re out there, by the millions,” says Blumberg, “—may not spend time contemplating the underlying meaning of this monster, despite its potency.

Zombies have certainly inched their way into fiction lately. And while this isn’t the first time zombies have graced classes with their undead panache: in Chicago, Columbia College has apparently offered a subject on zombies in popular media for years, and Iowa’s Simpson College allows their students to write a book on “The History of the Great Zombie War”, this IS the first time the idea of zombifying the tertiary education system has caused such a novelty commotion on the ‘net. I have a feeling if we delve deep into the idea of zombie culture, we could come up with a few reasons as to why these slow-moving monsters are causing such an excited panic in the liberal arts.

With all the talk on the Poisoned Apples blog about angels and vampires being the current fads of the fictionella world, I tend to overlook the other magnificent creatures of the paranormal variety. It’s certainly not intentional – I love brain gobblers and slobbering fleshmongers as much as the next zombie fan. So in my next post, I’ll be studying my own Zombies in Popular Media subject, and introducing some books to you that are currently top of the zombie food chain.