Review: The Undead Situation and the Undead Haze by Eloise J Knapp (5*)

The Undead Situation | The Undead Haze

As a squeamish fan of post-apocalyptic horror, I like to come across books that concentrate on the way humanity deals with the end of the world, rather than the monsters that cause it. The Undead series by Eloise J Knapp is just such a work. And my, isn’t it just a piece of work?

The Undead… introduces us to Cyrus V Sinclair (“CVS”), the V stands for… well, you’ll find out.

CVS is self-centred, cold and a bit of a psychopath. That’s the way he feels about himself, and the way he wanted the world to regard him. The end of civilisation hasn’t phased him; in fact, it’s a pretty damned-near perfect scenario. Until other survivors start encroaching on his space, and he has to evolve as a person, or be left behind in a world full of uncertainty.

The first book of this series, “The Undead Situation”, is a considered book. The prose is steady and the characters are fleshed out well. We meet characters that could actually exist should the shit really hit the fan, and Knapp writes at a pace that keeps you turning the pages.

The conflicts between the characters is real, and whilst I initially thought some of the action would be stilted with it being in the first person and from CVS’ perspective for the majority of the book, this is not the case. You get to travel through the end of the world in CVS’ head, and whilst it’s not a pretty playground, it makes for an interesting ride through the end of times.

One thing I do desire (and indeed, expect) from a book that is first person perspective, is evolution of character. We definitely see this with CVS, and “The Undead Haze” gives us a more world-weary and realistically self-aware protagonist. This awareness makes CVS unsure of himself, and this makes for an interesting continuation to the story. I speak in vague terms here; I hate revealing plots in my reviews as writing the plot is the author’s job, and I’m not going to do it justice by repeating it on my blog 😉

Suffice to say there is wide scope in the Undead world for Knapp to bring it to a neat close. There is a neat variety of characters and a concentration on the personalities of the apocalypse, as opposed to the undead themselves. Whilst there are zombies in this, and yes they are scary, they are not the centrepiece. If you want some strong character-orientated PA fiction, then this is the series to pick up, without a doubt.

 

I’ve also had the pleasure of interviewing the author, Eloise J Knapp, and you can catch that over here. Her other book, Pulse, is reviewed at the blog here.

Review: Dead Meat by Chris and Patrick Williams (5*)

Dead Meat is a US-based horror story. It sets itself aside from its peers by being small-town and centred around a core of protagonists. Our potential antagonists are… well… everybody else. That’s the tone Dead Meat sets, and it’s one hell of a ride.

 

This book is not for the faint of heart, those with a weak disposition, nor for those with a bleak outlook on life. If you’re in the doldrums, it’s probably best that you don’t pick up this book. Rarely have I seen such a desolate tone set and carried through with force throughout the entire novel. Despite the counterpoint joviality of Rickett, who finds plucky joy in the direst of situations, you can’t help but feel an ominous sense of dread. The ever-present ‘bees’, the zombies of the Dead Meat world, are both mindless and single-minded in their desire to devour. One of the more appealing elements of Dead Meat though, is that the zombies are not the only dimension this book has to offer. The undead are used as a tool to demonstrate the lesser side of humanity, and that which we might become if the shit were really to hit the fan. In Dead Meat, we are found wanting, as a plague is covered up, a community is torn apart, and the pleas of the doomed are ignored in favour for blood sport.

I was in tears at the end. Literally. Now, I’m a softy by nature, but as a horror writer myself I like to think I can steel myself for literary devices. I saw the end coming. I predicted it. Well, most of it. Okay, some of it. A bit. It was heart-wrenching. I wanted to throw my book at the authors, but they were on another continent, and it was a Kindle. Suffice to say, I’ve settle for calling them swearwords via social media. I hope they haven’t taken it badly.

So as you can infer from this review, Dead Meat pulls at your strings. It doesn’t pull its punches, and it doesn’t hide its intentions. But it does give you a belter of a character-driven tale. In a genre where the monsters are so often the creatures pulling at your flesh, in Dead Meat, the monsters are us, and we tear each other apart.

 

I’ve been lucky enough to interview the Williams brothers – you can read that on the blog, too – here!

Review: Among The Living by Timothy W Long (5*)

Among the Living is a US-based horror story, set in Seattle. This is a review of the unabridged audio version of the book.

I *really* liked this work. Set in first and third person perspectives and showing us the lives of four different protagonists, it gives us a glimpse in to their lives and personalities (mostly) before the outbreak sets in. The characters are very different people, and the building-work for each of them is dealt with effectively by Long. I found myself disliking two of them immensely at the start, then feeling sorry for one, and hating the other even more, whilst wanting to shake one of the good ones on the shoulders going “DEAR GOD SNAP OUT OF IT!”

So yeah, you might say I got a fair bit out of this book.

This is character-driven and turn-based action. My kind of zombie book, the monsters play second fiddle, and are a supporting actor to the way humanity respond to catastrophic events. I felt this was very real in its portrayal of how mankind would actually respond – a panicky cover-up gone bad, delayed realisation followed by that moment where everyone in charge probably realises “whoops, could have done that better”.

The monsters themselves, whilst supporting actors they may be, are described with grisly aplomb. I liked the interlude stories as well, from tertiary characters and how they felt as the virus began to infect them.

I’ll certainly be hunting more out from Mr Long. An easy 5* read.

Review: Resident Evil Afterlife

I’m a fan of the Resident Evil franchise. Not for the depth of plot. Not for the acting. Not even for the special effects any more. It is what it is: a shameless gender exploit. Mindless thriller fiction. Sure, it’s technically horror still, because zombies. But it stopped being scary (even to me) after Apocalypse. And, well shucks, I’m only human. What’s not to like.

what’s not to like?

 

So, gratuitous shower scenes and women in latex or tank tops aside, Resident Evil Afterlife is pretty bad.

I get that a lot of the martial arts scenes are a homage to Eastern cinema, but they don’t suit the film. The zombies are starting to get predictable, as are the bad guys, the general action… the series is stumbling from film to film without too much direction.

Still, I will watch them. I know I will continue to watch them. Mainly because… well…

 

 

Review: Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods – Film – 2012

Review with Spoilers. And blank bits.

When my other half declared the other week that we were going to watch a horror film, and it seemed I didn’t have too much of a choice in the matter, I braced myself for impact. You see, I’d heard of Cabin in the Woods. I’m pretty sure there was a lot of hype from The People Who Love Horror (forever now known as TPWLH because it’s quicker to write). I was also reasonably sure that I’d already read the plot of the film on Wikipedia, and pretty much promised myself there was no way on earth I would ever watch that flucking film. So naturally, I double-checked said plot. This pretty much re-affirmed my initial thoughts.

Nope Nope Nope Nope

After I got over my initial trauma, I realised that I could simply do with this film as I had done with all others – spend it paying meagre attention out of one eye, whilst reading stuff on the internet and paying attention to the music, which told me when I could and could not safely look at the screen.

I therefore set myself up as I always had – laptop consuming most of my attentions, and ignoring the derision given to me by my other half.

The first half of the film… or maybe two thirds… was spent paying “kind of” attention. You know, the kind of attention you pay other people when the football is on, or when you’re drunk and waiting for your turn to speak before you forgot what your point was. I gathered the following basics:

– stereotypical group of teenagers, not too far from the adult version of the Scooby gang. Including the stoner, the jock, the clever one, and the pretty one. As a side note, I’m starting to learn this is a standard mixture of characters required in horror films, and I have therefore made the life-enhancing decision of avoiding clustering all of these types of people in to one room, until I’m at least 40.

– said teenagers go to a spooky old abandoned cabin

– there’s creepy stuff, and this creepy stuff decides on what sets off the horror stuff that has to kill them in order to satisfy some kind of ancient ritual.

Okay, I’m with the plot. The plot… doesn’t need me to pay attention, that much is clear. So some zombies appear, which I get mildly excited about, purely through professional interest. The stereotypical deaths begin to occur (the makeout death, the “where the fluck did that person go THERE for” death, and the “we’ve nearly escaped… wait… NOPE” death. In and amongst this there is the juxtaposition (which is nicely done, by the way) of these deaths being clinically orchestrated by an underground “lair” of standard office people, who bet on lovely mundane things such as which horrific killers our starlets are going to pick.

Anywho, you can sense where this is going.

There are survivors, and they find the underground lair. This is where I put my laptop to one side, because it was flucking fascinating. The first two thirds of this film seemed pretty… meh. The last third is quite possibly the most amazing piece of horror cinema I have ever borne witness to. Admittedly, I haven’t watched that much horror, but I have read the plot to practically every horror film since 1980 on Wikipedia and the last third of “Cabin…” is full of homages to, influences from, and fantastically inspired by monsters from every depraved crevice of this genre’s deep imagination.

There’s a unicorn, for fluck’s sake. There’s also a clear nod to, whilst I couldn’t catch them all, The Shining, Hellraiser, lots of zombie films, Anaconda, The Evil Dead, the brain of Guillermo Del Toro, The Ring, King Kong it was… it was captivating. The amount of blood, gore and horror made it easily watchable because there was no suspense, there was just complete and utter carnage.

There are much better sites dedicated to these monsters than you will find in my paltry rambling, and I recommend you check them out, especially this one here. But even though the first parts of the movie were standard formulaic fare, I would say it’s worth wading through for this last third alone. Unadulterated horror binging, with excellent delivery.

Review: Guilty Pleasures by Laurel K Hamilton – 3*

I originally posted this review of Guilty Pleasures on Amazon UK, where you can also buy the book.

I primarily read fantasy and post-apocalyptic fiction, and was recommended the Anita Blake novels by a friend who latched on to the animator aspect of Anita, the protagonist of Hamilton’s series. I must admit having read the reviews of the later books in the series, I bought this reluctantly; I don’t want to get emotionally invested in a series that I’m not going to be able to see out, and there’s a very particular reason why I avoid reading paranormal romance, non-erotic erotica, and anything remotely resembling Twilight.

It was easy to give this book 3 stars, as I did find it to be a page turner (or button clicker, in the case of the Kindle). However I find far too many flaws amongst the redeeming features to give it any more than that. Here is why.

The characters are cliché and formulaic.

Jean Claude is very reminiscent of the vampire Lestat. And it’s been a while since I’ve watched Interview with the Vampire, but the Master of the city screamed that tiny bratty girl vampire with ringlets that got burned to death. And whilst this may be unfair to Hamilton, since the movie didn’t come out until 1994 and the copyright on this book is 1993, the fact that they’re so similar screams “genre stereotyping”.

I love the concept of animators, and the nod to the voodoo origins of the zombie mythology and methodology. I liked the action, too. But it was, excuse the pun, a monster mash. I found the ending a little sour and unsatisfying. There had been a massive build up and it was over in an underwhelming flash. It wasn’t credible either based on the potency of the antagonist that had been built up over the book. It was almost as if she’d overgrown a child and didn’t know what to do with it.

So whilst it was an enjoyable enough read, I’m not sure I’m going to be investing any more of my time and emotion in to Hamilton’s books.

Review: Tankbread by Paul Mannering – 5*

Tankbread is published by Permuted Press. You can purchase it from your regional Amazon site. It is available at other major retailers. This is a review I posted on Amazon UK.

 

Think Mad Max meets Resident Evil meets a little bit of Die Hard. That’s what I
got from Tankbread; and quite a bit more.

In Tankbread, Mannering
introduces us to an Australia that is trying to survive after the ravages of a
zombie epidemic. I’m not one for giving away plots in my reviews, and so I
won’t. But the stage is well set; it is hard to find an original setting and
plot staging in the plethora of zombie novels around these days. Mannering has
done this.

The Courier, our protagonist, is both the hero and anti-hero
of our tale. He is physically and mentally capable and strong and has the
metaphorical “balls of steel” (his fighting efforts were what reminded me of Die
Hard); but he has a selfish streak which has been one of his most obvious and
efficient tools for survival. When he comes across Else, he begins to question
everything he has so far seen as he travels across the wastes of Australia to
find a cure to the zombie menace.

Else reminded me very much of LeeLoo
from the Fifth Element; frail, naïve and childlike but with an unnerving
capability to learn and grow. Courier was also very much like Korben Dallas; he
was just trying to survive. In Else, he sees that humanity might have a reason
to live.

Mannering has crafted a great story with huge depth and
page-turning action. His undead are credible as is the source of the zombie
menace; there were some hints of Resident Evil towards the end but I shan’t
spoil it for you. You’ll just have to read and find out.