the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘zombies

Ok,  let’s get into it with Dread Nation.  This book has been on my TBR for ages, I just never got around to picking up a copy. When a friend of mine mentioned she had two copies, I asked to borrow one.   The only things I knew about this book, before I read it were:

  • I am in love with the dress she is wearing on the cover
  • The book is about killing zombies
  • Something alternate history civil war something?

 

First off, I really liked this book, but I also had some issues with it (not the issues you might think!).

 

and LOL, I thought this was going to be a hard review to write . . . .  Skip to the end if you don’t want to read 1200 words of me rambling.

 

The gist of the story is this –  instead of the South surrendering, the American Civil War was sort of “put on hold”, because the dead were rising as Zombies.  The Union and the Confederacy stopped fighting each other, and instead used their dwindling troops to fight an ever growing army of the shambling dead.

 

To keep civilians safe, governors, mayors, and other civic leaders need to come up with something, and need to come up with something fast.  But who counts as a civilian? Who counts as being worth keeping safe?  Well, it’s the 1870s, all the civic leaders are white, white people are landowners and tax payers, so basically, white people are considered worth keeping safe. Black people and Native Americans are sent to combat schools, where they will learn to fight the shamblers.  Thanks to the Negro and Native Reeducation Act, it isn’t a choice – you will attend the school, you will be re-educated that protecting white people is your place. If your free will can’t be educated out of you, it will be beaten out of you. (In Ireland’s Author’s Note,  she implores the reader to learn more about the United States’ system of removing Native children from their homes and sending them to boarding schools such as the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, to be “civilized”.)

 

Jane’s mother tried to keep her home, and hidden, as long as possible. But the day came when the truancy officers couldn’t be resisted, and Jane found herself at Miss Preston’s Combat School for Negro Girls, in Baltimore, where along with combat skills she will also learn how to behave in civilized society.  If she’s very lucky,  Jane will become a personal bodyguard for a white woman. If she isn’t lucky, she’ll be sent to the front lines.  Jane is talented, but impulsive. She loves reading, and she’ll trade just about anything for the newest pulp novel.

 

And if Jane is very, very unlucky, if she stumbles onto a dangerous secret, she’ll be thrown into a train car and sent to the frontier.

 

The first half of the book is some hijinks at the school,  the reader getting introduced to Jane’s friends, and Jane sharing some details of her youth. Told in first person, it’s interesting to see what she chooses to omit, and how she makes excuses for getting into trouble at school. Jane has a fairly narrow worldview (or puts on like she does), and I’m not sure how I felt about that.  The second half of the book, which I won’t tell you much about because spoilers, takes place in a frontier town called Summerland.

 

I really dig that each chapter starts with a snippet of a letter that Jane is writing to her mother, and then later in the book (not a spoiler), the chapters start with a snippet of a letter that Jane’s mother has written to her.  It made me chuckle, in the beginning, that Jane is getting into trouble at school, and how she glosses this over in her letters home.  What I should have been paying closer attention to, is if Jane is glossing things over, what is her mother glossing over?

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Of the three things I’m talking about today, I have finished reading exactly one of them:

 

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (the one that I have finished) – I have so, so much to say about this book. But as pertains to this particular blog post, what I expected was 300 pages of zombie thwacking action, what I got was that the zombies aren’t the real monsters, the racists are.   Fun read, great characters,  I highly recommend.

 

Machine’s Last Testament by Benjanun Sriduangkaew – I’m about 2/3 of the way through this far future space opera/spy thriller/escape the AI story. Prisoners of War are brought to the planet Anatta, to see if they are worthy of citizenship.  The worldspanning AI Samsara controls all aspects of Anatta, studies humanity, and systematically attacks all other human settlements, bringing more prisoners to Anatta. You can’t even tell your best friend your secrets, because Samsara is always listening.  Excellent read, I highly recommend! The story has political intrigue, hidden identities, romance,  and oh yeah, freakin’ gorgeous prose. (if you were one of those people who loved the prose of This is How You Lose The Time War, but wished that there was more there there, Machine’s Last Testament is the book for you. the two titles are about the same length, too)

 

I watched the first two episodes of Brave New World on Peacock (it was free). Not sure if I’ll continue in the series, and it’s probably been ten years since I read the book, so couldn’t tell you how faithful the TV show is. Anyway. . .  in the future, everyone is happy, all the time. Not feel super happy? Take a drug that will make you happy.  Privacy is unheard of,  as is being raised with a family.  Want to experience the filth and unhealthyness of the horrible past? Visit a theme park to see a shotgun wedding, nuclear families, and natural pregnancies.  I’ll reread the book, but am undecided on if I’ll continue w/the show. I liked the art direction, but the garbage quality subtitles* were a huge turn off.

 

Through a perfect storm of coincidence, I am reading/watching all of these things at the same time, and my brain went flippity flop, and found the common ground between these three stories:

 

the people running the show – the white leaders in Dread Nation, Samsara, whoever runs the city in Brave New World – these people LOVE what they’ve created.  They have made a city on the hill where everyone is safe and happy and protected  . . .  and where everyone knows their place.  And the people actually living there?  eh, if they only accepted their place, they’d be happy too, right?

 

I think that’s what hit me so hard –  that the people living there, they are told to be happy in their place. Know your place. Stay in your lane. Be thankful we’ve found a place for you here. Others of your kind aren’t this deserving. You should be thankful.   Your superiors know what’s best for you.  (excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little)

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girl with all the giftsThe Girl With All The Gifts, by M.R. Carey

published June 2014

Where I got it: rec’d ARC from the publisher (Thanks Orbit!)

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There once was a little girl named Melanie. As far as she knew, she was a happy, healthy little girl. And why shouldn’t she be? She gets to see her friends at school, she adores her favorite teacher Miss Justineau, and she always tries her best to be polite to the grown ups who help her. Even when they are holding a gun to her head.

 

Author M.R. Carey builds the tension up slowly but very steadily, at first giving us a fish eye lens view into an underground bunker where under the sharp eyes of Dr. Caroline Caldwell and Sergeant Parks, a very select group of children are fed, sheltered, education, observed, and then vivisected. Caldwell’s mission is of the utmost importance. She’s looking for a cure. And besides, if Melanie and the other “children” were still human, they’d cry out in pain when the good doctor sliced their skulls open with her scalpel, right?

 

Ever heard of Cordyceps?  How about Ophiocordyceps?  It’s a fungus that really likes ants and sometimes spiders, and it especially enjoys threading it’s mycelial hairs into the nervous system of the critter.  What happens next is pretty disgusting.  As an aside, M.R. Carey wrote a great guest post over at SFSignal, about the science behind The Girl With All the Gifts, and about Cordyceps. He even links to a video about it. I got about halfway through the video before I screamed “eye bleach!”.  Even after five minutes of thinking about baby My Little Pony unicorns snuggling with fluffy kittens, I still want to bathe my eyes in Clorox and throw up a little. So, there’s that.

 

The gist of The Girl With All the Gifts is that Ophiocordyceps has evolved, it has mutated to infect people, and it has terrorized humanity.  Terrorize probably isn’t the right word here. Because Ophiocordyceps is nothing more than the little fungus that could. And what it can do will horrify you.

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Like this stuff?

  • Civil War era alternate history
  • zombies
  • giant lizards
  • pop culture references
  • huge explosions
  • airships
  • airships with zombies on them
  • carnies

what if all that awesome stuff was jammed into one book?  well good news, IT IS! And I reviewed it, just for you!  head over to SFSignal to read my review of Odd Men Out by Matt Betts.

odd men out

with this review of Blackout by Mira Grant, I will have finished reviewing all the Hugo nominated novels. Yes, I know voting closed on July 31st, but I did finish Blackout before then, just didn’t get around to writing up the review until now.

Click on the titles to read my reviews of the other Hugo nominated novels, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold, 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, and Redshirts by John Scalzi.

blackoutBlackout, by Mira Grand

published in 2012

where I got it: purchased new

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Blackout is the final volume in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy. This review therefore, is pretty spoilerific when it comes to earlier book in the series, but I’ll try to avoid major spoilers for Blackout. However, all spoilers will be “whited out”, so you can safely scroll around. Wanna know what happens or already know? Just highlight the text with your mouse, and all shall be revealed.

If you’re not familiar with this series, it takes place about 30 years from now, a generation after the zombie apocalypse. The strongest part of Grant’s zombie infected world is the zombie virus itself.  It was borne through two independently developed medical miracles that blended together to create a virus that lives within the human body, and awakens when we die. Our minds die, but our body doesn’t. And the only cure for that is a shot to the head. What remains of humanity lives behind high security, blood testing, and weapons training for middle schoolers. The series follow brother and sister news blogging team Georgia and Shaun Mason. Shaun enjoys poking dead things with sticks, and Georgia makes sure everyone knows the truth.

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Let’s talk about some Hugo Nominated novellas!  click back a day or two to see the whole list, and to click on novellas I’ve already reviewed.  Ready for the zombie apocalypse?

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, by Mira Grant

California browncoats Grant

What do you get when you mix a Comic-Con with the zombie apocalypse? You get Mira Grant’s San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats.  If you’re not familiar with Joss Whedon’s breakout show Firefly, fans often refer to themselves as Browncoats in reference to the long brown coat the main character wears in honor of his military service. If you’re not familiar with what a Comic-Con is, we got bigger problems. But that’s another blog post.

A long brown coat, like that!

A long brown coat, like that!

It almost sounds like the beginning of a comedy – cosplayers and merchants attend Comic-Con, and give the zombie apocalypse a beat down! But Grant’s novella is anything but a comedy. This is what Mira Grant does: she grabs you by the feels, and does horrible things to you.

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats is a stand alone novella that can be read as a prequel to her Newsflesh Zombie trilogy (the third book in that series, Blackout, is nominated for best novel this year). You don’t need to have read any of the Newsflesh books to enjoy The Last Stand . . .

The Last Stand . . . is mostly told as a flashback.  It’s thirty years after the event that irreparably changed the world, and journalist Mahir Gowda is interviewing an aging Lorelei Tutt, the only survivor of the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con. She doesn’t want to talk about what happened, but he needs her memories. They talk about other footage from the event, other evidence, and what she witnessed.  Along with Lorelei’s story in flashback, we get the POVs from an ensemble of characters who are attending San Diego Comic-Con, including a television actress, a blind journalist, some merchants from the dealer room, and  a couple on their honeymoon, among others.

No one is the wiser when Lorelei is sulkily helping her parents and their friends unload merchandise for their booth in the dealer room at the Comic-Con.  Fed up with her attitude, her parents send her back to the hotel to have a nap, or a bath, or whatever teenagers need to stop being total brats. The rest of the adults continue setting up the booth and trading geek culture quotes back and forth, and generally annoy their less good natured neighbors.

Elsewhere on the Con Floor, actress Elle Riley is desperately trying to get to her panel, with or without the help of her idiotic handler.   Fans ask for autographs, squee at celebrities, compliment costumes, shop for fake weapons, whine about the lack of wifi, try to find the bathrooms. Just a regular day at Comic-Con, right?

Until someone starts coughing. And then someone starts screaming, because the biting and chewing has begun. And then the lights go out. Lorelei’s parents are able to contact her via walkie talkie, but it gets harder and harder to insulate her from the worst of what’s happening inside the locked down convention center. Things get bad, and then they get worse, and then they become unimaginably horrific.

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Feed, by Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire)

published in 2010

where I got it: library

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Feed isn’t a zombie book. It’s an anti-fear, anti-stupid, pro-truth and pro-common sense story that’s cleverly disguised as a zombie book. It’s a story about the power of information, the power of censorship, and the paralyzing power of fear. The obsession with security and  blood testing is a mirror held up to our fears of terrorism, catching diseases, and general anxiety about, well, everything.  At times, Feed reminded me of some recent Cory Doctorow books, and that’s also a good thing.  Also, I find the title highly amusing as some nice wordplay on what the zombie virus makes a (dead) person do, and what we call a chronological listing of blog updates.

Feed is my first zombie book, so I could be completely wrong thinking most zombie books take place during the zombie outbreak, and focus on survival. The first trick that Mira Grant flawlessly pulls off is setting her story nearly a generation after the original zombie outbreak. We’re twenty some years into it, and cities have strict security,  blood testing for the virus is nearly everywhere, and society seems to run on a healthy dose of government promoted fear.

In Mira Grant’s future Earth, it was the combination of two supposedly harmless viruses that caused the zombie apocalypse. Trick number two that she pulls off is medical infodumps that are actually interesting. Bah interesting, they are downright fascinating. Everyone is infected with a sleeping version of the virus, and when you die, the virus comes alive, reanimating you.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.