Category Archives: zombies

a modern prometheus unbound

The Investigation by Stanislaw Lem 1959/transl. 1974 (216 pgs)

Oddest of ducks: reads like a straight-up Scotland Yard police procedural in the vein of Agatha Christie (despite being written by a preeminent Polish science-fiction writer.) But it’s about zombies. Or at least risen corpses.

Instead of dwelling on the macabre, the narrative instead focuses on the lead investigator as he tries to locate what he’s sure is a non-mystical cause for the epidemic of moving dead folks. Despite a strong start, my interest waned towards the end, and the conclusion (or lack thereof) was disappointing.

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the books less traveled

Books I didn’t finish:

Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story  by Leonie Swann 2006 (341/read 30)

Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. Sheep. Solving crime. When they find their farmer skewered by a spade, the sheep resolve to solve his murder. Strangely fun and funny, with comical misunderstandings resulting from sheep vs human thinking.

The Emerald City of Oz   by Frank L. Baum orig. 1910, read 93 ed- wonderfully illustrated by John R. Neill(300/read 80ish)

While visiting family, I figured I’d revisit my childhood as well. I thought I’d read all the Oz books, but I didn’t recall this one. Uncle Henry and Aunt Em come to live in Oz as the Nome King is plotting to invade. Didn’t read far enough to get to the action, it was mostly set up but I was impressed with the quality of writing. I’d forgotten how rich and challenging Baum’s writing was. He didn’t condescend or dumb it down, he wrote genuinely interesting stories with vivid vocabulary.

Einstein’s Monsters  by Martin Amis 1987 (149/read 31)

Read two stories: In “Time Disease” everyone cowers under a nuclear ravaged sky. Vitality is a fatal disease and the only protection is inactivity. In The Immortals, a man reminisces about witnessing the dawn of life and mourns the end of humanity. He watches sadly as the last few survivors labor under the delusion that they are immortal. And he shrugs off his delusion that he is mortal.

Right Livelihoods  by Rick Moody 2007 (223/read 72)

Of the three novellas, I read the second and a bit of the third. In “K & K” a woman is stressing by the increasingly threatening notes left in the office suggestion box. When half of New York is leveled in “The Albertine Notes,” the survivors’ drug of choice is albertine which makes you relive memories with crystaline clarity. The only catch is you can’t choose the memory.

The Apocalypse Reader  edited by Justin Taylor 2007 (318/read 250ish)

A bunch of great short stories. Authors I’d like to read more from: Stacey Levine, Jared Hohl, Lucy Corin, Allison Whittenberg, Kelly Link, Steve Aylett, Colette Phair, Terese Svoboda, Theodora Goss, and Joyce Carol Oates.

My favorite was the hilarious “These zombies are not a metaphor” by Jeff Goldberg, where a man tries in vain to convince his imbecilic roommates that the zombies outside their door is NOT a metaphor, but are in fact literally zombies.

bits and pieces

Partial reads:

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down  by Colin Woodward (383 pgs/read 150) 2007

What I love about this book, is that it doesn’t veer into hyperbole or romantic notions about pirates.  Life among the sailors of the day was nothing like the glamorous or romantic ideals we have, it was bleak and brutal and often short.  Woodward sticks to the facts, drawing from historical documents and using direct quotes only rather than made-up dialogue.  Truly informative, well laid out, and constantly interesting.  The included documents (maps, ship silhouettes and relative sizes,  values of everything from a galley to a barrel of ships biscuits to an adult slave) are informative and intriguing.

Why I stopped: came up due before I had a chance to finish.  Ordered it a second time but I’d lost the urgency.

Magic for Beginners  by Kelly Link (272 pgs/read 100ish) 2005

Quirky, captivating short stories.  In one story, a family find their new home becoming haunted piece by piece.  First a clock, then a pair of pants, then a bathroom.  In another story, two young men man an all-night convience store near a chasm full of zombies.  Link can make the most bizarre occurrances seem natural.

Stopped?: Fun, but I kept never getting back to it.

Inventing Beauty: A History of the Innovations That Have Made Us Beautiful  by Teresa Riordan (307 pgs/read 150ish) 2004

A lot more interesting than you’d think & fun to skim.  The illustrations (everything from the first patent of a mascara applicator to bustles through the ages) are fascinating. 

Stopped?: waaaay overdue, every time I pick it up to return I get hooked again.  Dangerous!  I’ve got to get rid of it.

Mirabilis  by Susann Cokal (389 pgs/read 30) 2001

Bizarre story of the village outcast who begins performing miracles. 

Stopped?: somewhat interesting, but not enough to make me invest in it.

The Rough Guide to Blogging  by Jonathan Yang (200pg/read 100ish) 2006

Fairly helpful.  Walks you through blogs from step one.  Well laid out; I’d recommend it to anyone interested in blogs.

Stopped?: read everything applicable.

zombie jamboree

I just joined a book club where the focus is on getting together and having fun rather than stodgily disecting the literary value of a book.  We decided to go thematic.  We’ll pick a officially-sponsered book.  If you wanna read it, fine.  If not- pick something else on the topic, or watch a movie, read a magazine article- whatever.  Very low-key.  This month: zombies.

World War Z  by Max Brooks (342 pgs) 2006

The official pick, I ripped through this book in 2 days.  The structure was genius.  It purports to be an “oral history of the zombie war.”  It’s told in interviews with survivors scattered around the world, with a blurb of historical context before each section.  I loved that it didn’t just focus on the “aah, zombies are coming to eat our brains” aspect.  There was plenty of that, but what I really enjoyed was that it focused more on how nations and individuals fell apart. 

I also tried to read Monster Island  by David Wellington.  Booooring.  Stodgy writing, lackluster plot, flat characters.  I flipped through trying to find where the action started and could never get grabbed enough to make it worth the effort. 

I also gave The Magic Island  by William Seabrook a look.  Written in 1929, it was the first book about encounters with real-life zombies in Haiti.  Couldn’t get interested.  It did have some astonishingly racist woodcut illustrations. 

My last try was The Serpent and the Rainbow  by Wade Davis.  He was an ethnobotanist who went searching in Haiti for the chemical compounds that a Bhokor (sorcerer) uses to create zombies.  It was interesting, and read like an adventure book, but I ran out of time.  This is one I might pick up again later.

win one for the ripper

Broken  by Kelley Armstrong (480 pgs) 2006 (Women of the Otherworld #6)

This latest entry returns the focus to Elena, the werewolf who began the series.  She takes a seemingly simple job stealing a letter supposedly written by Jack the Ripper.  Things turn quickly when a drop of blood opens a portal.  A couple of murdering zombies fall out, as well as various plagues from the Ripper’s time.  It’s up to Elena and her pack to piece things back together and close the portal before the rest of hell breaks loose.

do you believe in magic?

Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong (414 pgs) 2004 (#3 in Women of the Underworld series)

My guilty pleasure?  Supernatural stories.  Vampires, werewolves, superheroes- love em all.  Must be the comic book geek in me.  Bitten, the first in this series, is definately one of the best.  During a reread recently, I discovered that it was first in a series.  I recommend starting with Bitten, but so far the books can be read alone.  Dime Store Magic centers on a young witch who juggles being the new leader of her coven with caring for a teenage witch coming into her powers.  Things get complicated when teen witch becomes the target for those who want her power.  Bonus- a great zombie scene in a funeral home.