Monday, March 12, 2012

NecroScope Closes

It is with great regret that we announce the official closure of NecroScope: the Australian Zombie Review Blog.
Unfortunately, of late, the various personal commitments of the staff and management of NecroScope have precluded the regular updating of the site, despite the constant (and ever-increasing) influx of zombie-related product. For this reason, we feel it only fair to declare the site altogether closed rather than keep our faithful readers 'hanging on' in the hope of seeing further reviews posted here. That said, the existing site will remain online as an archival document; we hope it may continue to guide newcomers to the zombie genre towards worthy titles.

For those keen to stay updated on all things zombie, there are several excellent Australian sites we can recommend: Undead Studies is a scholarly site exploring 'zombies, culture and changing societal anxieties', and includes excellent media and literary reviews. Thirteen O'Clock: Australian Dark Fiction News & Reviews is an excellent new blog providing opinion, reviews, news and essays pertaining to Australian horror in general (with occasional forays into zombie-dom a certainty), thus filling the void left by NecroScope's much-missed parent blog, HorrorScope. Both blogs are recommended as must-visit sites for those serious about genre matters.

It's also worth mentioning that NecroScope's Keeper of the Dead, Chuck McKenzie, has recently opened a specialist SF, fantasy and horror bookstore in Chelsea, Victoria. Notions Unlimited Bookshop, as you might expect, carries more than its fair share of dark fiction and zombie-related titles, and local NecroScope readers are invited to visit in order to catch up on the latest publications.

Finally: the staff and management of NecroScope would like to thank all who contributed to this blog over the past couple of years: guest posters, authors, film-makers, fellow undead enthusiasts, and - of course - our readers. The zombie genre is one that continues to expand, evolve and enthrall, shambling further and further into the mainstream, and generating an ever-growing horde of followers as it does, and it's been a genuine pleasure for us to chart, and - in some small way - contribute to this process.

Until we meet again, keep the infection alive, and enjoy the Apocalypse!

NecroScope

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

News: NecroScope on Hiatus

NecroFans may have noticed a certain level of inactivity on the NecroScope website of late. The staff and management of NecroScope wish to apologise for any inconvenience (or indeed, boredom) this has caused. Unfortunately, behind-the-scenes developments (albeit positive ones) have made the consistent updating of the site impossible for the time being. While there are no plans to close the site completely, it's likely that NecroScope will be on hiatus at least until early next year.

In the meantime, any expressions of interest regarding the submission of reviews or news to NecroScope should be directed to the NecroKeeper.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Music: The Little Black Bottles

More zombie-themed musical goodness this week! Founded by Jackie and Myke Fedyk as a two piece, the Little Black Bottles have taken their rollicking, ukulele-driven tavern sound and blown it out into a signature style that manages to range from country to rock and everything in between. Inspired chiefly by horror, sci-fi and classic literature, many of the band's songs will certainly appeal to fans of the fantastical, the bizarre and the Gothic. Below is a link to one of their undead-themed tunes, Zombie Romance. We thoroughly recommend that you check it out. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQkCXOah0uc

Review: Eden: Resurrection

Tony Monchinski, 2011, Permuted Press

Twenty years after the living dead swept the globe, the zombie wars are over. Whole continents have been cleared of the undead, but left uninhabited due to nuclear fallout. Humanity has begun to regain its footing in small, isolated communities around the globe. When a stranger carrying hints of Anthony's past walks into the tiny settlement of New Harmony, Anthony and his friends must set out on a life-changing trek that will swiftly degenerate into a brutal struggle for survival, as they come up against zombies, mutants, and the evil that humans still visit upon one another.

There is little I can say about Eden: Resurrection that I've not already said about Tony Monchinski's previous works (these being Eden, and Eden: Crusade): the plot is fast-paced, brutal, and completely engrossing; the characters wonderfully flawed, unique, and completely empathic (if not necessarily sympathetic); the prose and dialogue a joy to read. Also, rather than giving us 'more of the same', Resurrection refreshingly removes most of the focus from the zombie menace, and places it instead upon some of the more unpleasant human elements that have managed to thrive in the predatory vacuum left by the diminished undead population. Throw in a cliffhanger conclusion, which promises one hell of a follow-up novel, and you have what I can only refer to as an 'instant classic' of the genre.

Regardless of the almost ridiculously large volume of zomfic being produced nowadays, there's a comparatively small number of authors whose work falls almost exclusively into this genre, and a smaller number still who consistently produce work of truly literary quality (in the most admirable sense of the word). Tony Monchinski is definitely one of these authors, and his work should be compulsory reading for serious fans of zombie fiction.

Review: Generation Zombie

Essays on the Living Dead in Modern Culture

Ed. Stephanie Boluk & Wylie Lenz, 2011, McFarland Publishers

Generation Zombie is a collection of 18 essays examining the effects of the popularity of zombies upon modern culture (and vice-versa), through fiction, movies, electronic games, and so on. Written by a wide range of experts, enthusiasts and academics, these essays cover numerous themes that should engage the interest of most zombie enthusiasts; 'Cyberpunk and the Living Dead', 'Zombies as Internal Fear or Threat', 'Ztopia: Lessons in Post-Vital Politics in George Romero's Zombie Films' and 'The National Strategy for Zombie Containment: Myth Meets Activism in Post-9/11 America' are just a few of the specific topics covered herein.

Generation Zombie is a terrific read, and highly recommended to those whose interest in zombies and the zombie phenomenon extends beyond the short-term thrill of fiction and media.

Review: The Zombie-Driven Life

David Wood, 2011, Gryphonwood Press
High school nobody Kenan is doing just fine in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, thank you very much. But when his dream-girl, Katy, comes stumbling around the corner, Kenan finds his world turned upside down as the two of them embark on a nightmarish road-trip that will ultimately lead to a confrontation with the very person responsible for the plague of the walking dead...

The Zombie-Driven Life is a well-written and highly entertaining Young Adult novella, in which the story moves at an almost ridiculous pace, yet remains grounded by the POV narrative of the everyman protagonist. Great dollops of black humour and some wonderful characterisation round out this extremely enjoyable romp. Definitely one to add to the private library. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

News: Dymocks Southland Bestselling Zombie Titles for September 2011

A rather sad post, as this will be the final 'bestseller' post for the foreseeable future, as NecroScope's Keeper of the Dead leaves his crypt at Dymocks Southland for mouldier pastures. It seems fitting, then, that September was, again, a bumper month for sales of zombie-related fiction.

1. Dead Island (game novelisation) - Mark Morris
2. The Fear (The Enemy #3) - Charlie Higson
3. Alone #1: Chasers - James Phelan
4. Rot & Ruin - Jonathan Maberry
5. Dog Blood (Hater #2) - David Moody.
6. Feed (Newsflesh #1) - Mira Grant
7. The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten - Harrison Geilor
8. Deadline (Newsflesh #2) - Mira Grant
9. Flip this Zombie (Married With Zombies #2) - Jesse Petersen
10. Flesh Eaters - Joe McKinney

New arrivals in store include Ex-Patriots (Peter Clines), Eden #3: Resurrection (Tony Monchinski), Pay Me In Flesh (K. Bennett), Drop Dead Gorgeous (Wayne Simmons), Working Stiff (Rachel Caine), and Zombies Sold Separately (Cheyenne McCray).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Subscription Competition Winner!

Well, we didn't quite make it to 50 new Shamblers, but obviously a great many of you took the threat of No Prize seriously, as we did end up with a whole bunch of new zombies shuffling our way. And hey, you all knew we weren't really going to keep that prize pack for ourselves, didn't you? Eh?

Our lucky prize-winner, chosen at random by The Pointing Finger of Death was...Greg Chapman, from sunny Queensland, Australia! Congratulations, Greg - your prize will be arriving via hearse soonish.

To all our non-winners, commiserations - but stay tuned. There are plenty more goodies gathering dust in the NecroScope prize vault, and we'll be sure to have another clean-out soon...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

A Look at the History and Influence of Zombies on Popular Culture

Ed. Christopher Wortzenspeigel, 2011

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse is something of an oddity: a book on zombies composed entirely of articles, links and references taken from Wikipedia, presented almost exactly as they would appear online. This obviously results in a fair amount of repetition of information (as certain articles reference the same sources), which - in a publication of a mere 125 pages - doesn't exactly scream 'value for money'. Additionally, the lack of any major effort to reformat and expand the information for print, in order to more obviously justify republishing free web content in a physical, comparatively expensive format, does beg the question of whether doing so has any real point.

This is not to suggest that online content can't make for a great printed book, as evidenced by the works of David Wellington, Madeleine Roux, and others. However, there's a world of difference between reading a self-contained piece of fiction in book form, even one that has been wholly transposed from the Internet, and reading a piece of non-fiction containing references and links that the reader is incapable of immediately accessing (or, if they own a mobile device of some sort, fully access...which again begs the question of why the book was needed in the first place).

At the end of the day, Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse certainly contains some intelligent and fascinating information...but ultimately there seems little point in purchasing what amounts to a hard-copy printout of a bunch of Wikipedia articles. I'd suggest that even the publishers are aware of this shortcoming, as the back-cover blurb fails to mention zombies at all, instead waxing lyrical over the 'convenience and utility' of a 'real book' that 'utilizes the unique characteristics of the Internet - relying on web infrastructure and collaborative tools to share and use resources in keeping with the characteristics of the medium'.

Hmm...

Review: Field Combat Manual For Zombie Slayers

Marc Sherman, 2011, Rebecca J. Vickery (publisher)

Field Combat Manual For Zombie Slayers is a slim volume falling into the 'survivalist' subgenre of zomfic, and which leans more to the serious side of the market, containing bona fide advice on survivalist techniques with genuine everyday applications. While there is a background story provided against which the necessity for zombie-slaying info is set, this background is not explored in any great depth. There's also a fair bit of authorial intrusion, as the 'character' of the author often mentions personal experiences that support specific pieces of advice, and also tends to sermonise at length (with religious fervour) on the destiny of humanity to reclaim civilisation, etc. Ultimately, the book fails to satisfyingly balance the fictional and non-fictional aspects, although there is certainly entertainment value here.

In a nutshell, Field Combat Manual For Zombie Slayers is one for the die-hard survivalist types only. For a more inventive, entertaining and in-depth take on similar topics, stick with Roger Ma's The Zombie Combat Manual.

Reminder: Subscription Drive Ends Soon!

Just a reminder to all our loyal (and new) Shamblers that our 'anniversary' subscription drive ends very soon! Only eleven days are left in which to sign up 50 new subscribers (or else forfeit a fantastic prize-pack), and thus far we're well shy of that number! Remember: all you have to do is convince your friends, family, colleagues, enemies, and so on, to sign up, and you'll automatically be in the running to win a heap of goodies, so get to it, folks!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: The Zombie Handbook

An Essential Guide to Zombies and, More Importantly, How to Avoid Them


Dr. Robert Curran, 2011, Barrons

The Zombie Handbook is a handsomely-bound 'zombie primer' aimed squarely at readers with only a basic knowledge of the subject matter, but which should nonetheless be of interest to more serious collectors of zombie lore. Focusing almost exclusively upon traditional voodoo zombies - as well as mummies, golems, and revenants from various folklores - this volume provides some fascinating information on the subject, although it must be said that most of the material herein is explored in greater depth and detail in Curran's earlier publication, Zombies: a Field Guide to the Walking Dead. Nonetheless, The Zombie Handbook is a lovely publication in its own right - hardbacked, and beautifully illustrated - and certainly worth both reading and owning.

Review: The Gathering Dead

Stephen Knight, 2011, Severed Press

The zombie Apocalypse has begun, and Major Cordell McDaniels is given the most important mission of his career: lead a Special Forces team into New York to rescue the one man who can cure the reanimation virus. But as a violent storm renders airborne extraction impossible, the team finds itself trapped and facing not merely a growing horde of undead citizens, but also the zombified members of another Special Ops. team...who appear to have retained their military skills...

The Gathering Dead is a full-blown military action/horror novel that hits the ground running from page one, and doesn't let up for a moment. While there's perhaps not as much attention paid to individual characterisation as in other recent, similarly-themed novels (such as Tooth & Nail), Knight does a terrific job of balancing action and tight plotting against a vast amount of military detail and terminology, which - in less competent hands - could well have disrupted the flow of the tale. Some nicely original touches - such as the possibility of 'muscle memory' being retained by certain individuals after zombification - further contribute to a highly engrossing and enjoyable narrative that should please most fans of the zombie/military subgenre.   

Monday, September 5, 2011

News: Subscription Competition! Win Stuff!

To celebrate our thirteen-month 'anniversary', NecroScope is holding a subscription drive, with one fabulous prize-pack to be won!

The drive will run from now until September 30, 12pm EST, with one lucky Shambler chosen at random, as our winner, by The Pointing Finger of Death. All Shamblers will be eligible to win, whether you are an existing subscriber or have signed up during the drive, and regardless of whether you live in Australia or overseas.

In other words, the only thing you have to do in order to be eligible to win is to sign up as, or continue being, a NecroScope Shambler (either here on the home blog or on Facebook - see the menu on the right hand side of this page).

'Too easy!' we hear you cry. And you're right. There is a catch. And that catch is, we require a minimum of 50 new Shamblers by the end of the drive; if we don't get 50 new Shamblers, no prize. Simple as that. Oh yeah - we're tough! What this means, of course, is that if you're already a NecroScope Shambler, you need to urge all of your zomfanatical friends and family to sign up to NecroScope in order to be in with a chance of winning that fabulous prize pack.

And what exactly does this fabulous prize pack comprise? We're so glad you asked...

* A beautiful hardback edition of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead Book #1 (collating issues #1-12 of the cult graphic novel series)

* Copies of the 'modern classic' zombie novels Day by Day Armageddon (J. L. Bourne), The Forest of Hands & Teeth (Carrie Ryan), and The Enemy (Charlie Higson).

* Copies of Zombies For Zombies: The Play & Werk Buk (David P. Murphy) and How to be a Zombie (Serena Valentino), for the biotically-challenged amongst you.

* A copy of Real Zombies: The Living Dead and Creatures of the Apocalypse (Brad Steiger).

* For the movie buffs, copies of Chanbara Beauty and Zombie Honeymoon.

A pretty damn good haul, we think you'll agree!

So: at the time of posting this item, the NecroScope blog boasts 48 Shamblers, with 69 subscribers on Facebook. Time to get busy, fellow zomfans! 'Cos we'd hate to have to keep all of those zombolicious prizes for ourselves...

News: Dymocks Southland Bestselling Zombie Titles for August 2011

In the lead-up to Fathers' Day (Australia), zombie titles sold extremely well (what this says about the sort of people raising the next generation is possibly an issue best ignored). Thusly, this month we present our Top 15 bestselling titles, rather than the usual Top 10.

1. Chasers (Alone #1) - James Phelan
2. Dog Blood (Hater #2) - David Moody
3. Survivor (Alone #2) - James Phelan
4. The Dead (The Enemy #2) - Charlie Higson
5. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies - Austen / Graeme-Smith
6. Breathers - S. G. Browne
7. World War Z - Max Brooks
8. Cell - Stephen King
9. Deadline (Newsflesh #2) - Mira Grant
10. The Walking Dead Compendium - Robert Kirkman
11. The Reapers are the Angels - Alden Bell
12. Zombie Apocalypse! - ed. Stephen Jones
13. Rot & Ruin - Jonathan Maberry
14. Pet Sematary - Stephen King
15. The Zombie Autopsies - Steven C. Schlozman, MD

Recent zom-flavoured arrivals in-store include (takes a deep breath) The Zombie Handbook (Dr. Robert Curran), Gruesomely Grimm Zombie Tales (Grimm/Brown), Generation Zombie (ed. Stephanie Boluk & Wylie Lenz), Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse (ed. Christopher Wortzenspeigel), My Life as a White Trash Zombie (Diana Rowland), Alice in Zombieland (Carroll/Cook), Field Combat Manual for Zombie Slayers (Marc Sherman), Working Stiff (Rachel Caine), A Zombie's History of the United States (Dr. Worm Miller), Play Dead (Ryan Brown), Zombie, Ohio (Scott Kenemore), Zombie Pulp (Tim Curran), and Zombie Christmas Carol (Dickens/Thomas).

Nope. Still no sign of that zomfic bubble bursting...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Editorial: NecroScope Celebrates 13 Months Online!

Thirteen months! Over 200 posts! It's been a busy unlife for the staff at NecroScope since we started blogging from the crypt, and the popularity of zombies in literature, film, TV, gaming, and pop culture in general shows absolutely no sign of waning anytime soon!

Your friendly NecroKeeper would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us over this past 'year'; our staff and guest contributors, those who sent us notifications and material for review, and especially our slowly-growing horde of loyal Shamblers, who dutifully devour every new offering - either here on on our FaceBook page - and offer feedback and encouragement. Keep it coming, zomfans - you're the reason we keep running this freakshow, and - with the next year looking to be an even more massive one for zombie culture - we look forward to giving you more of what you've come to expect from NecroScope.

Review: Dead Men Walking

Tales of Zombies and the Living Dead (Fantasy and Horror Classics)

Various, 2011, Read Books

Dead Men Walking is one in a trilogy of zombie-themed anthologies from Read Books focusing exclusively upon more traditional zombies, particularly those of the Vodou or 'dead seeking vengeance' variety. Overall, this volume is a pretty decent showcase of zombie fiction, comprising such well-known classics as W. B. Seabrook's 'Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields' and G. W. Hutter's 'Salt Is Not For Slaves', along with lesser-known offerings such as 'The Hollow Man' by Thomas Burke and 'White Zombie' by Vivian Meik.

That said, Dead Men Walking may be more for the literary collector than the serious zombophile, even those whose tastes run more to the traditional, as not all of the pieces in this anthology have aged well since original publication during the early Twentieth Century. It's also worth noting that this volume is pretty pricey (AU$25) for such a slim publication (a mere 130-odd pages, comprising nine stories), and that the other two existing volumes in this series each include more than half of the stories already printed in Dead Men Walking. Odd, that.

Nonetheless, a sufficiently decent publication to warrant reading, although maybe one to pressure your local library for.

Monday, August 22, 2011

News: Get Zombified In A Comic!

Talented zombie-portrait artist Brendan Halyday has the following exciting news for fans of zombies, and comics. And comics about zombies...
Have you ever wanted to appear in a comic book, as a zombie?? Now is your chance! I am illustrating an OzZombie story for the Horror comic anthology DECAY. The story is currently slated to appear in issue 10 (scheduled for release Nov/Dec this year). For $100 you can get yourself (or someone you love) drawn into a comic as a zombie that will get published and bought by loads of people. You will also receive a signed copy of the comic, after it is published. The original artwork for the comic will also be available for purchase at a price of $200 per A3 page of original art. Spaces are VERY limited so get in touch asap to take up this offer!
 
To get in contact with Brendan regarding this offer, as well as to view examples of his zombie-themed portraiture, you may visit his website at  http://brendanhalyday.blogspot.com/ (where you'll even find a pic of your own NecroKeeper! See if you can pick him out...) 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Music: Pray For Daylight

Yet more music for the zompocalypse! Pray For Daylight is a folk album that explores the global zombie uprising, love, loss, and other grisly stuff. Chris Kiehne, the artist responsible, says of his work:
'I’ve always felt that the particular element of zombie films that elevates the sub-genre is that first moment of transfiguration, where a character ceases to be him/herself and commences being something other. It’s a really profound moment, insofar as it represents the simultaneous presence of polar opposites, which is otherwise a practical impossibility. You’re standing there, watching your wife rise up from a pile of dirt, and she is right then two opposing things: she is both her and not her, alive and dead. It’s a debilitating situation and demands really devastating moral decisions. It requires Helen to murder her daughter, Shaun to murder his mother, Francesco Dellamorte to murder his fated lover.  I guess in a way it’s sort of an allegorical examination of a diseased relationship, too. But it’s mostly just about zombies.'
Pray For Daylight is currently available for free download, no strings attached, via mediafire.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: The Living End

James Robert Smith, 2011, Severed Press

There are approximately 60 million domesticated canines currently living in the United States. When the walking dead rise, when society collapses...what happens to the dogs?

This is just one of the central issues uniquely addressed in The Living End that make this novel such a powerful and refreshing addition to the zompocalyptic genre. Simultaneously delving deeply into the role of religion in creating (or demolishing) societies, the feral dog thread - mostly presented from the POV of one of the canine pack-leaders - is utterly engrossing and original, not to mention genuinely frightening at times. There's an all-too-convincing nihilism to The Living End that puts one in mind of the excellent Eden novels, and Smith's take on the zompocalypse is right up there with Tony Monchinski's work.

Convincing characters, excellent dialogue and prose, and a tension-packed plot that keeps the reader guessing all the way...I'm not going to use the phrase 'instant classic', here, but I will say that this is a zombie novel that deserves to be read.

In conclusion, The Living End is one of those tales that proves, once again, that skilled authors can keep cooking up the 'same old' zompocalypse, provided they can season each new dish with unique and exciting condiments. James Robert Smith has managed to do just that.

The Living End is available to Australian readers via Severed Press, or through selected bookshops.

Monday, August 8, 2011

News: Run For Your Lives

In fiction, movies and games, zombies provide major motivation for the lead characters to keep moving in order to survive. So maybe it was always just a matter of time before someone came up with the bright idea of introducing zombies to stamina-based sports.

Welcome to Run For Your Lives - a genuine sports event being held in Baltimore this October...

Protect your brain and run for your life. This is one race where your legs giving out are the least of your problems. Run For Your Lives is a first-of-its-kind event, one part 5K, one part obstacle course, one part escaping the clutches of zombies — and all parts awesome. Runners will navigate a series of 12 obstacles throughout a 5K course in an attempt to reach the finish line — all while avoiding zombies. At the end of this adventure race, you get to celebrate survival (or zombie transformation) with live entertainment and music, local celebrities, vendors, food, and of course, beer!




Get your running shoes on and start training up now, sports fans. You'll need to be fast by the looks of it...

(Reported by Jessica Post)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

News: Dymocks Southland Bestselling Zombie Titles for July 2011

1. Survivor (Alone #2) - James Phelan
2. Deadline (Newsflesh #2) - Mira Grant
3. The Walking Dead Compendium - Robert Kirkman
4. Feed (Newsflesh #1) - Mira Grant
5. World War Z - Max Brooks
6. The Zombie Combat Manual - Roger Ma
7. Zombie Apocalypse - ed. Stephen Jones
8. Rot & Ruin - Jonathan Maberry
9. Apocalypso (Xombies #3) - Walter Greatshell
10. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies - Austen / Graeme-Smith

It's worth noting, for the delectation of our Australian readers, that the highest-selling zombie title was penned by a local boy (James Phelan), while our second highest-selling general horror title for the month (the highest being Kiwi Paul Haines' The Last Days of Kali Yuga) was Brett McBean's collection, Tales of Sin and Madness, which just happens to contain several excellent zombie tales.

Review: Flesh Eaters

Joe McKinney, 2011, Pinnacle Fiction
Out of the hurricane-flooded streets of Houston they emerge. Dead. Rotting. Hungry. With the city quarantined to halt the spread of the walking dead, Emergency Ops sergeant Eleanor Norton has her work cut out for her. But as things go from bad to worse, Eleanor must focus solely upon the people she loves; her daughter and husband. Because if she can't get them out of the quarantine zone, they'll all be dead meat...

Flesh Eaters is the third in a loose series of novels (beginning with Dead City and Apocalypse of the Dead), and is - in my opinion - the very best of the three thus far. Initially opting for chills and tension over action and gore, the tale opts for an approach - rare in zompocalyptic fiction nowadays - hearkening back to more traditional horror, with the protagonists utterly failing to even notice the zombie threat until a good third of the way into the book - and for a damn good reason. McKinney has his zombies emerge directly from the overwhelming aftermath of a natural disaster, where an already-decimated population is understandably more concerned with the utter lack of clean drinking water and medical assistance than with unsubstantiated rumours that some 'survivors' have been observed displaying cannibalistic behaviour....

As in previous offerings, McKinney backs up a gripping plot and great prose with highly engaging characterisation. Nobody writes cops quite as well as McKinney, and his use of a female officer (who also happens to be a wife and mother) as chief protagonist adds yet another fresh touch to this hugely engrossing and engaging novel.

Flesh Eaters - along with the preceding novels in this series - is an absolute must-read, and is guaranteed to be enjoyed equally by Romero purists and those who applaud fresh takes on the zompocalypse.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

News: 'The Walking Dead', Season 2 Trailer

Presented with no other comment than: October seems far too far away!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: The Complete History of 'The Return of the Living Dead'

Christian Sellers & Gary Smart, 2010, Plexus Publishing

Welcome to the franchise that won't stay dead...

For fans of that other famous zombie movie series - the one that gave zombies their own catch-cry ('Braiiiiiiiins!') - The Complete History holds a wealth of fascinating information on the conception, creation and release of all five Return movies to date. The behind-the-scenes story is presented chiefly through interviews with the cast and crew, with each individual step of production reflected upon in turn; a brilliant way in which to format such a book, as it not only gives the reader a real sense of the dynamics involved in making these movies, but also provides an engrossing (and often painfully honest) insight into the emotional investment of those involved.

Whether you love or hate the Return of the Living Dead movies (and I'm personally not a big fan), The Complete History is certainly one of the best behind-the-scenes tie-ins - for any movie - I've ever read. Definitely worth adding to the collection.

Review: Xombies: Apocalypso

Walter Greatshell, 2011, Ace Books

The Agent X plague infected women first, turning them into mindless killers intent on spreading their disease. Now, Lulu Pangloss and the Xombified crew of the USS No-Name are wandering the seas on a 'mission of mercy' - converting every mortal human they can find into an immortal Xombie...the better to survive the coming Apocalypse. But now a group of women immune to Agent X is being gathered, and - if they can be kept safe - the secret of their immunity may provide a cure. If Lulu doesn't find them first, that is...

Xombies: Apocalypso is the third in the acclaimed Xombies trilogy (beginning with Apocalypse Blues and Apocalypticon), and certainly rounds off the series with one hell of a bang. Frankly, there's no easy way to describe this tale: if Apocalypse Blues leaned mainly towards horror, and Apocalypticon towards post-Apocalyptic science-fiction, then Apocalypso is a macabre, gonzo blend of both, with a plot that hits the ground running from the very first page and doesn't slow down for a second. With rich lashings of deliciously bizarre humour, and obvious nods to such classics as John Carpenter's The Thing, 28 Days Later, and Greg Bear's Blood Music, Apocalypso is a novel to delight the discerning zomfan. And if you thought that Romero's Bub and Big Daddy represented the pinnacle of 'zombie evolution', well, you ain't seen nothing yet!

The entire Xombies trilogy is one that no true zomfan should overlook, being a collective classic of the genre. If you've not yet discovered Walter Greatshell, be sure to pick up this series right away. Or we'll send the Shamblers 'round...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: The Official Zombie Handbook Australia

Dr L. Jon Keioskie & Sean T. Page, 2011, Severed Press

Since pre-history, the living dead have been with us, with documented outbreaks from Ancient Babylon and Rome right up to the present day. But what if we were to suffer a zombie outbreak in Australia today..?

In this extensively and perceptively rewritten edition of the original overseas publication, The Official Zombie Handbook Australia is a terrific read for anyone who really appreciates the 'survival guide' niche of the zomfic market. The book is presented in dossier-like format, with very basic text formatting and bold black-and-white illustrations, and is written in a relatively dry, serious matter, all of which wonderfully supports the conceit that this is, in fact, an official governmental publication. Additionally, the authors have certainly done their research into Australian political and military concerns, law, culture, topography, and so many other topics that might impact upon the survivors of a zombie uprising; as a result, there's a genuine wealth of fascinating (not to mention quite alarming) information within, that may well have Australian readers reassessing their current survival plans.

The Official Zombie Handbook Australia is a must-have for any zomfan, and undoubtedly the very best zombie survival guide yet produced for an Australian readership. Available directly from Severed Press, or from selected Australian bookshops.

News: 'Remains' Comes To TV

Well, it was only a matter of time before the success of AMC's The Walking Dead spawned further zombie-related TV shows. The US-based Chiller TV is set to broadcast an adaptation of the Steve Niles' graphic novel Remains, which sees the residents of a small town facing off against a horde of 'fast' talking zombies. No pre-buzz on this one yet, although the trailer certainly emphasises the action element of the show.

(via Blastr)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Music: LMFAO

We at NecroScope enjoy a good zombie-movie-pastiche-video-clip as much as the next person (possibly influenced by the NecroKeeper's own past life as a club DJ), and the clip below - for Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO - must surely be counted as a worthy addition to the genre. If you needed further proof that zombies are now an inescapable element of modern pop culture, here it is. Enjoy!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review: Empire

David Dunwoody, 2008, Permuted Press (Gallery Books ed. 2010)

Humanity stands on the edge of extinction, as the crippled US government and military begin to give up the century-long fight against the undead plague. But even as they do, the zombie hordes - born of an unholy mix of supernatural energy and man-made virus - suddenly find themselves up against an enemy whose touch they can no longer defy: Death himself. The Grim Reaper....

It's taken me a few years to get around to reading this reputed classic of the zomfic genre...and I'm delighted to find that reputation extremely well-deserved. The plot - which slowly coalesces through a series of at-first seemingly unconnected vignettes - is atmospheric and totally engrossing (not to mention refreshingly unique, offering a dark science-fantasy spin on the zompocalypse), with instantly empathic characters, great dialogue and prose, and an emotive and satisfying conclusion.

Empire is absolutely a novel for any zomfan who appreciates strong literary fiction and creativity within the genre. A truly great read.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review: Best New Zombie Tales Vol.2

Ed. James Roy Daley, 2010, Books of the Dead

As with its predecessor, Best New Zombie Tales Vol 1, Volume two of this anthology series collects numerous excellent zombie tales (19 in all), and certainly lives up to its claim of 'Best' (although, once again, 'new' seems inaccurate, given the original publication dates of some the stories. Maybe I'm just being picky, though).

Particular highlights, for me, included Rio Youers' 'Bury Me Not', an effectively creepy piece in the vein of Ramsey Campbell; Steven A. Roman's 'Laundry Day', which puts a nice twist on the 'folks are the worst of all monsters' trope; Narrelle M. Harris' 'The Truth About Brains', a sly piece of dark humour that brings magic (and consequences!) back to the genre; Nate Kenyon's 'Gravedigger', which isn't quite the anti-drugs tale it seems to be; Cody Goodfellow's 'We Will Rebuild', which reminds us that the difference between Right and Wrong is always a matter of perspective; and Mort Castle's 'The Old Man and the Dead', which is quite possibly the most beautifully literary piece of zomfic I've read since Tony Burgess' Pontypool Changes Everything.

Best New Zombie Tales Vol.2 is a worthy addition to any zomfic collection, with the ongoing BNZT series of anthologies definitely one to keep track of. A great read.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

News: Dymocks Southland Bestselling Zombie Titles for June 2011

After the boom of May's International Zombie Awareness Month promo, sales of zomfic dipped somewhat in June. Nonetheless, zombie-related titles continued to perform well, despite competing with various new-release paranormal titles (such as Lauren Kate's Passion).

1. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (Austen / Graeme-Smith)
2. Feed (Mira Grant)
3. Deadline (Mira Grant)
4. The Dead-Tossed Waves
5. Marvel Zombies 5
6. The Zombie Survival Guide (Max Brooks)
7. Apocalypse of the Dead (Joe McKinney)
8. Flesh Eaters (Joe McKinney)
9. Chasers (James Phelan)
10. Breathers (S. G. Browne)

New arrivals in store this month include Deadline (Mira Grant) and Survivor (James Phelan).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: Deadline (Newsflesh #2)

Mira Grant, 2011, Orbit
(Warning: the following review contains spoilers for the first book in the Newsflesh Trilogy, Feed.)

Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organisation he built with his sister has the same urgency it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn't seem as fun when you've lost as much as he has. But when a researcher from the CDC fakes her own death and appears on Shaun's doorstep with a horde of ravenous zombies in tow, Shaun finds a new purpose in life; because it seems that, while the man who murdered Shaun's sister is dead, the conspiracy behind that act is far from buried...

Deadline is, of course, the highly-anticipated sequel to the spectacular Feed - and I'm truly overjoyed to report that Mira Grant has delivered a novel every bit as brilliant, engrossing, and downright terrifying as its predecessor. Shaun Mason provides a fascinating replacement as narrator for the ill-fated Georgia, being a deeply damaged, self-destructive and, frankly, mentally ill character (holding animated conversations with his dead sister, among other things). The plot gallops along at breakneck speed, through numerous twists and turns, to deliver a twist that - while perhaps not as shocking as that which concluded Feed - is nonetheless superbly powerful, and will whet the appetite of any reader for the final installment of this series.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about Deadline is how Grant, as in the first book, maintains an atmosphere of 'mundane dread' - the feeling that the terrors of the tale are part of everyday existence for her characters - while keeping actual zombie appearances to a minimum; her perfectly-extrapolated future society is one in which everything the characters do is in some way regulated by the constant threat of death and/or zombification. It's emotionally exhausting to read at times, yet absolutely riveting, and one of the most rewarding pieces of zomfic to hit the shelves since...well, Feed.

I'm not going to ask you to go out and buy a copy of Deadline. I'm telling you. Do it, and do it now. And pick up a copy of Feed also, if by some miracle you've not done so already. This is not negotiable.

And if you don't...well. I know where you live. And I'm real hungry...

Review: Zombiesque

Ed. Stephen L. Antczak, James C. Bassett & Martin H. Greeberg, 2011, DAW Books

DAW have always done a fine job of tapping into emerging and resurgent trends in speculative fiction with their anthologies, as evidenced by recent collections of space opera, steampunk and Lovecraftian short fiction. Zombiesque is certainly no exception, being an anthology not merely of zomfic, but of tales told specifically from the zombies' point-of-view, which is just now becoming a popular trope within the subgenre.

The sixteen original tales comprising Zombiesque are all, without exception, highly entertaining, and run the full range of cross-genres from humour, to horror, to romance, drama, and everything in between. Of particular note, for me, were Nancy Collins' 'At First Only Darkness', which really does take the reader inside the head of a creature driven only by hunger; Tim Waggoner's 'Do No Harm', which uniquely posits the sort of society zombies might evolve in the relative absence of humanity; Richard Lee Byers' 'Zombie Camp', in which holidaymakers actually pay to briefly experience 'life' as zombies; Jim C. Hines' 'In the Line of Duty', in which intelligent zombies are successfully (kinda) integrated into the field of Special Ops; Del Stone Jr's 'Zero', which draws emotive parallels between zombies and the homeless; S. Boyd Taylor's 'A Distant Sound of Hammers', which hideously depicts the ultimate fate of those who survive the inevitable zombie uprising; and Laszlo Xalieri's 'The Confession', a terrifyingly creepy and gruesome piece of fiction that will have you checking the locks tonight...

In short, Zombiesque is a rather brilliant little anthology showcasing some brilliant authors, some of whom will be familiar to fans of the genre, others not. This is definitely a publication to be read and cherished by zomfans of all stripes, and is available to Australian readers through Penguin Australia.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Best New Zombie Tales Vol. 1

Ed. James Roy Daley, 2010, Books of the Dead

 Best New Zombie Tales is a reprint anthology comprising 19 short stories and one comic strip, and - I'm glad to report - very much lives up to its claim of including the very best in zombie fiction, although 'new' is perhaps inaccurate, as the publication dates of the tales herein go back as far as 2002. Regardless, there are some absolute gems to be found here, few of which appear to have been previously anthologised, Particular highlights, for me, include Jeff Strand's 'Immunity', Robert Swartwood's 'In the Land of the Blind', Gary McMahon's 'Nowhere People''Darkness Comprehended', by Harry Shannon & Gord Rollo, and Kim Paffenroth's 'On the Usefulness of Old Books' - all of which present fresh takes on tropes familiar to fans of zomfic - but really, there isn't a dud anywhere in this collection.

In short, Best New Zombie Tales is an absolute 'must own' for the zomfic aficionado. A great read.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: Survivor (Alone #2)

James Phelan, 2011, Hachette Australia

Twelve days after the missiles fell, pursued by predatory Chasers, menaced by mysterious military personnel, Jesse finds unexpected friendship in three other survivors: Felicity, a girl he meets via  home video; Rachel, more concerned with the animals in her care than with people; and Caleb - angry, disillusioned, and maybe even dangerous. But friendship comes at a price in a world where nothing can be relied upon. Will Jesse's new mates really stick by him if he decides to flee New York City...or is he destined always to be alone?

Survivor is, of course, the sequel to the highly-successful YA infected-zombie tale Chasers, and like its predecessor, it's an absolute cracker. With the appearance of other survivors comes a raising of the stakes, not least in the face of an incursion by local military forces that may not have the interests of our protagonists at heart. Phelan successfully alternates moments of beautifully-crafted creepiness with those of adrenalin-pumping action and violence, and his characters are all sufficiently empathic to drag the reader - unwillingly, perhaps - along for the ride.

While the Chasers/zombies play second-fiddle to other hazards in Survivor, this is nonetheless a zompocalyptic tale to stand with the best of them. The proof of the pudding, for me, is that - again, like its predecessor - Survivors will be included in the Australian Government's Get Reading! - 50 Books You Can't Put Down campaign for the coming year.

In short, Survivors is a brilliant read that will leave you hungry for the third installment of the Alone trilogy, due out later this year.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: Tooth and Nail

Craig DiLouie, 2010, Schmidt Haus Books
"I mean, is this, like, supposed to be the end of the world?"
"The Army has given me no such order."

As a new plague turns millions of Americans into violent, flesh-eating maniacs, Lieutenant Todd Bowman must guide a unit of hardened veterans across New York City in order to secure a research facility that may - may - hold a cure. But when the army is forced to turn their weapons against the very people they have sworn to protect, even Bowman begins to ask the question: is anything truly worth this?

Let me say, right from the outset, that there are few pieces of zomfic that have ever truly moved me as effectively as Craig DiLouie's Tooth and Nail, and this may be because Tooth and Nail - while undoubtedly a zombie novel - is also one of the most emotive, character-driven, realistic and nihilistic war novels I've ever had the privilege to read. DiLouie combines his obvious insider knowledge of military procedure and terminology seamlessly with breathtaking action, emotive character studies, and a plot that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat from beginning to end. The horrors of having to 'put down' the very people one is entrusted to protect - in this case, ordinary American citizens - is examined more deeply and movingly than in any previous movie or publication I can name, and the end result is a stunning exploration of the hell that is war, and one that - in my opinion - should be read by everyone.

I'm hereby making the call: Craig DiLouie is an author with an incredible future ahead of him, and one whose publications are now and forever on my 'must read' list. If you hunger for the absolute best in zomfic - or any fiction, for that matter - you must track down this book - along with DiLouie's subsequent publication, The Infection - and read it now. Brilliant and absolutely unforgettable.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review: Hungry For Your Love

Ed. Lori Perkins, 2010, St. Martin's Griffin
Even as someone who has been quite vocal in championing la difference in zomfic, as a means of keeping the genre continually fresh and entertaining, I've never been totally comfortable with the whole zombie/romance crossover concept. It always seemed to me that, once you move past the basic idea of a human/human romance perhaps set against the backdrop of a zompocalypse (as in Amelia Beamer's The Loving Dead), then you're potentially entering either fluffy-bunny or major 'ick!' territory, neither of which floats my boat, particularly.

That said, Lori Perkins' excellent anthology, Hungry For Your Love, has pretty-much forced me to change my thinking on this point. Comprising twenty-one zombie-related tales that range all the way across the romantic spectrum - from pure Mills & Boon stuff to, as Perkins herself puts it, 'smut' - there is literally something here for everyone. The zombies, also, run the gamut, from humorous to genuinely horrifying, voodoo to Romero-esque. Such is the variety offered - almost every individual story claiming its own niche somewhere along the available spectrum - that it's pointless for me to pick out any favourites; suffice to say, this is one of the best zombie 'crossover' titles I've come across in a while, and well worth reading.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

News: Dymocks Southland Bestselling Dark Fiction Titles for May 2011

May being International Zombie Awareness Month, sales of zombie-related titles went through the roof. For this reason, our usual Top 10 list has been extended to Top 20.

1. Breathers (S. G. Browne)
2. Feed (Mira Grant)
3. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (Austen/Graeme-Smith)
4. P&P&Z: Dreadfully Ever After (Steve Hockensmith)
5. Warm Bodies (Isaac Marion)
6. Alone #1: Chasers (James Phelan)
7. Monster Nation (David Wellington)
8. Zombie Apocalypse! (ed. Stephen Jones)
9. P&P&Z: Dawn of the Dreadfuls (Steve Hockensmith)
10. Marvel Zombies 5
11. The Zombie Combat Manual (Roger Ma)
12. The Walking Dead Compendium (Robert Kirkman)
13. Patient Zero (Jonathan Maberry)
14. The Walking Dead Book #1 (Robert Kirkman)
15. Rot & Ruin (Jonathan Maberry)
16. Xombies: Apocalypso (Walter Greatshell)
17. Flesh Eaters (Joe McKinney)
18. Zombiesque (ed. Greenberg/Antczak/Bassett)
19. Eden (Tony Monchinski)
20. The Zombie Survival Guide (Max Brooks)

New titles arriving in-store this month include Xombies: Apocalypso (Walter Greatshell), The Reapers Are the Angels (Alden Bell), and The Zombie Autopsies (Steve Schlozman).

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: The Reapers are the Angels

Alden Bell, 2010, Pan Macmillan Australia

Older than her years and completely alone, Temple is trying to live one day at a time in a post-apocalyptic world, where the undead roam endlessly, and the remnants of mankind seem, at times, to retain little humanity themselves. When she comes across the helpless Maury, she sets out to return him to his family in an attempt to redeem herself for some of the terrible things she's done. Meanwhile, in a world gone mad, one vengeful man has decided that the one thing that makes sense is to kill Temple...

The Reapers are the Angels is one of the most nihilistic, emotionally draining, and marvellously satisfying zombie novels of recent times. Held together by the simple, central plot of redemption and revenge, the details of Temple's tale comprise a series of seemingly disconnected vignettes describing her encounters with various people, some good, some bad, as she travels cross-country in search of Maury's kin. Bell's matter-of-fact prose and quote-less dialogue contributes strongly to a beautifully-maintained sense of a day-by-day Armageddon, a bleak joyless grind stretching out forever before our protagonists. While minor niggles include such things details as derelict suburban stores still having edible supplies on the shelves after a quarter-century, the formidable strengths of this novel absolutely make up for any such weaknesses.

Gripping, tragic, and one of the most brutally uncompromising zombie tales since Mira Grant's Feed, The Reapers are the Angels is a novel that will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned, and should be considered an instant classic of the genre.

Review: Chanbara Beauty

Dir. Yohei Fukuda, 2008, Madman Entertainment

Bikini-clad samurai chick, Aya, roams a chaotic and desolate future world where the streets are filled with zombies. In search of her sister, she meets a mysterious gun-toting leather outlaw named Reiko. Teaming up, they take on the marauding hordes of zombies - and their evil creator - in an all-out war.

Based upon the cult electronic game Onechanbara, Chanbara Beauty is a typically Asian piece of cinematic silliness: hot chicks in fantasy outfits, over-the-top violence and bloodshed, superhuman stunts, and plenty of mid-action flashbacks substituting for actual plot or character development. That last comment isn't to suggest that Chanbara Beauty isn't an enjoyable movie - it's actually quite entertaining, and (curse my sexist soul) Eri Otoguro, playing Aya, is very easy on the eye - but viewers are advised to disengage their brains a little in order to get the most out of the experience. While there's relatively little in the way of zombie content overall, the occasional frenetic samurai-chick-against-the-horde action scenes do compensate somewhat. Worth watching on your next 'B-grade movies with friends, pizza and beer' night.

Monday, May 16, 2011

News: Jason Fischer Debut Collection Due

As our regular readers would be aware, we at NecroScope are huge fans of Jason Fischer, one of Australia's premiere zombie authors; so the following press release from Ticonderoga Publications is a source of great excitement to us...  
Press Release
Ticonderoga Publications is proud to announce the forthcoming publication of a collection of stories by the writer of the future Jason Fischer.

 Adelaide-based Fischer is a Clarion South graduate and recent winner of the Writers of the Future competition.

The collection is titled Everything is a Graveyard, and is scheduled for publication in late 2013. The exact contents are still to be finalised.

The collection will revolve around Fischer’s critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic and zombie-themed work. Everything is a Graveyard will also include new stories original to the collection.

“Jason Fischer taps into the darker sides of human nature like few other writers,” Ticonderoga Editor Russell B. Farr said. “His work blends raw emotion with an honest sense of mortality.”

The collection is scheduled for publication in October 2013. The collection will be available in limited edition hardcover, ebook and trade editions.
You can be sure that NecroScope will be keeping you up to date with the publication of this collection, so stay tuned!

Review: Zombies: The Recent Dead

Ed. Paula Guran, 2010, Prime Books

Zombies: The Recent Dead is a reprint anthology comprising twenty-three 'new millennial' zombie stories by many current heavyweights of the zombie and horror genres. While a number of the tales may now be overly-familiar to zombie obsessives like myself, due to their inclusion in numerous recent anthologies, editor Guran has done a wonderful job of casting the net wide and including a range of lesser-known, though still quite excellent pieces of short fiction. From modern classics such as Neil Gaiman's 'Bitter Grounds', Scott Edelman's 'The Last Supper' and David J. Schow's 'Obsequy', to rarer gems such as Tim Lebbon's 'Naming of Parts', Alice Sola Kim's 'Beautiful White Bodies', and Gary McMahon's 'Dead to the World', there's truly something here for every reader.

Zombies: The Recent Dead is a must-read for zomfans, and a terrific addition to the genre. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Review: Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology

Ed. Michelle McCrary & Joe McKinney, 2010, 23 House Publishing

We were once a race seven billion strong. But today, our world has become a wasteland overrun by the living dead. Rivers of zombies flood the streets. They never rest. They never relent. Their hunger for the living is insatiable. And with every careless mistake we make, their numbers swell.

Dead Set comprises twenty original tales of the zompocalypse, the running order of which loosely charts the event from origin to end. As with many zombie anthologies currently available (apart from a few notable exceptions) the quality of the individual tales is a little mixed. Specifically, a number of offerings felt more like vignettes from some larger work than stories in their own right, lacking the punch of a strong central plot or conclusion; not terrible, by any means, but somewhat unsatisfying.

That said, there were certainly some gems also: 'Biting the Hand that Feeds You' by Calie Voorhis vividly takes the reader into the mind of a 'turning' zombie, as does David Dunwoody's 'Ruminations from the Tri-Omega House'; Joe McKinney's own offering, 'Survivors', deals effectively with the theme of survivors' guilt; 'Recovery' by Boyd E. Harris uncomfortably poses the question of whether the rehabilitation of zombies is necessarily of benefit to anyone; Nate Southard's 'In the Middle of Poplar Street' delivers an original take on the 'man's inhumanity to man' theme; 'Inside Where It's Warm' by Lee Thomas is another emotive tale from (ultimately) the zombie's POV; and Mark Onspaugh's 'Good Neighbour Sam' reminds us that there's still a place for human...oddities...in a world overrun by the living dead.

Overall, Dead Set is an extremely worthwhile anthology, and a fine addition to the genre. Definitely one to add to the home library.

Music: Feral Familiar

With International Zombie Awareness Month well underway, Ace Elliott has alerted us to the following recent musical celebration of the zombie in popular culture. The clip for Enough Blood to Keep 'Em Coming comes courtesy of Andrew Jackson's Feral Familiar. Enjoy!

News: The Australian Speculative Fiction Blog Carnival May 2011

NecroScope is extremely proud to present this month's Australian Speculative Fiction Blog Carnival, an ongoing initiative of the Australian Science Fiction Writers' Association. Zombie-related news from the land down-under was relatively thin this past month, but there were plenty of other developments across the local specfic community...

A great article on the Australian Voice in Fiction

Fangoria Magazine reports on Sydney's 'Night of Horror'.

The ABC report on the death of actor Elisabeth Sladen, who was best-known for playing fan-favourite Doctor Who companion, Sarah-Jane Smith:

...with related postings by various Australian specfic authors who grew up watching Sladen on TV:

Alan Baxter
Jon Blum
Lee Battersby
Chuck McKenzie

Christopher Green's fantastic online serialised zombie novel, Arizona Afterwards just keeps getting better and better. And more and more disturbing...

And still on zombie-related news, Scott Wilson reported that the April issue of The Fringe Magazine is now out, featuring stories by MJ Wesolowski, Darrin Albert, Michael Casey, Kevin Bennett, and Chris Edwards, plus interviews with authors, Madeline Roux and Jessica Shirvington.

And I'd be remiss not to mention the Dymocks Southland Zombie Jamboree, being held on May 28th. Authors Bob Franklin, Kirstyn McDermott and James Phelan will be signing books, while an in-store Zombie Shuffle will be held from 1-2pm, with a prize pack for best-dressed zombie.

Gillian Pollack on Annoying Categorisations in Speculative Fiction.

Tansy Rayner Roberts reports on, well...The Festival of Tansy!

A round-up of Swancon 36 reports by Fablecroft Publishing.

And in sad news for the local specfic publishing community, a veritable flurry of closures...

The closure of Eneit Press was reported back in March. Close upon the heels of this announcement came the following rally-cry from author Mary Victoria, urging folks to support the small-press publisher however they can. Old news, but worth repeating.

This month, Brimstone Press - the publisher behind NecroScope's parent site, HorrorScope - also closed their doors. This report from author Martin Livings. Sadly, the closure has also necessitated the closure of the HorrorScope site, which provided an invaluable resource for fans of dark fiction over the past five years.

And finally, Terra Incognita Speculative Fiction posted its final podcast today. Visit the site to download or stream any of the 30 excellent podcasts available.

In happier news, Talie Helene announced the line-up for the forthcoming The Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror, due soon from Ticonderoga Publications.

And the winners of the 2010 Australian Shadows Awards were announced.

As were the winners of this year's Ditmar Awards.

Plus the finalists in this year's Aurealis Awards, the winners of which will be announced on May 21st.

The Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne will be presenting Get Into Genre: SpecFic on May 31st. It’s an opportunity to hear from our speculative fiction writers and industry professionals.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: Undead or Alive

2008, Dir. Glasgow Phillips



In the wake of the highly successful (and lucrative) Shaun of the Dead, it appears that the 'zombedy' has become a subgenre in its own right. And, as is so often the case, the majority of available product is pretty dreadful - and not in a good, horror-related way.

Having said that, this straight-to-DVD movie is a rarity, in that it's actually pretty damned good, mixing elements of Romero zombie flicks with those of traditional westerns and absurdist comedy.

As the movie begins, we're informed via captions that the Native-American guerrilla leader Geronimo, prior to his death at the hands of the US cavalry, just happened to lay down a curse upon a certain area of the New Frontier - a curse that would cause the afflicted to hunger after the flesh of their fellows. Pretty grim stuff. Then the captions go on to inform us that the bit where we have to read these captions is nearly over, and the tone of the movie is irrevocably set. Two lads on the lam team up with a Native-American stunna as they attempt to escape a posse of local lawmen while simultaneously chasing down the regiment responsible for the death of Geronimo, who happens to be the uncle of the stunna. Still with me? Now throw some zombies into the mix, and stand back.

The premise doesn't sound especially promising, but there's a lot here to like: the humour, while fairly broad, is surprisingly low-key for a US production, and - brace yourselves - is actually quite funny. There's also fair attention paid to historical accuracy (often in the smallest of details), some decent acting, dialogue and characterisation, plenty of blood for the gorehounds, and even some genuine moments of creepy tension and a couple of scares. And - just in case you needed more - there's some extremely nice cinematography (including a couple of those brilliant sunset shots that are par the course for any decent western), plus eye-candy in the form of James Denton (from Desperate Housewives) for the ladies and Navi Rawal for the lads.

Sure, there are a couple of plot holes you could ride a lynchin' party through, and - as happens in even the best Romero flicks - the zombies seem to alter the 'rules' of their existence to facilitate the needs of the plot/action. But, all in all, this is a really good, funny, gory, enjoyably silly zombedy.

A word of warning, though: as I've suggested, this movie defies quite a few expectations, and this carries right on through to the very end of the movie. I'll say no more. You'll see what I mean. Enjoy!

(Originally posted to HorrorScope, 2008)

Review: Fido

2008, Dir. Andrew Currie, Starring Carrie Anne-Moss, Billy Connolly, Dylan Baker


I’ve mentioned before how, in the wake of Shaun of the Dead, the ‘ZomCom’ seems to have become a subgenre in its own right. On my last visit to the DVD rental store, I found around half-a-dozen on the shelves, all with ‘funnier than Shaun of the Dead’ emblazoned on their covers. In the case of Fido, the description was ‘Shaun of the Dead meets Pleasantville’, which didn’t inspire confidence. Comparisons are odious, particularly in hindsight when the pitch fails to live up to the reality, and I have to say that – having watched recently some particularly bad ‘funnier than Shaun’ ZomComs – I was tempted to give Fido an extremely wide berth.

Well, thank God for cheap Thursday rentals. Because Fido is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

I’ll say it again.

This is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, bar none.

I’d be quite happy to leave it at that, and allow the reader to discover the delights of Fido all by themselves. But on my HorrorScope salary (all the brains I can eat), I’m expected to provide a little more content, so here goes:

In Fido, the zombie uprising has come and gone. Circa 1939 (by my reckoning), the dead rose, were fought and contained, and now (in the late 1950’s) have become a social commodity, fitted with electronic collars that subdue their hunger for human flesh, allowing them to be utilized as a cheap, reliable workforce.

America is still the America of the 50’s that we’ve always known and loved – and yet, it’s not quite the 50’s of Leave it to Beaver and Pleasantville. It’s far more realistic than that, with all of the complications and issues of everyday life. Sure, it’s an era of hats, martinis, Hawaiian shirts and educational films. Less pleasantly, though, it’s also an era of sexism, McCarthyism, governmental conspiracies and emotional constipation. Furthermore, extrapolating social developments following the zombie war, it’s an era in which suburbs are fenced in to keep ‘wild’ zombies out, criminals are banished to the unprotected zones, and old people are secured in prisons. Just in case. Funeral plans (complete with ‘head coffin’) are a mark of social status, and primary school children are taught in class how to shoot zombies through the head (although they’re not allowed to actually own a gun themselves until they turn twelve).

It’s this sort of attention to the details of what is, after all, an ‘alternate history’, that underpin the success of this film. The alternate facets aren’t pushed in our faces – they’re simply there, presented as normal aspects of existence. This also successfully sets up the horror element of the film: the sense of horror in most zombie flicks is generated through the introduction of the unthinkable into the midst of ordinary everyday life. In Fido, the unthinkable has become a part of everyday life, and is all the more unsettling for it. Here, the audience is credited with intelligence, and the pay-off is magnificent.

The plot itself is nothing new – it’s essentially the tale of A Boy And His Dog, with Lassie homages aplenty (right down to the obligatory ‘Go get help, boy!’). Average American Timmy Robinson and his Mom and Dad take on a zombie (Connolly, in an unusually ‘straight’ role) to assist with household chores, and a special bond develops between boy and corpse. Bad things happen, and Timmy embarks upon a quest to save his new best friend. However, what could have been a very ordinary concept is raised well above standard fare by some truly brilliant dialogue, and wonderful performances from all the leads. Nothing is overplayed here. The people populating this reality are real people. There are no good guys or bad guys (perhaps excepting the nasty old bitch who lives across the road). Dad is distant and emotionally-retarded, yet thinks of himself as a good father (on being told that his wife is pregnant, his immediate response is: “On my salary, I don’t think I can afford another funeral”). Mom is a shallow social climber who nonetheless demonstrates her commitment to her family’s best interests. Timmy is a sensitive lad with a great deal of sympathy for zombies, yet, like any ten-year-old, is capable of unthinking acts of selfishness and bigotry. Again, none of this is pushed in our faces – it all comes out through dialogue and body language. And, unusually, very little of the comedy – either situational or dialogue-driven – is obviously played for laughs, which gives the film a rich black quality.

Yes, there are a number of messages presented here – it wouldn’t be a 50’s-style film without them – but, as so often happens in real life, we’re mostly left to figure them out ourselves. The characters don’t experience any sudden epiphanies, and the various less-pleasant issues raised are more often simply acknowledged rather than actually dealt with. As Dad advises Timmy in one wince-inducing father/son chat, “Feeling’s not important. Being alive is what counts”.

If you love zombies, romantic comedies or just really good pithy dialogue, you must see Fido. For once, here’s a ZomCom that is at least as good as Shaun of the Dead. Just different.

(Originally posted to HorrorScope, 2008)