Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Competition Winner!

A huge 'thanks' to everyone who took the time to pitch their idea for a zombie TV show based upon a book or short story. We had a bunch of great concepts sent in, ranging from the latest bestsellers to half-forgotten cult classics, with suggestions for one-off telemovies, ongoing seasons, limited series, half-hour 'specials', and more.

Unsurprisingly, recent releases lead the field, with novels such as Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero and Mira Grant's Feed nominated numerous times. Older works that received multiple nominations included Joe McKinney's Dead City, Z. A. Recht's Plague of the Dead, Kim Paffenroth's Dying to Live, Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Daniel Waters' Generation Dead, J. L. Bourne's Day by Day Armageddon, and Sarah Langan's Virus (aka The Missing).

Both Max Brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide and Roger Ma's The Zombie Combat Manual were suggested as serialised 'mockumentaries', and Adam Roberts' I Am Scrooge was a popular choice as a one-off Christmas special.

Short fiction received fewer nominations in general, although several classic tales were suggested. David J. Schow's 'Jerry's Kids Meet Wormboy' and Jennifer Brozek's 'A Bite to Remember' both received several nods. A couple of individual suggestions that really piqued our interest were David Wimberley's (Aust) nomination of Clive Barker's 'Scape-Goats' as a telemovie, and Steve McKenna's (UK) vision of Scott Edelman's 'The Last Supper' as a half-hour special.

Ultimately, though, there could only be one winner, and NecroScope would like to congratulate Guilherme Matsumoto (Brazil), whose passionate pitch for a six-episode miniseries based upon Brian Keene's apocalyptic novel, Dead Sea, came complete with suggested cast and crew (and valid reasons for those suggestions) and a clear vision of what the series should achieve.

Guilherme, a prize-pack filled with all manner of zombie-related goodies will shortly be winging it's way to you from darkest Oz. Congratulations once again.

To all our non-winners, commiserations. Remember, though, that there will be plenty more opportunities in future to win fabulous prizes simply by being a zomfic fan, so stay logged in to NecroScope in the meantime.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fiction: Goodnights to Heaven

By way of thanks to all the zomfic fans who subscribe to or regularly visit this blog, NecroScope is extremely proud to offer the following Yuletide treat: an original piece of fiction from Australia's own zombiemeister, Jason Fischer (author of, among other zombie-related goodness, After the World: Gravesend). If you enjoy the following tale (as you doubtless will), be sure to chase up some of Jason's previous zombie-related work via his official website (

In the meantime, grab a glass of Christmas Cheer, ease yourself into a comfy chair, and prepare to be thoroughly moved, unsettled and entertained by 'Goodnights to Heaven'.

Don't turn your back on the chimney, though: you never what what might come down it...

Goodnights to Heaven
by Jason Fischer

It was spotting the man on the roof that made her change direction, and probably saved their lives. He was obviously a lookout, some poor frozen bugger lurking in the mess of old chimneys and tiles, anorak up around his ears. There was no other reason for a breathing body to be sitting up there in the cold.
   ‘Back this way, Toby,’ Mary whispered, pulling the little boy back around the corner, holding him close. Her heart was racing. Were we seen?
   ‘I’m tired, Mummy,’ the boy whined softly.
   She led him away from that reasonable looking street, a row of terrace houses with most of the windows intact. She pictured the untouched larders, clean beds, maybe left over toys and books for her son. And then she remembered that man on the rooftop, and knew that where one man watched, others waited, and that soon enough this place too would be stripped bare.
   They trudged back into streets long since picked over, endless blocks of waste, the houses all cracked open like eggs and open to the elements, doors flapping or off their hinges, windows broken by angry starving kids. And always, always the stacks of bodies, thick on the ground here and putrid, but at least they weren’t up and walking about.
   The sun was starting to sink through the rooftops, a thin watery orb sliding down that freezing clear sky. With an eye to the remaining daylight, Mary found a semi-detached house, less damaged than its neighbours. Stepping gingerly over an eviscerated corpse, spread out and rotting on the doorstep, Mary took the boy inside, looking at the thick layers of dirt coating the floors, noting how every corner and nook had trapped the autumn leaves, blown in through the destroyed windows.
   ‘See that,’ she whispered to the boy, pointing at the grimy floors. ‘No tracks, nothing for a long time. We can stay here.’
   ‘Mummy, I’m hungry,’ Toby grizzled, looking up at her. His eyes were sunken, his cheek bones far too pronounced. She’d dressed him in several layers of clothes and he still looked like a ghost on legs.
   The last of their food had been taken from them at knife-point, by a sad-eyed man who tried to apologise for robbing them, even as he was doing it. He’d left them a can of dog-food, which they’d bolted down as soon as he left, Mary gagging on the gelatin slime. Between them they ate every mouthful, scraping the sides of the tin clean.
   That had been three days ago.
   They looked through the cupboards and shelves, even checking the mess of drawers that had been pulled out and dumped onto the lino floor. The place had been picked over, and good. Feeling around underneath the kitchen sink, she cried out triumphantly. A single can had fallen behind the drain pipes, overlooked by the human locusts who’d last visited.
   “Halved Pears in Syrup!” the faded label read. Hands shaking, Mary worked her can-opener, mouth running when she saw the fat slices of fruit, bobbing in thick liquid. Even though her stomach growled, Mary made sure that Toby ate every single mouthful, saving only a little of the juice for herself.
   ‘My tummy hurts,’ Toby said, a few minutes after wolfing down the pears. He danced on the spot, clutching at his stomach, which gave an ominous rumbling sound. The toilet stank like a morgue, with a rotting body still clutching the bowl, so Mary helped her son squat over a large saucepan, the boy sobbing as his meal ran right through him.
   ‘My poor darling, my sweet boy,’ Mary said, wiping his brow. They had a little clean water left, and she let him drink it all. ‘I know, my heart, I know.’
   They found a thick quilt in the linen cupboard, and slept in the top of the garage, a converted stable complete with the old hay-loft. With the ladder pulled up they were safe enough, if a walking dead thing should sniff them out.
   ‘I can see the stars,’ Toby whispered, pointing out through the dusty louvre windows. ‘I’m gonna do my goodnights to heaven.’
   Mary clutched her boy close, tucking the quilt in around them. The boards beneath them were hard and cold, and the backpack made for a poor pillow. Her limbs ached with exhaustion.
   ‘Goodnight Grandpa, and Daddy, and Sally, and Moggy. I love you lots and lots.’ He ended the ritual with a blown kiss, the way he’d always done. Cradled in his mother’s bony arms, the boy was asleep in seconds. Stifling her sobs, Mary cried and cried.


   ‘It’s a special day today,’ Mary told Toby, pointing to her diary. She always recorded temperature, locations visited, numbers of undead seen, her general condition and Toby’s. Bevan had told her she was an obsessive diariser, ‘a mad Samuel Pepys, except you’ve got nothing interesting to write about.’
   In the early days of this feral new world, he sure changed his tune as to the usefulness of a diary, and then he was bitten and had to be put down (this event marked in a somewhat shaky hand as having happened on the 5th of February, 2014), marking the end of married life and all of its comfortable nitpickings.
   ‘It’s Christmas day,’ she said. ‘You might have been too little to remember it, but we used to put up a big tree with lights on it, with presents underneath and everyone would come over for a big roast lunch.’
   Toby chewed his lip for a long moment. He always looked thoughtful whenever Mary spoke about the world that once was, as if she was telling tall tales, making things up to keep him cheerful.
   ‘I do so remember Christmas,’ Toby said. ‘We ate a tin of pudding last year. Daddy put a fire on and he gave me my colouring book.’
   ‘That’s right. But I’ve got something better for you this year.’
   They left the semi-detached, Mary making a careful note of its position in her diary, wrote “A SAFE PLACE?”. The two walked through the streets, pausing only once to hide from a small pack of zombies, leathery corpses weaving all over the street like drunks.
   Roughly twelve corpses, when last month they’d run from a mob in this neighbourhood that was three hundred strong. Suits me fine, Mary thought. Move on, you smelly buggers.
   They waited in an abandoned combi van for the mob to pass, and Mary tipped a sprinkling of vinegar onto herself and Toby. It would mask their scent, confuse the keen senses of the undead. If they kept out of sight, they would be fine.
   We creep through this strange new world like a pair of mice, Mary thought. Licking her cracked lips, she eyed off the vinegar, perhaps two fingers worth left in the bottle, but wrote it off as a bad idea. It will only make us thirsty, and we need every drop of this stuff, need it to move around safely.
   When the last faint moan had faded into the distance, they slid out of the van, walked quickly. Once, Mary heard arguing, a man and a woman, and lingered on the corner of main street, wondering if it was worth the risk. It would take them straight to where they were going. A moment later and there was a gunshot, the sharp crack like a fat hand swatting the life out of something.
   There was no scream, and the angry words had stopped. Mary scooped Toby up into her arms and ran back the way she’d come, changing streets, slipping down quiet alleyways, doubling back on herself until she was thoroughly lost. The young boy trembled in her arms, and she felt the warm trickle of his urine as it soaked through the seat of his pants.
   ‘It’s okay mate, we won’t see any of the bad people,’ she said, stroking his hair. ‘We’re okay now.’
   The street directory gave her an alternate route, through the old industrial area. They’d passed through about nine months ago (9th November, 2013 to be precise, “STUFF ALL HERE” Bevan had added to her brief jottings), and the place was of no interest to anyone alive – all the fuel was gone, as well as anything useful.
   A handful of the rotting walkers spotted them in the old cement plant, and gave limping chase through the tank farms and plant rooms. Mary dabbed on the last of the vinegar, making sure to rub the last few drops into Toby’s face, behind his ears, all over his hands. Befuddled, the slavering monsters shuffled past their hiding spot, close enough that Mary could see the fat bloat of rot pushing at leathery skin from the inside, eyes frosted like a fish hooked and bled out.
   Look at them. They’re having trouble walking, Mary thought. Their joints are all fused together or something. A fat chunk of maggot-ridden flesh slid off a zombie’s back, dropping onto the floor at their feet. Gagging quietly, Mary fought the churning rebellion in her empty stomach.
   The stink of the undead things washed over them, the decomposed corpse smell that no-one should ever have to breathe in, and that time did not improve. She held Toby close, covering his eyes and ears, barely daring to breathe. Her boy shook, but he was smart for his age, knew how to hide from the undead.
   Slipping through a chain-link fence the woman and boy were across a vacant block, sneaking through the car-choked ruins of the old highway, stopping still when the gusting wind rocked a dead car on its springs. There were infected bodies in some cars, too stupid to get themselves out, quiet enough to snatch you should you pass too close.
   ‘There’s the city,’ Mary said, pointing at the mess of skyscrapers, the glass edifices peppered with broken windows, some of the buildings burnt out in their entirety. ‘I’ve got a nice surprise for you Toby, but you have to keep close and be very quiet. It’s dangerous here.’
   ‘I know, Mum,’ Toby sighed. ‘I’m not stupid.’
   'Look at me,’ Mary said, kneeling down so that her face was level with the boy’s. ‘I don’t mean to nag at you. I just don’t want to see you get hurt, okay?’
   ‘’kay,’ Toby mumbled.
   ‘Just keep your eyes open and tell me if you see anything,’ she said. ‘It might be a bit smelly in there, so try to breathe through your mouth.’
   Smelly was the understatement of the year. The streets were carpeted with bodies, and little bones crunched with every step. In some places the footpaths was slick with gore, and it was all Mary could do not to slip over. She tried her best not to think about the diseases they were wallowing through, promised them both a bath the moment she could boil up enough water.
   Where are all the zombies? she thought. The last time they’d looked at the place through Bevan’s binoculars, it was a hive of dead things, an enormous tomb. Millions of dead things, hungry for human flesh, and no point dropping in to Tesco’s if you didn’t want to be nibbled on.
   But now, there were only a handful of zombies walking the street, and they were in bad shape. A body that was little more than sinew and bone was standing in a doorway, swaying gently, and another was in an alleyway, knocking the bins over, moaning in confusion.
   ‘Look, they’re sick Mummy,’ Toby said. What was once a nun dragged herself down the front steps of a shop, nothing left to her but the top half and a little tail of spine. Its descent was laborious, and when it reached the bottom it lay down with a sigh, eyeing off mother and son with malevolence. But apart from one shuddering attempt to rise, it did not move.
   ‘That bloody nun should be chasing us to the ends of the earth,’ Mary said. ‘Maybe it’s kicked the habit.’
   Toby looked at her with confusion.
   ‘Don’t worry, it wasn’t that funny. Come on.’
   Some minutes later they stood hand-in-hand before a huge shopping complex, the car-parks completely coated with rotting flesh. Ignoring the smell and the flies, Mary led Toby towards an enormous store, with an enormous giraffe mascot blazoned on the side of the building.
   The glass sign had been smashed, but there was enough left to spell out TOYS in ten foot high letters. When Toby saw this, a gap-toothed smile shot out across his filthy face, and he darted forward, dragging his mother by the hand, shouting at her to hurry up.
   ‘Merry Christmas Kid,’ she laughed.


25 December, 2014:
The zombies are dying out, pun intended. Looks like we’re the first ones game to come back here. A horrid smell everywhere, someone needs to fire the maid! Found two cans beans, one box ramen noodles, one can of Glen 20 to disinfect EVERYTHING.

Toby had a V. good day, all the bikes had been pinched months ago but no-one wanted the other stuff. Found a box of batteries and he had the time of his life – I’ve never seen so many robots and dinosaurs walking around.

Turns out that happiness still is a kid in a toy store.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: Undead

John Russo, 2010, Penguin Australia

As a zomfic fanatic, one of the things that most gladdens my heart about the current boom is - as I've mentioned in previous reviews - that many older zombie-related publications are being re-released, and in many cases finally garnering the readership they deserved the first time around. The latest of these is Undead, a two-fer from Night of the Living Dead scriptwriter John A. Russo, which comprises Russo's original 1974 novelisation of the movie he co-wrote with George A. Romero, plus Return of the Living Dead, the original novel that later became the basis for the 1985 movie of the same title.

I'll begin by stating that Undead is a book all self-respecting zomfans should own. I mean, it's John A. Russo, after all. As far as the contents go, if you've seen NotLD, you already know the tale, although Russo certainly makes an effort to flesh out the characters a little more, to introduce some backstory. Return of the Living Dead is written as a continuation of the same story - bearing almost no resemblance to the blockbuster movie - taking place a decade after the events of NotLD, and indeed featuring at least one of the original characters.

While NotLD is an enjoyable enough read, I must admit to being somewhat disappointed with Return: Russo's dry, almost completely unemotive writing style perfectly recalls the documentary-like style of the NotLD screenplay, but without a similar cinematic template to ensure similar reader expectations of Return, the latter novel comes across as a bit boring: events are reported matter-of-factly, with little apparent attempt to engage the emotions of the reader. There's also no evidence whatsoever of the biting black humour that runs right through Russo's wonderful 1985 novelisation of the Return of the Living Dead movie, which is a great loss. That said, there's certainly sufficient inventiveness and momentum of plot to ensure continued page-turning, but ultimately Return of the Living Dead reads like a pastiche of classic zombie movies.

Still, worth reading, nonetheless. Buy and read it for the nostalgia value, and in the knowledge that the profits will actually go to the rightful party (and if you know your NotLD history, you'll understand what I mean).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review: Dave: Zombie Hunter #1

There are two well-worn approaches a creator can take when it comes to zombies: 1) the serious, splattery approach, often with a between-the-lines critique of modern society, or 2) comedy (or more accurately, zomedy). Dave: Zombie Hunter, the brainchild of writer Stewart Cook and artist Timothy Ide, sits firmly in the second camp. Not only is it humorous, Dave: Zombie Hunter is downright strange in places.

The path to publication for issue #1 has taken fourteen years and some false starts according to the author's message at the end of the comic book. The concept began as a film script, but after illustrator Ide became involved by drawing up storyboards for the proposed film, writer Cook liked the art so much, he suggested the comic book format instead. Fortunately for Cook, this decision has paid dividends because the story as filmed would have been firmly entrenched in Z-grade obscurity without a decent budget for effects and experienced actors, whereas Ide's skill as an artist brings to life many of the script's over the top moments in a manner comparable to the best comic book artists in Australia.

The story itself is surprisingly engaging and avoids the cliche of other zombie comic book stories, which tend to be a haze of run-action-run scenes with little in the way of surprises or character development. The plot is brisk and the action segues nicely into a number of comedy set pieces, which is no mean feat in just 21 pages.

Protagonist Dave is your typical Aussie loser, a man who runs 'Dave's Zombie Hunting and Grocery Delivery Service'. Unfortunately for Dave, the zombie apocalypse proves to be all too real, and the mysterious Dr Magus (who might have some insight into the nature of the zombie threat) calls for his assistance, setting Dave off on his quest. For a bloke who added the 'zombie hunting' side to his business as a joke, he proves surprisingly adept at dispatching the undead.

Humorous highlights of the issue centre on Dave's best mate Chuck (although the name is purely coincidental, I like to think it's a reference to our very own Keeper of the Dead, Chuck McKenzie), who manages to seduce a zombie chick he'd had a crush on without realising she was undead, and who later, brings an electric carving knife to a fight - without an extension cord! There's another moment towards the end where Dave's sexy girlfriend Vera goes all Bruce Campbell on the zombies, right down to the part where she demands 'some sugar' from Dave.

The plot takes a dip into the bizarre at the end with the arrival of 'The Montys', a sixties-style flower power family in the mould of The Partridge Family, and events descend into a weird apology singalong. The whole thing is just downright bizarre, but you know what? It works!

The downside to Dave is that the story sits somewhere between an Australian and American audience - and suffers for it. An Aussie larrikin, with references to Australian cultural icons such as Rove, Dave also totes a .45 automatic and heads for a place called 'Apple County' (an allusion to California's Orange County, perhaps?). This is a minor criticism, but without the story being grounded in a clear cultural identity, it feels a little generic, which is often a danger with zombie fiction. If Dave had been even more of a sexist Aussie bloke (a tough call, to be sure!), with a clear local setting, this would have enhanced the story's appeal.

Another, admittedly minor, complaint is the cover, which would have been more striking as full-colour poster art rather than upsized black and white panel art. The artwork inside, however, is top notch for an Aussie indie. Full marks to Tim Ide for bringing the story - and the humour - to life. It's a difficult job to make horrific art humorous, but Ide does it with ease.

Part 1 (of what appears to be a two-part story) sets the pace, introduces all the elements and key players, and then throws a couple of curve balls to keep the reader guessing about what's in store in part 2. I'm genuinely looking forward to the conclusion of Dave: Zombie Hunter - and to how Cook ties up the plot threads. One thing can be certain: there will be blood and more than a few laughs.

Dave: Zombie Hunter can be purchased from the creators' website.

This review is part of the 2010 Australian Horror Comics review series by Shane Jiraiya Cummings. To read other reviews in this series, search HorrorScope for the Labels 'Oz Horror Comics'.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Grace

Dir. Paul Solet, 2009, Madman Entertainment

While eight months pregnant, Madeline's dream of motherhood becomes a nightmare when an horrific car accident leaves both her husband and her unborn child dead. Refusing to acknowledge the tragedy, Madeline brings the child to term - only to discover that, impossibly, baby Grace has survived. But is it truly a miracle, or something rather more sinister? For Grace is a strange child, with unthinkable needs. And baby needs to feed...

Grace is one of those utterly uncompromising horror movies - and I can think of few other movies that so absolutely deserve the epithet of 'horror' - that begins immediately with the more mundane horrors of strained spousal and stifling familial relationships before graduating to the truly awful horror of the death of a child, and onwards to the supernatural horrors at the centre of the plot. The script is tight and almost unbearably tense throughout; the cast performances are all excellent and masterfully understated; production values are superb.

There's likely to be some argument amongst fans of the walking dead as to whether Grace is truly a zombie movie; to my mind, though, any film revolving around a dead (and apparently decaying) child who requires blood (and more) to survive certainly qualifies.

In a nutshell, Grace is one of the most genuinely horrific and emotionally upsetting pieces of cinematic horror I've ever seen, and one likely to become regarded as a minor masterpiece by those who appreciate style and substance over in-your-face scares and gore.

Christmas Competition: Pitch a Zombie TV Show!

Last week, AMC's premier season of The Walking Dead concluded with a ratings bonanza, and the news that a second season will be hitting TV screens next distant October. Still, zombie fans everywhere must be hoping that somewhere, in rival TV stations across the globe, commissioning executives are saying to themselves: 'Hm. Zombies, eh? Maybe that's where the money is. Anyone got that Maberry guy's phone number?'

So: for our final competition of the year, we're giving YOU the chance to pitch your zomfic TV adaptation concept!!! Just to us, admittedly, which means very little in terms of getting the thing actually made. Still, you never know, maybe some televisual bigwig will shamble past the site and...

But enough of pipe dreams. Details! Prizes! Rules!

What we're looking for is your suggestion of a zombie-related book, short story or graphic novel that you think could be successfully adapted for TV, and - just as importantly - why you think it'd be a sure-fire winner. Be sure to mention whether you envision the production as a series, miniseries or telemovie, and feel free to suggest such details as cast, crew, scriptwriter, location, etcetera.

The suggestion that most appeals to us here at NecroScope will score an awesome prize-pack (too late for Christmas Day, but that's slow zombies for you), comprising a selection of zombie-related books, DVDs, comics, and other gruesome offcuts.

Rules are:

# Competition is open to anyone and everyone, not just Followers (although we do hope you'll sign up as a Shambler - see right-hand menu - if you enter)

# Entries to be submitted in the body of an email (via the NecroScope address), preferably no more than 500 words long, with your full name and postal details included.

# Competition closes December 24th, 5.00pm EST. The winner will be announced here on Dec 26th. A selection of worthy, non-winning alternative suggestions will also be posted at that time.

Gotta be in it to win it, zomfans, so start thinking zombies on TV right now!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Review: Z

Michael Thomas Ford, 2010, Random House Australia

Josh is by far the best zombie-torcher around - at least, in his online virtual-reality zombie-hunting game. Zombies haven't existed in the real world for more than fifteen years, and the battle to contain the epidemic is now the stuff of history lessons. Or so it seems. But when Josh accepts an invitation to join a secretive gamers' club, he discovers that gaming in the real world isn't as harmless as he'd expected. Real blood is being spilt, members of the team are disappearing, and the android zombies in the game are behaving oddly. And then there's the matter of a mysterious drug called Z...

For all that Z is aimed squarely at younger teens, and therefore written in a style that adults may find somewhat simplistic, older readers will nonetheless find plenty to enjoy in this novel. Presenting new spins on several well-worn tropes of YA fiction, the plot rolls along at a decent pace, and offers some mature commentary on a range of social issues; the characters are well-defined, interesting, and sufficiently 'real' to instill a sense that nobody in this fictional world is immune from harm; the prose and dialogue flow easily, adding to the momentum of the plot. In deference to its target audience, the book forgoes any major forays into gore, instead opting for short, sharp scares and some unsettling cut-aways.

For zomfic fans of any age, Z is definitely a novel worth reading, and one which ably showcases the versatility of the zombie in literature.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: Death Troopers

Joe Schreiber, 2010, Del Rey

When the Imperial prison barge Purge - temporary home to five hundred of the galaxy's most ruthless criminals - breaks down in remote space, its only hope appears to lie with a Star Destroyer found nearby, drifting and seemingly abandoned. But of the boarding party sent to scavenge for parts, only half return, bringing with them an horrific disease that wipes out almost everyone aboard the Purge within hours. The half-dozen survivors will do anything it takes to stay alive. But nothing can prepare them for what will happen next. For the dead are beginning to rise. And they are unspeakably hungry...

It's not always an easy task to introduce horror successfully into an overtly science-fictional setting - particularly one as well-known as the Star Wars universe - since the tropes of horror (and zombies in particular) tend to rely, for maximum impact, upon their contrast with mundane settings familiar to the reader. However, author Joe Schreiber manages to generate an atmosphere of creeping dread that nicely complements the 'used future' of George Lucas' A New Hope (Death Troopers appearing to take place a couple of years prior to events - and featuring certain characters - from that movie).

The plot is one that will be intimately familiar to most zombie fans: the dead rise, and a disparate band of survivors must battle the undead - and each-other - in order to survive; nothing especially original, although some decent prose and dialogue, empathic (if not sympathetic) characters, plenty of action, and the Star Wars backdrop give the novel a fresh veneer that make it well worth reading. My only two niggles concerning Death Troopers are the emergence of something suspiciously like a deus ex machina at the conclusion, which neatly wraps up at least one of the threats facing our protagonists, and the author's occasional over-reliance on the reader's familiarity with all things Star Wars, with certain settings and characters being given the most cursory of descriptions; in others words, if you're going to write about alien zombies, I wanna know what they look like, dammit!

Death Troopers is a solid, scary read that will appeal to both die-hard zombie fans and Star Wars obsessives alike. A second, similarly-themed Star Wars novel - Red Harvest - is due soon from Joe Schreiber. It will be interesting to see if the success of these publications contributes to a subsequent boom in zombie/media tie-in crossovers, in the same way that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies kick-started the horror/classics mash-up, and Marvel Zombies generated the zombie/superhero niche.

Competition: Night of the Living Trekkies

Kevin David Anderson, co-author of Night of the Living Trekkies, recently announced the following exciting competition on his website.
Just sharing some news and some contest info. Night of the Living Trekkies, from Quirk Books, will soon be available in German and Spanish and to celebrate we are having a little creative contest.
Zombie Trekkie Holiday Khantest

First Prize – autographed printed galley collectors edition of Night of the Living Trekkies, autographed Night of the Living Trekkies poster, and a hardback copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Second Prize – autographed printed galley collectors edition of Night of the Living Trekkies, autographed Night of the Living Trekkies poster, and a copy of Dawn of the Dreadfuls, the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies prequel by Steve Hockensmith.

Third Prize – autographed Night of the Living Trekkies poster and a copy of The Encyclopedia of Guilty Pleasures by NotLT co-author Sam Stall

Contest details at:
Lots of zombie-related goodness on offer there! However, this competition closes soon, so be sure to check out the link asap and enter for your chance to win one of these great prize packs!

Review: Zombies vs Unicorns

Ed. Justine Larbalestier & Holly Black, 2010, Allen & Unwin

Which reigns supreme, the zombie or the unicorn? It's a question as old as time itself (or not). Zombies vs Unicorns is a short story feud that challenges the reader to pick a team and stick to it. But be warned: the contributors to this unique anthology are stellar storytellers all, and may just convince you to switch...

Zombies vs Unicorns is that rarest of all beasts, an anthology containing not a single story that isn't an absolute gem. Frankly, it's one of the most enjoyable and entertaining reads I've had in ages, and - for all that I am, and always will be, staunchly Team Zombie - the unicorn tales were of such quality as to almost swing me over to the side of the rainbow-farting hornponies. Almost.

Major kudos must go to editors Larbalestier and Black for their obvious decision to seek out authors and stories that pushed the boundaries of both camps. Herein, you'll find intriguing new takes on the zompocalypse, as well as stories that shatter the image of unicorns as noble white steeds. The tales range across many genres including romance, horror, comedy, fairy-tale fantasy, and even mild erotica, with each prefaced by some largely entertaining and good-natured bickering between the two editors on the perceived strengths and failures of the individual story.  

As one might expect, it was difficult to pick specific personal favourites from a publication comprising only top-quality prose, but I must make mention of the two stories that, for me, most fully represented the anthology as a whole, in terms of their originality and entertainment value; for Team Zombie, 'The Children of the Revolution', by Maureen Johnson, relates the tale of an American backpacker stranded abroad, who winds up minding some very unusual adopted youngsters for a very unusual (and strangely familiar) Hollywood power-couple. What begins as a wry, gently humorous story rapidly develops into one of the more disturbing pre-apocalyptic pieces I've ever read. For Team Unicorn, 'Princess Prettypants', by Meg Cabot, brings us a highly-satisfying fantasy/SF/romantic mash-up that manages to actively lampoon traditional 'unicorn culture' whilst simultaneously reinventing the legendary beasties.

Zombies vs Unicorns is an anthology that every fan of speculative fiction should read, and I'll certainly expect to see the publication - as well as many of the stories herein - garnering multiple genre award nominations over the coming year, and quite possibly inspiring a range of copycat collections. Vampires vs Goblins, perhaps? How about Cthulhu vs Fairies? No..?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Review: Wanted: Undead or Alive

Jonathan Maberry & Janice Gable Bashman, 2010, Citadel Press

While not a zombie-related title per se, this book may be of interest to zombie fans due to the involvement of zomfic supremo, Jonathan Maberry. Visit our parent site, HorrorScope, via the link below to read this review.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

News: Dymocks Southland Bestselling Zombie Titles for November 2010

1. The Walking Dead Vol 1 (Graphic Novel) - Robert Kirkman
2. The Dead (The Enemy #2) - Charlie Higson
3. Dead City - Joe McKinney
4. Feed - Mira Grant
5. Night of the Living Trekkies - Anderson / Stall
6. The Zombie Survival Guide - Max Brooks
7. Alone (Chasers #1) - James Phelan
8. Ex-Heroes - Peter Clines
9. Xombies: Apocalypticon - Walter Greatshell
10. The Enemy - Charlie Higson

One of the most exciting new arrivals in store this month, aside from the new edition of Joe McKinney's classic Dead City, is John Russo's Undead, an omnibus publication comprising Russo's original 1974 novelisation of Night of the Living Dead, and his 1978 novel, Return of the Living Dead, which later became the basis for the movie of the same title. It goes without saying that NecroScope will have a review up of Russo's collection sooner rather than later.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Shakespeare Undead

Lori Handeland, 2010, St Martin's Griffin

Zombies are stalking the streets of Elizabethan London, and celebrated playwright William Shakespeare is on the hunt. But where are the undead coming from? What is the true identity of the strangely-alluring boy now assisting Shakespeare in his quest? And how will Shakespeare's one true love react when she discovers that her lover is himself a necromancer...and a vampire?

Shakespeare Undead is a zombie novel falling more into the realm of paranormal romance than dark fantasy or horror, and with the focus accordingly upon romantic interactions between the two main protagonists. 'Fun and fluffy' just about sums up the contents; the central plot is so thin as to be almost nonexistent, and the action might just as well be taking place in modern-day downtown Sydney for all the sense of Elizabethan London conjured by the author, but the character-driven 'padding' and bouts of (admittedly somewhat self-indulgent) silliness make for pleasant enough, if not overly satisfying, reading. Think of it as providing downtime for your brain before the next Mira Grant novel comes along.

(Shakespeare Undead is distributed in Australia by Macmillan).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: The Loving Dead

Amelia Beamer, 2010, Night Shade Books

Kate and Michael, twenty-something housemates working at the same Trader Joe's supermarket, find themselves thoroughly screwed when their friends start turning into zombies, infected by an STD that transforms sufferers into shambling, horny, undead killers. Thrust into extremes by the unfolding tragedy, Kate and Michael are forced to confront decisions they've made and fears of commitment - but can they stay alive, or even human, long enough to benefit from such insights?

There's been a great deal of hype over the sexualising of zombies in The Loving Dead, with many people describing the novel as zombie erotica; I was a little surprised, therefore, to find that Beamer's novel really only contains about as much erotic content as the average Mills & Boon - very little of which directly involves the undead - and certainly far less than the average paranormal romance novel. That's not to say there isn't a focus upon sex in the novel; the zombie virus, after all, is sexually transmitted. But full-blown erotica? Not so much. I can only assume that the presence of any erotica whatsoever in a zombie novel provides a convenient point of difference to market.

That said, The Loving Dead is a rather brilliant piece of work; a slow-burn creepfest that examines in uncomfortable detail exactly what motivates people during a crisis. Beamer's highly-realistic, post-modern, Romero-savvy characters don't run for the hills upon realising that the zombie apocalypse is coming, but instead take short-term steps to minimise the personal inconvenience the disaster poses. As might be expected, such behaviour does as much to drive the plot as the unfolding epidemic, and Beamer additionally cultivates a real sense of impending doom that nicely contrasts the self-centred and largely ineffectual behaviour of her characters.

Joining a growing list of recent zombie novels that focus more upon analysis of the human condition than upon gore-for-gore's-sake, The Loving Dead is an engrossing and memorable read, and one that any zomlit fan who delights in the continually-expanding boundaries of the subgenre should devour.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fashion: Zombie T-Shirts from Redbubble

At NecroScope, we pride ourselves on our fashion-sense; no rotting vestments here, only the best in undead couture! We were extremely pleased, therefore, to hear about Redbubble Art & Design, a company with offices in both Melbourne, Australia, and San Francisco, USA, that offers a great range of zombie-themed t-shirts, prints, stickers, and other items. Check out the link above, and advertise your zobsession wherever you go!

We'd be remiss if we didn't make specific mention of the Redbubble t-shirt designed by NecroScope contributor Gary Kemble (above): classy, simple, and - above all - pithy (linked here).

Pop Culture: io9: A History of Zombies in America

The early success of the AMC series The Walking Dead confirms it: though zombies have been hot for a while, they are now officially the new vampires. Why do Americans love zombies, and what does it say about us?
Read on at io9...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: Parade of the Dead

Dir. Richard Coburn, 2010, Golden Era

In 2010 a virus spread throughout the world population, killing millions and resurrecting the dead as flesh-hungry zombies. Around the same time, Adelaide-based hip-hop group Hilltop Hoods were due to shoot a DVD to promote their new album, State of the Art. Civilisation collapsed. People died in the streets. And the 'Hoods went ahead and made their DVD anyway...

Parade of the Dead is an unusual addition to the ranks of zombie cinema: part music-video, part zombie flick, part spoof, it doesn't include quite enough material on any of these three fronts to be labelled as one or the other, or to fully satisfy on that basis. That said, there's a great deal to like about Parade of the Dead; some great songs and energetic gig footage for fans of the 'Hoods; gore and zombie mayhem for the deadheads, not to mention some interesting and dark world-building; even much of the (admittedly fairly broad) comedy content - evident mostly during the faux-interview scenes supposedly being shot for the promotional DVD - works surprisingly well, with the 'Hoods amusingly casting themselves as amiable, if self-obsessed, morons.

All in all, Parade of the Dead is certainly worth viewing. Buy it for the music, enjoy the zombie content as an added bonus.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

News: What's Coming Up at NecroScope

Hi there, Shamblers! Greetings from NecroScope's Keeper of the Dead!

For the information of all you zomlit fans who have visited us - and continue to visit us - since NecroScope's official disinternment just four short months ago, there's likely to be something of a lull in our review schedule over the next month or so, due to the recent addition of a brand new li'l flesheater to the Keeper's own corpse collective.

Fear not, though: NecroScope will continue to bring you all manner of good things in the lead-up to Christmas - our output will merely switch (temporararily) from Fast Zombie pace to Slow Zombie pace. Stick with us, though, and in no time at all we'll be back to our usual speedy selves.

So, in the meantime, what can NecroScope Shamblers look forward to?

* Upcoming reviews for Amelia Beamer's The Loving Dead, Bob Fingerman's Pariah, and Joe Schrieber's Star Wars: Death Troopers, among others.

* Your chance to win a pack of zombie-related goodies, just by signing up as a NecroScope Shambler (if you're not one already) and entering our Christmas draw.

* An exclusive, original short story - to be published here on Christmas Eve - by Australia's own award-winning zombiemeister, Jason Fischer!

Plus all the usual news and views. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. NecroScope: temporarily slower, but no less dangerous...

Review: Biomega

Tsutomu Mihei, 2007, Madman Entertainment

The NSS virus has swept across the Earth, turning much of the population into zombie-like drones. Zoichi Kange, an agent of Toa Heavy Industry, must brave the depths of island city 9JO in search of Eon Green - a girl with the power to transmute the virus.  But a unit of Public Health Service Execution Agents are also looking for Eon, and unless Zoichi can find her first, nothing can stop the zombie apocalypse...

Biomega is a unique and pleasing fusion of dystopian Manga cyberpunk and good old-fashioned zombie action. The plot screams along at somewhat dizzying speed, leaving the reader to catch up as best they can, and the dark-and-dirty illustrations, together with the lean dialogue, create an atmosphere of pervasive gloom and dread that suits this tale right down to the ground.

If you enjoy graphic novels that swing to the dark side, Biomega will certainly appeal. Volume one of this series is currently available in Australia through Madman Entertainment.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: Wetwork

Philip Nutman, 1993 (TP reissue 2007), Overlook Connection Press

Black Ops agent Dominic Corvino is not having a good day. His latest mission has gone horribly wrong, with several members of his team dead and another suspiciously AWOL Plus, Corvino's just killed an enemy agent who appears to have already been dead. But then, there's a lot of that going around at the moment, as across the globe the hungry dead begin to rise...

One of the great things about the current massive popularity of zomfic is that many older, somewhat neglected classics of the genre are being given a second chance at finding the readership they deserve, and Wetwork certainly falls into this category. The darkly satirical plot, which reads as a savage indictment of the government, military, and society in general, follows the developing apocalyptic crisis through the eyes of various central characters, as well as through a series of stand-alone vignettes. Nutman's prose is almost poetic in places, an absolute joy to read, and additionally serves to contrast - and highlight - the extreme violence, brutality and gore that regularly punctuates the tale. His characters live and breathe (although generally not all the way through the novel!), and his take on zombies provides a major point of difference from other zompocalyptic tales, the risen dead portrayed as sentient flesh eaters, as damaged psychologically as they are physically; some anguished by what they have become, some revelling in their new found blood lust, others left subtly brain-damaged by their 'transition' - and if you think this makes them any less scary than the more traditional mindless cannibals, you're very, very wrong.

Wetwork is a bleak and nihilistic, yet thoroughly enjoyable novel that every serious fan of zomfic should read, and is available to purchase through Amazon.   

Monday, November 8, 2010

Review: Xombies: Apocalypse Blues & Xombies: Apocalypticon

Walter Greatshell, 2010, Ace Books

Lulu Pangloss has problems. She has no friends, her mom is difficult, and her absentee father is a deadbeat. Things can hardly get any worse...or so she thinks. Then the world comes to an end. It starts with Agent X, a plague that turns women into raving, demonic predators - Xombies - who then hunt down and infect anyone they can catch. Guns are useless; armies are helpless. With civilization collapsing all around her, Lulu hitches a ride with a crew of wary male refugees, and together they flee for the last place on Earth rumored to be safe. But what they find is as unexpected, and as terrifying, as the hell they've left behind.

A quick history lesson: back in 2004, with 28 Days Later making a major splash in cinemas around the world, and Shaun of the Dead generating pre-release buzz, Berkley Books quietly released a novel entitled simply Xombies, written by Walter Greatshell. To hardcore zombie fans, who were yet to enjoy the current and ongoing boom in zomfic that we all now take for granted, Xombies was a truly exciting publication; not just a proper zombie novel, albeit one in which the titlar monsters had more in common with the infected of 28 Days Later than with rotting corpses of George A. Romero, but a really good zombie novel, released through a mainstream publisher (Berkley being a division of the Penguin Group). Barely a year later, of course, Max Brooks' World War Z hit the bestseller list with the force of a speeding train, and was forever more (along with 28 Days Later) largely credited with kicking off the zombie boom. Yet it's worth noting (I feel, as a big fan of Xombies) that Walter Greatshell's work - along with a handful of other pre-Brooks zombie authors - contributed very strongly to the current mainstream popularity of the genre.

So, for myself, and on behalf of anyone who's read and enjoyed a zombie-related publication over the past few years: Walter Greatshell, thanks so much.

So - on to the review proper.

There's not much to be said about the plot of Xombies (retitled Xombies: Apocalypse Blues for the 2010 re-release) that isn't covered in the blurb above; at least, not without giving away some major, fascinating plot-points. The action rolls along at an unforgiving pace, aided by some wonderful (and often severely-flawed) characters. The Xombies of the piece, also, are suitably terrifying - viral psychotics (blue-skinned, due to cyanosis), that remain animated after death; a convincing amalgam of Rage zombies and the more traditional walking dead. Greatshell has been quoted as saying (to paraphrase) that he wrote Xombies as a sort of reverse-Romero take on the genre, and the conclusion to the novel (again, without giving too much away) certainly offers the mother of all reversals of the usual zompocalyptic tale. Brilliant, brilliant stuff.

Xombies: Apocalypticon -  a direct sequel to X:AB - shares all the strengths of the first book, and more than that I simply cannot say, as doing so would give away the ending of X:AB. Suffice to say, it's a nasty, gritty, and wholly engrossing read.

Both books are currently available in Australia through Penguin Books. Buy them. Read them, back-to-back. Enjoy two of the most solid contributions to the zombie genre as it exists today.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Competition: Die in a Jonathan Maberry Zombie Novel!

Zombiemeister Jonathan Maberry is currently holding a competition, via his Facebook page, to find folks to kill... his new zombie novel, Dead of Night, that is. Simply visit the link below, tell Jonathan how you'd like to be killed by the walking dead, and your name could make it into the book as a zombie fatality.

The competition closes soon, so you'll need to be quick.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

News: Dymocks Southland Bestselling Zombie Titles for October 2010

Unsurprisingly - due to the increasing interest in Halloween in Australia, the major expansion and repositioning of our Paranormal Fiction display, and our well-attended October 31st 'Halloween HorrorCon' signing (featuring five local horror authors) - this month proved a bumper month for sales of dark fiction, and especially of zombie-themed publications. For this reason, the usual 'Top 10' of bestselling zombie titles for the month has been extended to 20 titles! Yep - we have that many zombie titles currently in store (plus many more that didn't quite make the list).

1. The Dead (The Enemy #2) - Charlie Higson
2. Alone (Chasers #1) - James Phelan
3. The Loving Dead - Amelia Beamer
4. The Zen of Zombie - Scott Kenemore
5. Z - Michael Thomas Ford
6. Patient Zero - Jonathan Maberry
7. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies - Austen / Graeme-Smith
8. The Proper Care and Feeding of Zombies - Mac Montandon
9. The Zombie Survival Guide - Max Brooks
10. Breathers - S. G. Browne
11. Monster Island (Complete Trilogy) - David Wellington
12. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (Graphic Novel)
13. Dog Blood (Hater #2) - David Moody
14. The Zombie Combat Manual - Roger Ma
15. Passing Strange (Generation Dead #3) - Daniel Waters
16. Soulless - Christopher Golden
17. Handling the Undead - John Ajvide Lindqvist
18. Ex-Heroes - Peter Clines
19. The Zombie Handbook - Rob Sacchetto
20. Wetwork - Philip Nutman

Recent arrivals in-store include Shakespeare Undead (Lori Handeland), Zombiewood Weekly (Rob Sacchetto), Ten Little Zombies (Andy Rash), Pariah (Thomas Fingerman), and Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever (Joe Kane).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Review: Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever

Joe Kane, 2010, Citadel Press

To begin this review on a major tangent (but stick with me - there's a point to be made)...

It may surprise many to know that I am not, in fact, a particular fan of the iconic zombie flick, Night of the Living Dead. That's not to say I don't appreciate the movie - NotLD did, after all, set the template for the bulk of zombie media to follow. I certainly regard the movie as culturally, historically and socially important, in much the same way as I regard The Buzzcocks as being important to the development of punk music, or Renoir as important to the acceptance of Impressionism (that is, from a purely academic point of view). And I'm a huge fan of all of Romero's other 'Dead' films, But I've never really enjoyed NotLD.

I ascribe this major personal shortcoming to two things: firstly, that by the time I watched this movie for the first time (as a teenager, on VHS, in 1988 or thereabouts), I'd already seen so many cruddy rip-offs of NotLD on late-night TV that everything about this movie seemed old and tired. Secondly, to a teenager living in Melbourne, Australia, in the late 1980s, any '60s/U.S.-centric social or political commentary underpinning the movie simply didn't register. It's only as an adult that I've come to truly appreciate and understand all that Night of the Living Dead represents - but sadly, again, any genuine enjoyment of the movie purely as a piece of dark entertainment seems beyond my grasp.

So, what has any of this to do with my review of Joe Kane's behind-the-scenes look at Night of the Living Dead?

Just this: given that a non-fan of NotLD like myself was virtually unable to put down this fascinating tome - I devoured it in a single sitting, in fact - I have no hesitation in recommending Kane's book not only to zombie fans in general, but to anyone who simply enjoys a truly engrossing non-fiction read.

The book certainly seems to have been exhaustively researched, and Kane effortlessly infects the reader with his own obvious passion for NotLD without intruding overly upon the narrative. The author also strikes a near-perfect balance - often difficult to achieve in such guides - between detailing the production details of NotLD (as well as those of co-creators Romero's and Russo's subsequent movies), and delving into the personal development and lives of those responsible for the finished product, as well as clarifying some of the issues surrounding the movie that had previously drifted somewhat into the realm of urban legend (such as the matter of the 'lost copyright' of NotLD, and the nature of the wrangle between Romero and Russo over ownership of the 'living dead' moniker).

In short, Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever is an important, engrossing work, and one which informs and -  I'm happy to say - entertains on many levels. A must-read publication, available internationally through

Review: Zombiewood Weekly

Rob Sacchetto, 2010, Ulysses Press

'Justin Timberlake: Hot Corpse Couture!'
'Britney Spears: Brit Snacks on Fans!'
'Lindsay Lohan: Career Rises from the grave!'

Hot on the heels of his brilliant Zombie Handbook comes Rob Sacchetto's Zombiewood Weekly: The Celebrity Dead Exposed, an amusing little exercise in satirical gore. Presented as an issue of a gossip mag, ZW is packed full of 'zombified' celebrity portraiture - from Elvis, to George W. Bush, to O.J. Simpson - complete with news snippets (penned by co-contributor Jeremy Wash), and even advertisements aimed at an undead readership. Sacchetto's ability to produce clearly-identifiable likenesses of famous faces, even through layers of advanced decay, is uncanny, and has deservedly earned him a character role in Jonathan Maberry's latest zombie novel, Rot & Ruin.

ZW is a fun publication certain to appeal to that section of zombie fandom who enjoy their zomcoms and zombie walks. And gossip mags.

(ZW is distributed in Australia by Scribo).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review: The Walking Dead (AMC)

Dir. Frank Darabont, 2010, AMC

Small-town cop Rick Grimes pulls into an abandoned gas station. Nothing moves. Nothing makes a sound. Cautiously wandering between derelict vehicles and scattered personal possessions in search of fuel, Rick suddenly spots a small figure shuffling along in the adjacent row.

'Little girl..?' he calls out.

The figure stops. And then...

Well, any zombie fan can tell you what happens next. But if you don't recognise this as a scene from Robert Kirkman's cult graphic novel The Walking Dead, that's because it's not a scene from the comic; it's the opening scene from Frank Darabont's television adaptation (for AMC) of that same graphic novel.

That's an important word to keep in mind, here: adaptation. Because, while the first episode of the show does indeed closely follow the plot of the novel(often to the point of achieving near-identical visuals), it's not a completely faithful reproduction. Scenes have been changed, shortened, elongated; more (or less) screen-time given to particular events, characters and plotlines.

So, what does this actually mean? (I hear you ask). Is AMC's The Walking Dead actually any good?

Frankly, it's magnificent.

There's scarcely a change made to the original source material that doesn't strengthen the TV adaptation in some way, say, by heightening the tension, or perhaps rounding out a character a little more. Despite some initial misgivings over that 'flashforward' opening scene (which, to my mind, potentially could have robbed the subsequent scene in which a bemused Rick wakes up in hospital of any major tension), I was drawn almost immediately - through a combination of excellent acting, scripting, and direction - into Darabont's vision for the world of The Walking Dead; a world in which the 'rules' of Kirkman's novel - such as 'no neat escapes', 'no tidy endings' and 'no true heroes' - are brutally enforced; a world in which violence - even against the hungry dead - is depicted as an ugly, vicious thing, robbed of all vestiges of action-movie wish-fulfillment.

Darabont opts for creeping tension over short, sharp scares; human emotion over kick-ass action, and the result is one of the most devastating and emotive ('enjoyable' probably isn't an appropriate term, here) televisual offerings I've ever seen. I'm not afraid to admit that Rick's almost painfully-extended exodus from the hospital left me with knots of tension throughout my body; nor shall I deny that another 'extension' of a scene from the graphic novel, in which Rick tracks and puts down a wretched, crawling half-corpse - while at the same time, young Duane's father tries to bring himself to put down Duane's undead mother - literally brought a tear to my eye.

In short, Frank Darabont has created an adaptation that is guaranteed to win over both hard-core Kirkman fans and those ignorant of the source material alike. This is as close to a perfect cinematic representation of the human side of the zombie apocalypse as I've ever seen, and I simply can't recommend the show highly enough. Watch it now, and keep watching.

The Walking Dead premieres on U.S. television tonight (October 31st in the States), and is also available internationally to download now from iTunes.

(Image copyright AMC).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: Ten Little Zombies

Andy Rash, 2010, Chronicle Books

There are, perhaps unsurprisingly, a great many 'novelty' zombie books doing the rounds at present - further evidence (if any was needed) that zombies now represent serious money to publishers - and Ten Little Zombies is one of the more amusing of the bunch. Subtitled 'A Love Story', this small, 40-odd-paged hardback book comprises nothing more than a simple rhyme (recited to the meter of 'Ten Little Indians') detailing the flight of the narrator and his lady love from the zombies of the piece. To whit:

'Ten little zombies walking in a line
'One stepped in a campfire. Now there are nine.'

And so on. Illustrated throughout with black and white (and red!) cartoons, the book concludes with a rather clever and macabre zombie-related twist that appealed sufficiently to my twisted sense of humour for me to purchase a copy.

If you dislike novelty zombie-themed publications on principle, you'll probably dislike this book too. On the other hand, if you don't take your zombies too seriously, and appreciate a bit of black wit, then Ten Little Zombies is worth adding to your personal library, if only to coax a 'WTF?' out of visitors.

(Ten Little Zombies is distributed in Australia by Hardie Grant, via Random House Australia).

Monday, October 25, 2010

News: Brisbane Zombie Walk

Brisbane (Australia's own Dead Central) hosted a number of zombie-themed social events over the weekend just gone, culminating in an extremely well-attended Zombie Walk. 'Walkers from all over the world united to join in the fun, and few pedestrians were reported mauled.

Pictorial highlights from the Brisbane Zombie-Fest may be found here:

(Reported via Gary Kemble)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Review: Zombies: A Hunter's Guide

Joseph A. McCullough, 2010, Osprey Publishing

Zombies: A Hunter's Guide purports to be a manual detailing the threat posed by zombies, and how best to deal with it. While this sort of approach has been taken in previous zombie-themed publications, Z:AHG is well worth reading, as the author has applied some effective and unique world-building to the text, positing a reality in which the walking dead have always been with us, and extrapolating their effect upon human history and present-day society. The book also manages to successfully and inventively reconcile the existence of various types of zombie (voodoo, necromantic, revenant, atomic and viral) into the workings of McCullough's alternate history, which further underpins the reality of his imagined world.

Effectively illustrated throughout, Zombies: A Hunter's Guide is a genuinely engrossing read, and one that should appeal to zomlit fans who appreciate intelligent creativity within the genre.

(Zombies: A Hunter's Guide is distributed in Australia by Capricorn Link.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Night of the Living Trekkies

Kevin David Anderson & Sam Stall, 2010, Quirk Books

Jim was the world's biggest Star Trek fan - until two tours of duty in Afghanistan destroyed his faith in humanity. Now he sleepwalks through life as the assistant manager of a small hotel in downtown Houston. But when a local Trek convention devolves into a genuine zombie apocalypse, Jim finds that everything he learned from Star Trek just might be enough to deliver a ragtag crew of fanboys and fangirls to safety. Or not.

I'll state right from the outset that Night of the Living Trekkies is a cracking good read, injecting as it does a welcome dose of good old-fashioned fun back into the zombie genre: the plot is engrossing and well-paced, with a great balance of laugh-out-loud humour and genuine horror, while some great characterisation drives the bulk of the action throughout. The character of Jim in particular - a man who knows almost everything there is to know about Star Trek, yet views 'Trek fandom with something very close to contempt - allows the authors to pull off the impressive trick of poking serious fun at the more obvious absurdities of fandom on the one hand, while nonetheless treating the fan community with a high degree of respect on the other, It's in no small part due to this balancing act that - just as Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (also published by Quirk, who obviously know when they're onto a good thing) has proven equally popular with fans of both Austen and zombies - Night of the Living Trekkies will appeal to both fans and non-fans of Star Trek, and most definitely to fans of apocalyptic zombie mayhem.

(Night of the Living Trekkies is distributed in Australia by Random House).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: Eden: Crusade

Tony Monchinski, 2010, Permuted Press

As millions of flesh-hungry zombies roam the land, seeking out the last living humans, the remaining refugees from Eden continue on their search for something better. Somewhere safe. Along the way they face adversaries living and dead, befriend fellow survivors, and find reasons to keep hope alive. Yet none suspect that the greatest threat to their survival lies within their own ranks...

When I reviewed Tony Monchinski's Eden back in 2008 (review here), I proclaimed it one of the very best apocalyptic novels I'd ever read. I'm happy to report, then, that the sequel, Crusade, is every bit as good as the original. The plot of the novel is nothing remarkable in itself, following the standard zombie-apocalypse template of survivors fighting against the odds in order to find safe refuge. Where Crusade shines like a diamond, however, is in the characterisation and the atmosphere. Monchinski's characters - sympathetic or otherwise - live and breathe in a way that so few other literary characters do, forcing the reader to invest heavily in their fates (which, be warned, does not make for comfortable reading). The atmosphere throughout the novel is one of almost constant grind; our protagonists do what needs to be done, go through the motions, and occasionally punctuate the mundane search for shelter and food with short, sharp encounters with the hungry dead. There's a brilliantly-conveyed sense that this is not a story with a neat beginning, middle and end, but an ongoing, endless tale of life after the zombies, going on and on, day in, day out. Much like real life, only far less pleasant.

To my mind, with two absolutely top-notch novels under his belt, Monchinski has proven himself a bona-fide shining star of our beloved zomfic subgenre, and as such rates a place on my very short list of authors - in any genre (and I read widely) - whose work I will now always rush out to buy as soon as it hits the shelves. Crusade is a novel that any zomfic fan who truly appreciates literature absolutely must read, along with Monchinski's original novel, Eden.

Gaming: A History of Zombies in Video Games

The zombie-centric Resident Evil video game (and its many sequels) is often credited, in part, with fuelling today's current zombie boom. But zombies in gaming certainly didn't begin - or end - with Capcom's blockbuster survival-horror game. PCWorld has recently posted an informative article on just this subject.

Visit the link above to read the full article, and keep your trigger finger supple!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

News: Competition Update: Email Now Fixed!

For anyone who's been unable to send through their Walking Dead competition entry due to problems with NecroScope's email (never send zombies to do technical work, is what I've learned this week), the problem appears to have been resolved now.

So: please send your entries to!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Free read: 'And the Next, and the Next' by Genevieve Valentine

Commuting is bad enough, but how about being trapped in on a subway train with hundreds of zombies.
You know them by their milky eyes, but they’re easy to fool. If you survive the first crush of them, and can master the art of walking slowly and staring straight ahead, none of them in the packed train car will even look at you.
And the Next, and the Next — Genevieve Valentine : The Living Dead 2

Monday, October 4, 2010

News: October Competition: The Walking Dead

To celebrate the imminent screening of AMC's The Walking Dead this Halloween, NecroScope will be giving away a copy of Issue #1 of Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore's original groundbreaking graphic novel!

This competition is open only to NecroScope subscribers, so be sure to join up now. To enter, simply email your answer to the following fiendishly-difficult multiple-choice question to

What is the name of the main protagonist from The Walking Dead?
a) Rick Grimes
b) Rick Springfield
c) Ricky Ricardo
d) Dusty Springfield
e) Bub

One lucky winner will be drawn from the pool of entrants on October 31st (EST), and notified via email.

News: Dymocks Southland Bestselling Zombie Titles for September 2010

1. Feed - Mira Grant
2. The Zombie Survival Guide - Max Brooks
3. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies - Austen / Graeme-Smith
4. 'Monster' series - David Wellington 
5. The Art of Zombie Warfare - Scott Kenemore
6. Ex-Heroes - Peter Clines
7. The Walking Dead (Book #1) - Robert Kirkman
8. Cell - Stephen King
9. Patient Zero - Jonathan Maberry
10. The Zombie Combat Manual - Roger Ma

New zed-flavoured arrivals for the start of October include Night of the Living Trekkies (Kevin David Anderson), Valley of the Dead (Kim Paffenroth), Married With Zombies (Jesse Petersen), The Dead (Charlie Higson), and Shakespeare Undead (Lori Handeland).  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review: Valley of the Dead

Kim Paffenroth, 2010. Permuted Press

For seventeen years of his life, the exact whereabouts of the medieval Italian poet Dante Aligheri have remained unknown to modern scholars. What is known is that during this time he travelled as an exile across Europe, workling on his epic poem, The Divine Comedy. Now, however, the full truth can be revealed: that during his travels, Dante stumbled across an infestation of the living dead. The unspeakable acts he witnessed became the basis of the horrors described in the most famous volume of The Divine Comedy; Inferno, a description of Hell itself...

As with many things in life, while there's often great satisfaction to be gleaned from reading 'more of the same' in zombie fiction - the dead rise, mismatched survivors get thrown together, etc - I find the experience of reading a zombie novel that successfully breaks new ground to be one of life's greatest pleasures. For like-minded zombie obsessives, Kim Paffenroth's Valley of the Dead is definitely worth picking up.

While the tale clearly falls into the sub-sub-category of historical/zombie mash-up, it's certainly one of the better examples I've seen, with Paffenroth describing a  fictional journey from which passages in The Inferno have purportedly been derived. The structure of the novel cunningly recalls the structure of genuine medieval text, with our protagonists continually wandering from one set piece to another, each 'scene' exposing them to new characters and situations which end up prompting deep philosophical discussion on all manner of topics. It's in presenting these discussions that Paffenroth really shines, as those who have read the author's previous work (Dying to Live and its sequel, and the non-fiction tome Gospel of the Living Dead) will doubtless anticipate, and it must be said that the classic structure of Valley of the Dead allows Paffenroth to make the very most of his predilection.

Valley of the Dead may admittedly not be a novel suited to the tastes of all zombie fans. For those who can appreciate something a little different, however - something that requires a little more thought on the part of the reader - then Valley of the Dead is definitely worth investing your time in.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Zombie Felties

Nicola Tedman & Sarah Skeate, 2010, Penguin Australia

As a bookseller by trade, I can confirm that instructional books on creating Felties - cute little dolls (generally finger-sized) made from felt - are the in thing at present with folks who enjoy handcrafts. That said, even as one of the True Believers in zombie pop-culture, I would not have predicted the publication of a book such as Zombie Felties. And yet, here it is. And, I have to say, it's lots of fun.

In addition to providing clear, idiot-proof instructions (fortunately for negatively-skilled folk like myself) for the creation of each of the sixteen zombie felties described herein, the authors of this book have been extremely creative in their approach to materials (looped red thread for spilling guts; pink sequins for exposed brains), as well as in the range of suggested figures, which include such gruesome delights as the Zombie Bunny, the Mexican-style Day of the Dead Zombie, the Classic Zombie, and the 'Thrilla' Zombie (guess who?).

At the risk of undermining my well-deserved reputation as a macho he-man (no laughing at the back, there!), I had a great deal of fun putting together my Zombie Pirate feltie, and the construction of the Zombie Surfer kept my zed-obsessed son occupied for several blissful hours during the current school-holiday period, which - in my book - makes Zombie Felties an absolute winner.

Review: Ex-Heroes

Peter Clines, 2010, Permuted Press

Folks had really only just come to terms with the existence of genuine superheroes when the dead began to rise. Now, Los Angeles is a wasteland. Thousands of survivors shelter in a converted film studio, under the protection of the remaining superpowered individuals, while millions of hungry ex-humans roam the streets. Now, however, there's something worse out there than the zombies. Across the city, another group of survivors has grown and gained power. And they are not heroes...

If ever there was a novel that I'd give just about anything to see turned into a movie, Ex-Heroes would be it. The plot - which, far from rehashing Marvel Zombies territory, offers a fresh and engrossing take on the superhero/zombie mash-up - storms along at white-knuckle speed, boasting a superb blend of action, intrigue and survival horror, while somehow finding breathing-room for some major character insights and development. The superheroes (and humans) of the tale are all wonderfully flawed, in ways that generally serve to drive the plot rather than simply complement it, and the reader is constantly reminded that human nature doesn't always vanish with the onset of superpowers, for better or worse. Add to the mix Clines' ability to create stunning visuals in the mind's eye of the reader through masterful use of prose and dialogue, and the resulting package is one of the very best zombie novels I've yet to read.

Ex-Heroes is a must-read for genre fans who demand so much more than just another zompocalypse. Hell, I'd read Clines' laundry list if that happened to be the only other thing he ever wrote, but I'll hold out hope for another novel, and soon.