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.