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.