Monday, February 28, 2011

Review: Nerd Do Well

Simon Pegg, 2010, Century

The importance of the movie Shaun of the Dead in kick-starting the current massive popularity of zombies in popular culture simply can't be overstated. Released in 2004, and narrowly preceding a number of similarly influential movies and books such as 28 Days Later, World War Z, Monster Island and Xombies, Shaun perhaps provided more momentum to the craze than any other single release, due to its simultaneous appeal to both Romero devotees and mainstream audiences; here was a brutal, cult-style horror movie masquerading as a mainstream slacker/buddy/satirical romantic britcom (or vice versa), the sort of movie a vast cross-section of different moviegoers could - and did - enjoy, and one that drew those with no prior interest in the zombie subgenre inexorably into the fold.

Nerd Do Well is the autobiography of the man behind Shaun - both the movie and the titular character; actor, comedian and writer Simon Pegg - and focuses upon the amazing circularity of Pegg's life, from a childhood spent immersed in the trappings of geekdom to a man now famed for his direct involvement with, and influence upon, geek culture.

The book is written in a manner every bit as amusing as one might expect (in reading it on the train, my constantly having to stifle fits of laughter lead some of my fellow travellers to think I was having a conniption fit), and provides an engrossing and entertaining insight into Pegg's formative years and beyond. His childlike glee in finding himself, as an adult, shooting a zombie movie, acting in both the Star Trek and Doctor Who reboots, meeting George Lucas in the flesh, being directed by George A. Romero, and so on, provides an extremely satisfying payoff to the tale of a nerd made good. Zombie fans in particular are well catered to, with a wealth of behind-the-scenes information provided on Shaun of the Dead specifically.

Nerd Do Well is a really fun, satisfying and engrossing read, and one that stands head and shoulders above most other autobiographies. A must for geeks of all stripes.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Review: Warm Bodies

Isaac Marion, 2010, Random House Australia

'R' is a zombie. He has no memory of his name, or of his former life. His entire existence, along with many of his kind, consists of endlessly shambling around the local airport, mimicking the routines of the living. Only the occasional scavenging forays into the nearby city, hunting for warm, living flesh, bring anything close to genuine emotion into R's sterile life. Until the day he meets a living girl, and - for reasons that will haunt him thereafter - saves her life, spiriting her away to his airport hideaway to be his companion. The status quo is beginning to change. The rules are being broken. But will R's strange evolution bring peace to a shattered world, or only tragedy to those he is beginning to care about?

Warm Bodies is a tremendous novel that turns the zombie genre on its head, minutely examining the human condition - an oft-explored theme in zombie fiction - entirely from the zombie's point of view. Marion's undead protagonist is painted as something of an autistic savant - capable of intelligent observation and rationalisation, yet unable to truly comprehend the behaviour and motives of the living (or even his fellow dead, for that matter), himself operating on a mental level that would be incomprehensible to the reader, were it not for the power and clarity of Marion's writing. The plot explores numerous philosophical and ethical issues at a deeply intellectual level, whilst remaining engrossing and entertaining throughout. There's also plenty of violent mayhem and flesh-eating action for the old-school zomfans, with a nifty explanation as to why zombies have to eat flesh, and why brains might offer more than just a tasty treat.

Warm Bodies is among the best of the best of the current crop (shamble?) of zombie novels. Zomfic enthusiasts absolutely owe it to themselves to read it - and to then pass it on to those who disdain the genre, but love a deeply literary affair. And thus, the sickness spreads...

Monday, February 14, 2011

News: NecroScope Open for Ditmar Nominations

NecroScope is currently eligible for nomination for the 2011 Ditmar Awards, which recognise excellence in SF, fantasy and horror by Australians.

The relevant categories for nomination are:

* Best Fan Writer (Chuck McKenzie, body of work including reviews in NecroScope and HorrorScope)
* Best Fan Publication (NecroScope, Chuck McKenzie)
* William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review (Chuck McKenzie, for Horror reviews in NecroScope and HorrorScope)

If you've enjoyed the ongoing body of work published by NecroScope since its inception in July 2010, and are eligible to nominate, do please consider casting a vote for us (because zombies need validation too!). Nominations are accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of the national convention of the year of the award (full Ditmar rules may be found here).

News: Zombie Movies Screen at ACMI

ACMI - the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne - will be screening some great zombie flicks over the coming month, as part of their regular Freaky Fridays program.

Feb 18/25: Colin
Mar 04: La Horde
Mar 11: ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction

Bookings may be made via the ACMI website, or by calling (03) 8663 2583.

(Reported by Rob Jan)

Review: Dead Earth: The Vengeance Road

Mark Justice & David T. Wilbanks, 2010, Permuted Press

Invaders from another world have raised an unholy army of the living dead, laying waste to human civilisation. The 'Necros' destroyed Jubal's home and everyone he loved - now the only thing that matters to him is payback. Leading a ragtag group of armed survivors, Jubal is now making his way across the desert towards Area 51 - the Necro base - heading for a showdown that nobody may walk away from...

Dead Earth: The Vengeance Road is a fun read. While undermined slightly in places by some fairly clunky dialogue and prose, the central plot is sufficiently inventive and exciting to keep the reader turning the page. There's a distinctly Western-style atmosphere to the whole thing, with the tale essentially amounting to a series of stand-offs and engagements between the forces of Good (lead by Jubal) and Evil (a plague of zombies, controlled by a psychotic, brainwashed biker) as they head towards a final showdown. It's not the perfect zombie novel by any means, but there's a lot to like here, and those who enjoy the unfettered action and imagination of Pulp-style fiction should grab themselves a copy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

News: Art of the Mash-Up Competition

In the lead-up to the release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, Quirk Books have announced the following exciting competition.

Eric Smith reports:
'Recently, some of the Quirk team took a trip to New York City to meet with our friends at the Bridgeman Art Library. For those of you unfamiliar with Bridgeman, they’re the world’s leading source of fine art and historical images available for reproduction… and we’ve worked with them on all of our Quirk Classics titles, including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Dawn of the Dreadfuls, Android Karenina, and the upcoming Dreadfully Ever After.

'We've teamed up with Bridgeman to present the Art of the Mash-up Design Competition. To celebrate the March 22nd release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, we’re giving Quirk fans and designers the opportunity to craft their own mash-up book covers for a chance at fabulous prizes.

'The contest is inspired by the iconic cover from our 2009 New York Times best-selling book Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. That cover features a zombified version of the once-genteel portrait of Marcia B. Fox, which our designer Doogie Horner acquired from Bridgeman Art Library. Horner transformed the original artwork by repainting portions and merging the changes in Photoshop. The resulting mashed-up image was voted Amazon’s Best Book Cover of the Year in 2009. You can check out all the before and after images of the five Classics, here on Bridgeman’s website.

'The prizes are pretty fantastic. The grand-prize package, includes entrance to the HOW Design Conference in Chicago and a feature in GD USA Magazine! Our favorites will be featured in a First Friday gallery show at Brave New Worlds in Philadelphia. For more information and to enter, visit'

This competition closes March 11th, so aspiring artists should get in Quirk quick!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pop Culture: Stand By For A Party Political Broadcast...

You know that zombies have really tapped into the zeitgeist when a major political party uses them as the central theme in a campaign advertisement. For NecroScope's overseas readers, The Greens - who have bankrolled the following ad - are Australia's major environmentalist political group. We present the following, which will hit TV in the lead up to the next NSW state election, without further comment (political or otherwise).

(Reported by Kyla Ward).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: Zombies For Zombies: The Play & Werk Buk

David P. Murphy, 2010, Sourcebooks

Just when you thought brains couldn't get any more appealing, Z4Z: The Play & Werk Buk gives you, the recently turned zombie, a range of new ways to maintain your sentience and minimise your inclination to moan and shuffle. Packed with games, puzzles, stories, quizzes and other ways to embrace and improve your new zombie life, this book is a great inactivity guide for the whole morgue...

There's not much that can be said about The Play & Werk Buk that isn't covered in the blurb above. Basically, it's an activity book for zombies (taking cues from Murphy's previous darkly satirical publication, Zombies for Zombies), and, as such, is as irreverent, funny, grotesque, and downright disturbing* as one might expect. The Play & Werk Buk is an enjoyable and funny read, and a worthy addition to the range of 'novelty' zombie publications currently on the market.

* Perhaps the most disturbing thing about The Play & Werk Buk is that - according to Mrs NecroKeeper, who is currently completing her teaching degree (hey, the undead are entitled to an education, too!) - the majority of the book's content has genuine educational applications for primary-age kids.