Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: The Reapers are the Angels

Alden Bell, 2010, Pan Macmillan Australia

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

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

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

Review: Chanbara Beauty

Dir. Yohei Fukuda, 2008, Madman Entertainment

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

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