Category: Zombies

This was later than planned, still working on fixing that. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time. Thanks to  James Aquilone, here is Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher. Enjoy!

Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher cover

Dead Jack, the best zombie detective in Shadow Shade, saved Pandemonium from certain destruction. It was totally him. The cost was high though, Oswald hasn’t woken up since her took the blast from the Pandemonium Device exploding. Without Oswald there Jack’s fallen off the wagon, spending his days in a haze of dust and Devil Boy. He hasn’t had a case in weeks. Lucky for Jack an old army buddy from his living days, Garry, has tracked him down with the promise of finding their souls. Just, get someone to translate the diary Garry stole, find the alchemist who has their souls, and dodge the neo-Nazis that want to use his sidekick to wipe out Pandemonium. Nothing difficult for the best zombie detective in Shadow Shade. Right?

Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher follows a book that I enjoyed a great deal, removes a big chunk of what I liked about it, and still leaves me waiting for the next book. The last book gave us a noir style detective with all the tropes associated, but then never tried to make him right or to present his behavior as correct. Dead Jack is a massive jerk, and that’s great because he gets called on it. Here though, Oswald is out of the picture so that element of humanization is absent. Instead we get more of Dead Jack the character instead of Dead Jack the plot device, we get into his history as he’s forced to deal with feelings and memories and a lot of things that he generally doesn’t.

A lot of Jack’s memories tie into his time in World War 2, particularly dealing with his death and the horrific experiments visited upon him. The way he became Dead Jack. This works pretty fantastically to show the reader more about the man Jack had been, especially when that man and the zombie we know don’t line up quite right. That’s a fantastic draw for me. Tie it in with Dead Jack seeming to soften up to his companions a little and I’m excited to see where his characterization goes from here.

Now, the group of neo-Nazis who had been experimenting on him follow Garry into the story. They’re after the diary and him again, but more than that, they want Oswald as part of a plan to steal all the souls in Pandemonium. They are the biggest threat of the book, bigger than dark elf prison guards or giant spiders or the devil himself. They have the ability to potentially bring Pandemonium to its knees. They’re weirdly obsessed with their uniforms and how nice they are. The book manages to strike a balance between making it clear that they’re fanboys for the original Nazis and that that is ridiculous and making it clear that they are an actual threat to Pandemonium and very dangerous. It also makes it incredibly satisfying when they get punched.

Much like Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device this isn’t a super serious book and it plays with familiar tropes. I enjoy it all the more for that. This was a fun read, it maintains the quality of the first book, and it leaves me impatient for the next one. So, yeah, Dead Jack and the Soul Catcher gets a five out of five. If James Aquilone keeps this up he’s going to wind up one of my favorite authors.

I am so late posting this. So late. Like, I was planning on having this up Wednesday and then work was so much more tiring than usual in the lead up to the store renovation.  This one is courtesy of the author, Michael Okon, this is Monsterland. Enjoy!

Monsterland cover

With zombies, werewolves, and vampires Monsterland promises to be the scariest place on Earth. It might also be the perfect place for Wyatt Baldwin and his friends to finally solve their debate about which is the best monster. Even better, they’ll get a chance to see it all on opening night, with full VIP invites after Wyatt shared a burger with the owner of the park, Vincent Konrad. A park full of monsters, what could possibly go wrong?

Monsterland by Michael Okon reads very much like a first book. There are a lot of good ideas and the frame work is solid but then there are bits that move too quickly. It has some interesting characters and others that don’t quite make it. So, some things work some don’t. That’s every book, and I should clarify, so let’s clarify.

The story for Monsterland is kind of ambitious. We’re started with the werewolves and shown that they didn’t join Monsterland on their own, then we get introduced to our protagonist and the world. It stars a pattern in the story, there’s a monster chapter and then a protagonist chapter. That works really well for me to a point. There’s a weird jump from the monsters as sort of victims of the part and planning to escape to the monsters as monster antagonists. That happens without a lot of build up and feels pretty disjointed. Something similar happens with Wyatt and his friends, they go from super excited about going to the park to thinking it was a bad idea and questioning if it was actually a good thing. Similarly again, we get Vincent jumping from being presented as a force for good to throwing out massive bad guy signals. I would have liked much more build up on all of these things. A slow burn and build and then reveal it. As it stands, while the end isn’t a twist or anything, it also isn’t super satisfying and could have benefited from just a touch more work.

The characters similarly could have benefited from more work. As it stands, they’re more or less sketches of characters rather than being fully realized. Wyatt is interested in zombies and Jade, the cute girl from school, he’s super about Victor Konrad’s plan to save the world with this theme park. His friend Melvin is super into werewolves and messes up his turns of phrase. The other friend is always addressed by his full name and is super smart, he’s afraid of the girl who’s into him. Then there’s background characters, I would have liked a fair deal more with them. It feels like Mr. Okom had a few ideas of what he wanted to work with characters wise, but wasn’t a hundred percent on how he wanted to implement them in the story proper.

I’ve said a fair amount about this needing a touch more work. Thing is, the book is average as it stands, but it has a lot of solid ideas. I liked the one friend’s love interest, Keisha, she had some really interesting moments and I would have really liked to see her do more. Vincent as the villain could have been really good if he was a little more subtle, he just gets a little too cartoony at the end for my taste. The monsters revolting could be built up a little more, show the vampires trying to get in contact with the werewolves. It would have been a fair number of little things, but it could have taken the book from average to good.

That’s pretty well where I’m left with Monsterland, it isn’t bad and it was enjoyable, but it is fairly average. I would read Michael Okon’s next book, and think he’s going to keep improving as a writer. That said, I’m giving Monsterland a three out of five.

Sven the Zombie Slayer

I just had a major derp moment and posted this with nothing said before jumping to the review.  You guys may notice that this is being posted kind of late, blame classes and my inability to study and do anything else at the same time.  There’s going to be a review up Saturday as well, so hopefully I’ll be back in a schedule fairly soon.

It was a normal day when the outbreak occurred.  For body builder Sven it started with his spotter wondering off while he was trying to break his own record.  For Jane it was worrying about her sick house mate before heading off to work.  For Lorie, that big track meet later in the day.  Milt just wanted to play some WoW.  But then everything got weird and the dead started to rise.

I’m going to admit now that I love zombie movies, zombie novels on the other hand are something that I’ve kind of skipped over for whatever reason.  Guy James’ Sven the Zombie Slayer could change that.  The characters are, for the most part, as freaked out by zombies suddenly arising as any normal human probably would be.  They each get their quirks and funny character moments.  They don’t all sound alike, each gets a voice unique to them.  Sven starts the book sounding like a meathead who puts too much time into his exercise routine.  Milt on the other hand uses the kind of bastardized English that tends to show up with internet users who vastly overestimate both their own intelligence and other people’s lack thereof.  Considering the amount of juggling James does, the difference in voices is rather nice.  He also used a rather interesting take on the zombies themselves, having them quickly become dried out rather than rotting at a more normal rate.  It was also rather interesting to see the main characters trying to work with and around each other.  This isn’t a movie where the over confidant young guy gets himself and half of the named cast killed by doing something that sounded like a good idea at the time.  These characters have seen those movies and know what to expect.  It gives them a level of genre savvy that’s both refreshing and gets to lead to character development.

That said, the characters tend to do a lot of cyclical thinking.  Sven is always going to worry about his muscles at some point in the chapter.  Jane is always going to get introspective when she’s the viewpoint character.  Milt is going to blather about his superiority regardless of whom he’s speaking to if he isn’t just basking in it to himself.  There were some redundant bits of storytelling and dialogue but nothing so bad that it didn’t feel like the characters were being written more towards an attempt at the way people think and react to things.  The focus on Sven’s cat also felt a bit odd at times.  Not a “why’s this guy taking his cat zombie hunting” way, more that the cat seemed like a bit of a catch all plot coupon.  I’m also not a huge fan of the “To Be Continued” on the last page, but it fits with some of the more movie like elements of the writing.

So, where does that leave me for a review? I enjoyed the story.  The writing was good regardless of stylistic choices.  I’m giving it a four out of five and more jokes about bad zombie movies than I really want to think about.