Book: Zom-B City

"Zom-B City"

After escaping a secret military complex amid the zombie apocalypse, B roams the streets of a very changed London, dirty and dangerous and eerily quiet, except for the shuffling of the undead. Once again, B must find a way to survive against brain-eating zombies–and now also against those who have seized control of the city. With danger lurking around every corner and no one to trust, B has to decide whether to join the creepy Mr. Dowling in exchange for his protection. When everyone around you is dead, where do you turn for help?

The synopsis makes it look as if there’s a lot happening in this book. That’s a lie. Zom-B City spends most of its pages on developing the character of our protagonist, whilst setting up the world that was hidden from us in the previous book.

Oh, and we get another creepy visit from the aforementioned Mr. Dowling.

To be perfectly honest, I think we could have done without this book. The entirety of this could be summarized into three or four chapters, and added into the previous book–or to the next one.

I kind of want to blame the format for this lackluster book. Author Darren Shan promised twelve books for the Zom-B series. He’s probably plotted out what happens in each book prior to writing the first one (or the second one). And he probably thought this third book would have more going for it. And then discovered too late that it wouldn’t be as plot-driven as he thought it would be.

I thought I wouldn’t mind, to be quite frank. Jonathan Maberry’s Flesh & Bone was not very plot-driven either, and I loved the book. But when I compare the third book of Rot & Ruin to Zom-B‘s, the latter comes up short. Because Maberry has us rooting for a group of characters who are dealing with grief, with changing world views, before delivering an emotional punch in the end.

Shan’s work, on the other hand, is more concerned about how the next twist is going to blow the minds off his readers. It’s a good thing that B, as a character, is very engaging.

It’s just harder to be invested in her, because there’s no sense of threat against B. She’s the solo character in a series. She doesn’t have any friends (not anymore) who we can like and feel scared for.

Zom-B has lost its emotional impact. And that’s not a good thing when your market is already being infested by a million other zombie titles.

But I’m not discounting the merits of the book. It’s still very well-written, and the characterization of B is still topnotch.

I just hope the next book would be better.

Now, let’s find out what other bloggers have said about the book:
Cheezyfeet Books
The Book Zone (for Boys)
The Book Gazer

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Book: Zombinoy #5

"Zombinoy #5"

Just like the biblical apocalypse, nothing can stop the zombie end-of-the-world event. Everyone will be equal: rich and poor, genius and uneducated, handsome and ugly–Lakers and Miami fans.

Okay, so it doesn’t actually say that at the back of Zombinoy‘s latest issue. But it was long and it was in Filipino, so I translated it and shortened it. Yes, the part about the Lakers and the Miami fans really were there.

Now. About the latest issue.

I don’t like it.

After the stellar fourth issue of Zombinoy, the writers of the comics seems to have lost interest in the world they created. And I wouldn’t have gotten this idea if it weren’t for the note at the back of the issue where they say that they’re wrapping up the story in the next issue.

I’m saying issue a lot. Then again, I have a lot of issues with this installment.

Number one; the characters. We have, by now, established a connection with leads Clara and Paolo. They barely appear here. And most of their panels are accompanied with lyrics to a song. Paolo’s brother gets relegated to a fool’s mission of getting survivors off a ferry and to safety. I think. But they just get swarmed and shot at. And let’s not even go to the mostly absent president.

Number two; the lack of content. I was pleased when I first saw the thick issue. And then I realized that it was thick because it had a lot of panels for action. Mindless action. Action that don’t really propel the story forward. And then I was miffed.

Number three; the lack of direction. We get teased with a cure. We get teased with a conspiracy. Neither one goes anywhere. We get really cheap thrills instead.

So what are we supposed to do with Zombinoy? It’s ending in the next issue. But with a penultimate issue like this, would we even want to know where the creators plan to take this disaster?

Well, I have until May to figure out my answer.

In the meantime, check out the photos I took from last November 16’s Komikon at the newly made Facebook fan page for Taking a Break!

Book: Fire & Ash

"Fire & Ash"

Benny Imura and his friends have found the jet and Sanctuary–but neither is what they expected. Instead of a refuge, Sanctuary is a hospice, and the soldiers who flew the plane seem to be little more than bureaucrats who have given up hope for humanity’s future.

With Chong hovering between life and death, clinging to his humanity by a thread, Benny makes a startling discovery: A scientist may have discovered a cure for the zombie plague. Desperate to save Chong, Benny and his friends mount a search-and-rescue mission. But they’re not the only ones on the hunt: The reapers are after the cure too, and they want to use it to wipe mankind off the face of the earth.

Before we go any further, I need you to understand one thing: I cannot say anything bad about this series. No, I’m not biased. I really just can’t say anything bad about Rot & Ruin nor its succeeding sequels.

The bad thing about this is that my hopes were impossibly high when Fire & Ash was announced. I tried to keep the expectations down, because we all know how hard it is to conclude anything. But it was impossible. I had impossibly high hopes for Fire & Ash. Impossibly high.

And the book met my expectations. I don’t know about exceeding expectations, but meeting my really high hopes was enough for me.

Right. We’re taking a break from Filipino Fridays this week because I really need to get this out. Fire & Ash, and the Rot & Ruin series, is now officially my choice for definitive zombie fiction. Tied with World War Z. It has the right amount of horror, of suspense, of action, of comedy, of romance, and most importantly of drama. Because, let’s be honest, while you can have a good book without drama, it won’t be great unless you feel for the characters. It won’t be definitive unless the character’s plight become real for you.

When your characters are in a fictional future dealing with zombies, and you can still feel the plight? Hello, you impressive author. Here I am with the highest award I can give to anyone: my undying devotion to anything you will publish. While I’m still a big Christopher Golden fan, I think Jonathan Maberry is my master of horror now.

Now, before I go on and write about my reaction to the book, I just want to say one more thing first. I love how the Rot & Ruin series never wastes a single book on filler. (Yes, Michael Grant’s Gone series, I am throwing shade at you right now.) We can say that Dust & Decay, the third book, would be a good candidate for being the filler in this series, but it’s not. If it is, then it’s the best filler book out there. Because while nothing much advances in terms of plot, the book completely makes up for it in how the characters develop.

But this post is not about Dust & Decay. It’s about Fire & Ash. The last book. The finale.

This is where the world, as we’ve come to know it, burns.

Right from the first page, answers are given. What happened to Chong after the last book ended? What is Sanctuary? What is done inside Sanctuary? Well, that one is answered more subtly, but once you get to the point where it’s explain more explicitly, you realize that the answer was already given very early on.

The biggest question though, of what is going on in the reclamation of the world from the dead? That one is explored more carefully. And without forgetting that villains have been introduced in the last book. Villains that need to be taken care of.

If there’s suspension of disbelief that’s to be made, it’s in how teenagers are able to disarm and beat grown men who are just as trained as they are in the arts of war. But after four books, are we really going to start questioning this now?

Fire & Ash is plotted well. Never did I question where the book was going, and never did I become frustrated at how long it was taking certain characters to go where they need to go. Characters were talking. Actions were being taken.

There were no obvious over-drawing of events just so the series could be extended. There were no repetitions. And characters, all of them flawed, acted in tune to the characteristics they were introduced with. They grew, yes. But they did not become different people. They didn’t suddenly develop amorality or bipolar disorders.

And although the book introduced a new point-of-view, it didn’t detract from the overall experience. In fact, it added suspense and amped up the fear you felt for characters we were already introduced to.

Let’s just say that all the characters we’ve come to know were all serviced well. And that there was a reason for everything.

And I can’t believe I’ve missed the nod to The Walking Dead until now. That was some quick-draw.

I’m all out of words now, so let’s see what other people have already said about the finale book of the Rot & Ruin series:
Teen Librarian Toolbox
Doubleshot Reviews

Now, while you read those, I’m going to see if I can find some free time in my schedule to reread the whole series again.

Book: World War Z

"World War Z"

We survived the zombie apocalypse, but how many of us are still haunted by that terrible time? We have (temporarily?) defeated the living dead, but at what cost? Told in the haunting and riveting voices of the men and women who witnessed the horror firsthand, World War Z is the only record of the plague years.

I can’t believe I never wrote about World War Z before. The book, I mean. Then again, I don’t think this blog existed back when I first got my hands on the book. Heck, I can’t even find my book now. I had to buy a new one so I could read it again.

On the fourth go, the book is still as emotionally powerful as it was the first time I read it. On the one hand, this makes me appreciate the film version more, because it really diverted from the source material; but at the same time, I can’t believe the producers would waste so much of World War Z‘s potential at a gut-wrenching creature feature. In the literal and figurative sense.

Reading the book again, I am reminded of the reason why my interest in zombie fiction started. I’m a confessed coward. Biohazard scared the shit out of me when it came out. I was in grade school then. The old Dawn of the Dead gave me nightmares. But World War Z made me a zombie fan. This was the book that made me realize zombie stories are not stories about zombies. Zombie fiction is about the people left behind.

I wish I saw more of this in the film version of World War Z. The people. The human factor. How we took back our world from the brink of a zombie apocalypse. Instead of having Brad Pitt’s character going around the world looking for a miracle cure/answer. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still give the film good marks even in hindsight, but I can’t help but wish. You know?

I have a dream that somewhere down the line, an enterprising wannabe would develop World War Z into a mini-series. For HBO maybe. A documentary of how people fought back. Of how people were during the zombie wars. Maybe the book’s author, Max Brooks, could do it himself? I don’t know. I’m wishing.

Because I feel really, really bad that so much of the heart-wrenching stories in the book never got told.

At the very least, I hope the people who watched the movie would get interested in reading the book. Seriously.

Read the book.

Book: ZOM-B

"ZOM-B"

When the news starts reporting a zombie outbreak in Ireland, B’s father thinks it’s a hoax–but even if it isn’t, the two of them joke, it’s only the Irish, right?

That is, until zombies actually attack the school. B is forced on a mad dash through the serpentine corridors of high school, making allegiances with anyone with enough gall to fight off their pursuers. But when they come face to face with the ravenous, oozing corpses, all bets are off. There are no friends. No allies. Just whatever it takes to survive.

First of all, the fact that B is a girl took me completely by surprise.

Oh, don’t worry. That’s not really a spoiler. Or, at least, I don’t think so. Her gender doesn’t affect the story much, except how you look at the events prior to the reveal. It actually makes the novel better, come to think about it now.

But before you’re fooled into thinking that this is actually a novel about zombies–it’s not. Well, it is. There are zombies in this book, but this book is not about zombies.

It’s about B. And her dad. And her mom. Her friends. How she chooses her friends. How she forms her relationships, and how she makes decisions, because of her dad, her mom, and her friends.

This book is about B, a girl who has to live up to the demands and expectations of her father. The father she loves. The father she hates.

And ZOM-B is a brilliant book. About the psyche of a troubled child, about racism, and how it’s harder to see the monster in us than it is to see the ones that surround us.

Oh, and sure, the zombies aren’t very original. Author Darren Shan does add a new twist into the mythology, but for the most part, the zombies aren’t that interesting. But then again, we don’t really read zombie novels for the zombies, do we?

We read these kinds of novels for the humanity. The people who inhabit this world that has gone crazy.

And Darren Shan has created a marvelous character study with his protagonist: B.

I’ll probably just continue gushing about how brilliant the character is, so I’ll end this hear–and leave with you with some links that would actually have reviews:
Alexander Gordon Smith
Totally Bookalicious
Miss Literati

I read through their reviews, and I thought it would be worth mentioning to note that Miss Literati seems to have mistaken B for the first character we meet. Just thought I’d point that out.

Book: Dead of Night

"Dead of Night"

A prison doctor injects a condemned serial killer with a formula designed to keep his consciousness awake while his body rots in hte grave. But all drugs have unforeseen side effects. Before he can be buried, the killer wakes up. Hungry. Infected. Contagious. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang…but a bite.

I was going to say something about this book in relation to a series of books that author Jonathan Maberry has written. And then I realized how much a spoiler that was going to be. So I’m going to hold that thought back and give you my assessment of this book without relation to any other stories.

The book was nice. Better as it came closer to its end, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t good before then. Well, it was a tad slow-paced. Much slower paced compared to Maberry’s other books. But, in this case, it helped in establishing character.

Weird thing though–

The events described in this book all happened within a day. It felt much longer. The book, after all, only kicked into high gear near the end.

But I still liked it.

My gripe against Michael Grant’s Gone books, with its series of red shirts who die as soon as they’re introduced, gets turned in its head in this book. We get red shirts, and they too die way too quickly; but while they don’t provide traction to the development of the characters we’re following, they don’t detract from them either. In fact, their little stories help in coloring this world in better.

Later on, this even serves as a character upgrade for one of the main protagonists.

My other gripe against the Gone series, with its some times too separate story lines is how, in this book, the stories are still tied together at its core. There are no separate concerns that one set of characters are involved in that doesn’t, in one way or another, connect to the concerns of the other characters.

If there’s anything to complain about in this book, it’s that we don’t get as many updates on a couple of peripheral characters who play a bigger part near the end.

Oh, and the missing time between a certain character’s disappearance to his reappearance later on in the book. This touches on a whopper of a spoiler though, so I don’t know how I’m going to discuss this…

Basically, a character leaves. Starts moving. And yet ends up in a place that another character reaches in a shorter time. While partly walking there. I’m sure there’s an explanation, but I thought the ribbon was a bit too perfectly tied on that bow.

I realize that that statement makes absolutely no sense unless you’ve already read the book. Which you should.

Don’t believe me? Then check out what other people have to say too!
Fantasy Book Critic
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Enough is Enough

And I just realized how I started with I’m not going to compare this to other books and proceeded to do that anyway. Oops.

Book: Zombinoy #4

"Zombinoy #4"

Zombie apocalyptic, big-time, end-of-the-world scenario of biblical proportions. Pinoy style.

And so we begin the second “season” of Zombinoy, where the first issue alone has more happening than the whole of the first season combined. Well, that’s not completely true, but it sure does feel like it.

I think the problem with the first three issues was that the people behind Zombinoy wanted to create the world first, to introduce the characters and the zombie plague at the same time. I don’t know why, but I think it may be because they wanted readers to connect to the characters first. Having read Issue #4, I don’t think they had to.

Issue #4 has us facing the problem of zombies in our land, with the Americans very gung-ho about helping us because of nefarious reasons. Prior to this, we had a lot of government drama that tiptoed around this issue. I think #4 had the better execution, as you’re seeing things in action while discovering that things are not what they seem.

The characters feel more real too, even though “screen time” is more spread out. At first, I attributed it to the fact that I’ve read the first three issues. I already know these characters. But that’s not exactly true. Zombinoy, while a brilliant idea, wasn’t completely remarkable nor was it unforgettable. The characters in this issue really lived and breathe, that despite not knowing who they were before, you already have a sense of who they are as a person.

The writing’s brilliant, actually. It shows just how much writer Geonard Yleana had grown from the time he wrote the first three issues to now.

I’m still not a fan of the art though. This is more personal preference though, as I’m not exactly an artist. It’s just that–the glossiness of the drawings and the shadings doesn’t fit with the world they’re trying to build. The Philippines is going to hell, and it’s presented in the cleanest way possible.

It’s a little jarring.

But it’s not something you can’t get over. Especially with a story as strong as the one presented here in the fourth issue. And if Yleana continues to grow, I can’t wait to see what he (and the rest of the Zombinoy team) has in store for us next issue.