Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Atheism Plus Zombies

As an atheist (I still haven't decided how militant I can/should be on that front), I'm pretty darn happy with this Atheism Plus thing. It's no secret to anyone who follows atheism on the intertubes that there have been some spectacular battles over such groundbreaking and controversial issues like cornering women in elevators and whether harrassment policies at conferences are a good thing or else an authoritarian nightmare that will undermine the very fabric of a free society. Furthermore, I've found some pretty unskeptical attitudes in some social justice movements that don't appeal to me, and have contributed to my arms-length distance from some of them. So, to have a group of atheist and skeptical people discussing issues of social justice is something that I will be following for some time.

That's all I'm going to say about that for now.

In zombie news, I've been reading a bunch of stuff lately, some good, some bad, some ugly.

The good:

Blackout by Mira Grant: The 3rd in her Newsflesh trilogy provided a very satisfying conclusion. When I reviewed the first book (Feed) I think I short-changed her on the score. At the time, I felt that the story built to its climax too slowly. That problem was corrected in the sequel, Deadline, and this third book as the action stayed fast-paced and riveting. The protagonists of the series, Shawn and Georgia, are very well-drawn and believable, and while maybe Grant could work a bit more on developing the secondary characters a little more, her focus on the first-person narrators doesn't hurt the story at all. I'm confident that this series is the best zombie lit that I'll read this year. I give it a 4.5 severed thumbs up (or whatever my scoring system is).

The bad:

Shakespeare Undead by Lori Handeland: Okay, so I'll be gentle with this book, because I don't think I'm the target audience. It's a pulpy supernatural romance between William Shakespeare (a two-thousand year old vampire) and his Dark Lady, Kate, who hunts zombies as a hobby while her merchant-noble husband is away in the New World. They fall passionately in love, then kill zombies, then are passionately in love some more, then kills more zombies, then there's an evil vampire and they fight him, the queen of England shows up and they save her, and then they fall in love some more, again, and then some. Part of what threw me was from the very start there's some vaguely heterosexist content where Shakespeare is drawn to Kate while she's disguised as a boy, and he agonizes forEVER about whether he's suddenly turned gay or not, not that there's anything wrong with that. What a friggin' RELIEF when he finds out that his true love isn't a boy but is actually a lady. It was a relief to me, too, because then I didn't have to read about how self-hating Shakespeare expected to become if he actually was gay or bi or whatever. Also, there's some casual racism in there, but whatevs, lighten up, right?

The other thing that bugged me was the plotting or pacing was so, so, SO bad. This book, in order for the zombie threat to actually become threatening, depends on its protagonists saying and doing stupid things (in general, making out) instead of trying to solve the problem. Basically, Will and Kate get attacked by zombies, then, instead of doing ANYTHING to find out about where the zombies are coming from, etc, they just make out and wonder if they should reveal their secrets (Kate is married, Will is Undead: can it ever work???). It's about 75% through the book that Shakespeare actually does anything other than react: he goes to a house and knocks on the door, and then is attacked by more zombies, and later (probably) makes out with Kate some more.

So, I'll say 1.5 severed thumbs out of 5. In this book's favour, the writing is readable, the book has a consistent breezy tone, and it plays with some interesting ideas. I'm not a pulp-romance reader, so maybe this book would be just the thing for someone wanting something light-weight and "fun"(?) for the beach or whatever. It irritated me to no end, but I can't say that I would like the time back that I spent on it.....unlike.....

The ugly:

Autumn: the city by David Moody: This is a lesson for me: any time a zombie novel says, on it's back cover blurb, "there's no flesh eating, no fast-moving corpses, no gore for gore's sake," I need to just WALK AWAY because they are NOT KIDDING. Oh, this book. This horrible, horrible book.

Okay, so, I haven't read the first book in the series (just called Autumn, maybe?), and there are a billion other books after this one. I am unlikely to read those. Basically, this book is a standard zombie apocalypse story, where survivors first experience zombie-onset trauma, then they gather together, then they fight amongst themselves to decide what to do. Except for the first half of the book, the dead people who become zombies? They just stand there. Later on, they reach for you and grab at you, which I can imagine is certainly unnerving, but from what I could see in this book, the zombies are not actually dangerous, except that they crowd and could (presumably) trample someone to death. If a zombie bites or scratches you, do you become a zombie? I don't know, because to my knowledge, no zombie ever bites or scratches anyone in the entire book. The first post-apocalypse death is a suicide when a woman jumps off a ledge because her baby died.

But the zombies in a zombie novel are only one part of the equation. I can see an argument for a really creepy story where the dead just kind of stand there and the survivors are creeped out by that. But if that's the story, I imagine it would depend heavily on the characters. So, how are the characters in this one? Ugh. I don't know. They're all so bland and boring and interchangeable, I ran into trouble later in the book when the cast expanded past "the guy" "the woman" and "the little kid". I kept mixing everyone up. Even the inter-character conflict was so muted and generally polite that when one guy decided to just go and get drunk in a bar to kill himself, I kinda just shrugged. Who was he again? I don't know. Why suicide? I guess he was sad? Sigh.

This book was BORING. I can't even be bothered to raise objections about sexism or whatever, because, really, nothing happened. Most of the world died instantly, some of those bodies started walking around, and the survivors just sit around and mope blandly for however many pages this book has. 0 (that's a zero) out of 5 severed thumbs. Both of the UNsevered thumbs are pointed down.


So, this was my "keep the blog alive!" post. I've been keeping things going at my sobriety blog, and I guess staying sober has been a big focus of my life lately. Now that I'm approaching one year of THAT, I'd like to expand my focus to include other interests, including this blog. We'll see how that goes.

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