Second Look: ZOM-B by Darren Shan

ZOM-B by Darren ShanThe Story: When zombies attack the village of Pallaskenry, Ireland, B immediately dismisses it as a joke. As claims of other zombie attacks dribble in from a few other parts of the world, people start to take the curfews and warnings more seriously. But B writes it off as a publicity stunt or take the side of the conspiracy theorists. When the zombie epidemic hits B’s school, however, nobody’s laughing anymore…

The Low Down: I don’t know exactly where to start, so let’s go right from the beginning.

This book started with one of the most graphic and intense zombie scenes I’v ever read. It was compelling, bloody, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I was sucked in right from the first page. And then I got to Chapter Two.

I’m trying not to judge this book too harshly, as it is the first of a 3-book series, so I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt and assume that the let-down that was the first 3/4 of the book was to set up the rest of the series. But as a result, I was so not feeling this book.

This is the first time I’ve read one of Darren Shan’s books, and from what I know of the author, he spins some pretty edgy, graphic, and horrifying tales. After the first chapter, I was expecting a bloody massacre littered throughout the rest of the book (which is what I want in a zombie novel!) What I was not expecting was 100-FREAKING-PAGES before another zombie made an appearance. I would have rather seen the 3-book series be one giant 400+ page novel, so that a small portion could have been the setup/backstory and the remainder could have been zombified.

I had a really hard time with the language and slang. Darren Shan is Irish. The book takes place in London. Needless to say, there’s going to be lots of slang/phraseology native to those countries and areas, which is totally fine. But for me, personally, as a reader, I had a hard time understanding what was going on half the time. I found myself Googling words in every other paragraph because I had no idea what the characters were talking about. While I don’t deem that a black mark against the book or the writing, readers should know that this might be an issue.

I was also bothered by the dynamic between B and dear-old dad. B’s father is an racial extremist, alcoholic, and abuser in every sense of the word. While this could have provided an intricate element to the story, the bulk of it could have been condensed and all it did was piss me off. While B struggles with and questions Dad’s opinions, in reality B is just a big bully. And kind of a prick. I had no sense of sympathy for the character. Screw the zombies, halfway through the book *I* was tempted to start cracking skulls like walnuts myself. Shan drops a huge bomb regarding B near the end, and I think that’s supposed to give you a completely different feel for the character. But for me, it didn’t change my opinion any.

Once the zombies attack, B must overcome many preconceived prejudices to unite with anyone of any race, creed, or color who can help them survive, and that’s the core moral of this first book in the Zom-B series. We do see B make a huge decision at the end, and I understand the backstory with Dad was needed so readers could see and appreciate B’s change through the book. However, I don’t think it warranted taking up more than half of the book.

Speaking of characters, I felt no emotional connection to any of the other characters featured, save for maybe B’s mother who is the constant victim of her husband’s abuse. B’s friends all have nicknames (such as La Lips, Ballydefeck, and Stagger Lee, to name a few) and I couldn’t identify or relate to a personality of any of them, because I couldn’t keep any of them straight. (MINI-SPOILER ALERT) In Shan’s defense, I could understand Shan not wanting to create characters that readers would get too attached to, as most of them do not survive to see the end of the novel. (END SPOILER)

Despite my dislike for the book itself, Shan is a great horror writer. The scenes that were, in fact, horrific were graphic, bloody messes. The fear and suspense is palpable, and what it lacked for in the first 100 pages it made up for in intensity in the final 70 pages of the book. Given the style and content of his writing, I can easily see fans of his works eventually graduating to and enjoying Stephen King (if they haven’t already).

The Bottom Line: Shan weaves interesting psychologically complex elements, such as extreme racism and abuse (physical, mental, and emotional), into this novel. But if you’re looking for a gory book about a zombie apocalypse, you’re only going to get about 70 out of 174 pages that are worth your time. Hopefully the sequels will bring the series together and make it the horrifying zombie novels they’re expected to be. I’d give the sequel a shot, but only if the zombie horror picks up from where it left off, and actually continues throughout the duration of the book.

OFFICIAL RATING: 5/10

LIKE ZOMBIES? 

For additional heart-pounding zombie action, check out:

  • Ilsa Bick’s Ashes series. Zombies, gore, and a well-written, compelling plot to boot. (See: Shadows, book 2 in the series as well.)
  • This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers. An emotionally wrought story intertwined with a zombie apocalypse.
  • Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris. Pre-med wannabe Kate Grable needs to know why the football team has devolved into flesh eating zombies. (Don’t forget to check out the sequel, Bad Hair Day.)

AshesShadows by Ilsa J. BickThis is Not a TestBad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris12080400

An abundance of book reviews!

First off, on behalf of everyone here at After the Last Page (namely, Ashley and me), I feel the need to apologize for the lack of communication on our part. We were confronted with mounds of classwork, work-related drama, a college basketball tournament (to which I am hopelessly addicted every March), and both Ashley and I were sidelined and quarantined with horrendous cases of the flu (at two separate, unrelated times) which left us feeling like cranky zombies in desperate need of brains.

On the bright side, during my bout with the flu (which I am still recovering from) I managed to get quite a bit of reading done. Therefore, I think I owe you some book reviews!

1) First Date by Krista McGee

**Note: This was my first experience with Christian fiction, and was quite a shock to me since I didn’t know it was Christian fic when I started reading it. I’m going to rate it objectively, but keep in mind I have nothing to compare it to.

The Story: Quiet, structured Addy unwittingly finds herself selected to be one of 100 girls to participate in a reality show to determine who will go to the prom with the President’s son. Addy hates the limelight and is hoping to be kicked off the show as quickly as possible. But after a few weeks on the show, Addy realizes the plan she has for herself is a lot different from the plan God has for her.

The Low Down: In a generation where such reality shows are the norm, the plot felt like a genuine look at what a reality show is like behind the scenes. The producers are atrocious, some contestants are nice, but most are catty snobs, and there’s not a girl I know who wouldn’t want a friend like Kara, Addy’s roommate. I enjoyed McGee’s story and her writing was light and kept me interested. I thought it was a little preachy at some parts, and there were other conversations where I had to roll my eyes and groan because it was a tad on the corny side. But, all in all, it is a cute story of a young girl trying to come to terms with what she wants versus what God wants for her, and learning to trust in Him.

Bottom Line: Original plot with a good storyline and likable characters, but probably wouldn’t hold the interest of non-Christian readers.

OFFICIAL RATING: 7/10

2) Supergirl Mixtapes by Meagan Brothers

**Note: Supergirl Mixtapes will be released on April 24, 2012.

The Story: Set in 1997, Maria is on her way to live with her estranged, artist mother in New York City after breaking up with her abusive boyfriend. The idea is that a different environment will help her get over her “sickness” (which everyone is too polite to acknowledge was a possible suicide attempt). When she arrives in the city, she’s not sure what to expect. She finds herself wrapped up in a world where rock and roll is the only thing that matters, and she finds herself ready to live and experience life. A stranger to NYC at first, Maria takes to the streets of the city like a fish in water and learns more about life, family, and friendships then she ever would have learned in her southern, podunk hometown.

The Low Down: Maria’s conflicting emotions throughout the book feel as real as any teenager struggling with emotional turmoil. She’s been stifled in her quiet, reserved hometown and feels the world open up to her in New York. Her mother introduces her to a wild music scene, which is a heavily prominent theme throughout the entire book. Maria experiences a lot of ups and downs, however some of the things Maria encounters are a little extreme for most teenagers to relate to (learning to work the register at a strip joint and having a fleeting, unspoken thing with Mom’s 20-something boyfriend are just two examples).

There are also several subplots in the book, and some of them are a bit underdeveloped. There are a lot different elements piled into this book. Personally, I would have loved to read more about Maria’s BFF, Dory, and the Supergirl Mixtapes they send each other. Considering that’s where the title comes from, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more emphasis on that. Also, being set in 1997, a lot of the music references will be completely lost on younger readers. I was a child of the 90’s, and I had to Google just about every band and artist to find out who they were.

Bottom Line: If you are a music lover, you will probably enjoy Supergirl Mixtapes. Even if the references are way before your time, the characters’ deep love and connection to good music is relatable no matter how old you are. However, the obscure music references and multiple plot points might confuse and turn off some readers.

OFFICIAL RATING: 6/10

3) This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

**Note: This Is Not a Test will be released June 19, 2012

The Story: The zombie apocalypse is here, and it’s bad. All it takes is one tiny little bite to turn you into the one of the undead. Sloane Price and five of her classmates have barricaded themselves into their high school hoping it will keep them safe until help arrives. But Sloane has other things in mind. Her world came crashing down around her six months ago, spiraling her into a deep depression. To her, becoming one of the undead doesn’t seem so bad. While everyone around her hopes the barricades will hold, she eagerly wonders how long it will take them to fall.

The Low Down: Contrary to all appearances, This Is Not a Test is not just a regular zombie apocalypse novel. It’s not about kids trying survive flesh and brain eating zombies. Similar to the rest of Summers’s novels, she stays true to what she does best: digging deep into the raw emotions of her characters. The writing is phenomenal and brings readers right into the book. All the characters have depth and complexity and are so well rounded you wonder how they can’t be real. It’s suspenseful, fast paced, and an all around great read.

The Bottom Line: This Is Not a Test is not only a well written zombie novel, but a stunning look at the human condition and what someone is willing to resort to when all hope is gone. It’ll be sure to keep you on the edge of your seat right up to the end.

OFFICIAL RATING: 8.5/10

Because we didn’t get enough cannibalism in Book 1… News for the Ashes trilogy!

Ok, I exaggerated a teeny, tiny bit. It’s not BIG news. But I do have book titles and a release date for the upcoming books!

Book 2 in the Ashes trilogy by Ilsa Bick will be called SHADOWS, and is tentatively set for release on September 11, 2012. Book 3 will be titled MONSTERS, and doesn’t have a specific release date yet, but one can assume it will most likely be as some point in 2013. No cover art for either book yet, but when it’s released, you’ll be the first ones I tell.

Ashes is a dystopian/apocalyptic survival story about 17-year-old Alex, who is dying of a severe brain tumor. The tumor has taken her sense of smell (and therefore, her sense of taste) and is starting to take her hearing, too. While hiking out in the woods alone, she survives an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) which either kills you, leaves you alone, or turns you into a flesh craving, cannibalistic zombie. As she travels with people she meets along the way to try to find help, she discovers that not only has her sense of smell returned, but it’s suddenly heightened to superhero-like levels. She must use this new “power” to help her survive among The Changed (aka. The Flesh Eaters) and everyone else who survived the EMP.

With a ridiculously amazing cliffhanger ending, it’s will leave you hungry for book 2. Check out AtLP’s official review here.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! To celebrate the release of her new book Drowning Instinct, she’s offering a giveaway for a signed copy of the book! Pop over to her website for deets. You can enter through February 8.

Random Facts about Ilsa J. Bick (impress your friends with all this newfound knowledge!)

    • Was an English major in College
    • She is a child psychologist.
    • She’s a former Air Force Major.
    • Wrote Star Trek novels
    • Won second prize in the Writers of the Future Contest in 2000.

Second Look: Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

The story of my life... well, except for the zombie part.

The Story: Kate Grable, honor student and aspiring doctor, has a full plate when she discovers the high school football coach has been injecting his team with an unknown substance. After being attacked and, well, gnawed on by one of the football players, Kate suspects (with good reason) something is amiss. As more and more people start vomiting foul black goo (a early sign of infection), she scrambles to find out why the people around her are rotting from the inside out and have a ravenous hunger for human flesh. Has Coach been infecting his team with…  A ZOMBIE VIRUS? (dun dun DUNNNNNNN!) And, even more importantly, will Aaron ask her to Homecoming?! *bites fingernails in suspense*

The Low Down: Kate Grable is an awesome heroine. As a doctor-in-training, she manages to keep her cool and use her knowledge to try to save her friends and stop a full on zombie apocalypse. Kate is also damn funny, as her mental commentary on the zombie-ish events is hilarious and left me laughing out loud more than a few times. I loved Kate’s friends and was immediately reminded of my own besties from high school. And her crush, Aaron? He gets an 9 out of 10 for swooniness (I took off a point for a couple of corny remarks, but even so. He’s still pretty dreamy).

The Bottom Line: Bad Taste in Boys may be about a zombie virus, but there really is nothing supernatural about it. Carrie Harris’s story is well thought out with logical reasoning for everything, which leads to a very satisfying conclusion. Though I must issue an ICKINESS WARNING: There is A LOT of projectile vomiting. Just throwin’ that out there. Ickiness aside, If you’re looking for a fun zombie book without a lot of heavy drama, this is a good one to grab.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

Would you like a side of rotting flesh with your brains?

HALLOWEEN IS ONLY 9 MEASLY DAYS AWAY, PEOPLE!

Do you have your costumes ready? Is last year’s makeup still useable, or has it coagulated into an unusable glob of colored goo (like mine…)?  Has everyone placed their bets to see who will be the first one of their friends to end up in a sugar coma?

Given that this is my favorite time of year, I thought there should at least be one reference to a potential zombie apocalypse on this blog (duh). Unfortunately for me, Ms. Bates at naomibates.blogspot.com beat me to it.

She’s got a bangin’ booklist on her blog for all you zombie lit lovers out there. She included a ton of great zombie books out right now, plus links to trailers and videos on YouTube for most of them. Some titles included arrrrrrreeeeeeee:

  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth (and sequels) by Carrie Ryan
  • Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris (which I’m reading now and LOVING)
  • Rot & Ruin and Dust & Decay by Jon Maberry
  • I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It by Adam Selzer
  • Zombie Blondes by Brian James
  • Z by Michael Thomas Ford
  • The Zombie Survival Guide: How to Live Like a King After the Outbreak by Etienne Guerin DeForest
  • Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black
Click here for your daily dose of the undead!