Book Review Friday: Slow Burn: Zero Day, Book 1

 

Slow Burn: Zero Day, Book 1Slow Burn: Zero Day, Book 1, by Bobby Adair, follows the unpredictable path of slacker Zed Zane, a man who finds himself in the wrong place (jail) at the wrong time (the zombie apocalypse). Not that his day started with promise. Broke, hung over, and oblivious to anything except the need to ask his mom and step dad to cover his rent, again, Zed arrives at his childhood home to find a gruesome scene of death and destruction. As Zed says, “Sometimes a half-bottle of breakfast tequila just isn’t enough to deal with the day’s reality.”

Clueless and buzzed, Zed attempts to call the police. “I guess some people in that situation would have crumbled, some would have cried, but I’d emotionally disconnected from life a long time ago. For that I had to thank the skeletal bitch on the floor with her greedy rodent soul and her short-tempered ape-mate in the kitchen. If anything, her death was a belated answer to old prayers, with a bit of unexpected mess.”

Okay, maybe Zed’s not so clueless after all.

Arrested for the murder of his parents, Zed’s thrown in jail. Ever the survivor, when the jail erupts in a riot Zed follows over-sized Murphy Smalls and his friend Earl, as they escape. Too bad it’s one of those out of the fire and into the frying pan situations as now the trio must contend with flesh-eating zombies and panicky armed police. Even worse, Zed’s nasty arm wound, inflicted by his dear, dead step dad, needs medical care. A perilous trip to the nearest Emergency Room gets Zed and his friends quarantined. Zed has a sneaking suspicion that quarantine really means rounding up and killing the infected.

As resilient as a cockroach, Zed gets himself and his cohorts out of quarantine and finds refuge in a building with Jerome, a CDC employee caught in the chaos. Sure, Zed thinks things are on the upswing. Unfortunately partner Jerome is more useless and self-centered than Zed. Yep. Things are on a downward spiral here.

Though it sounds grim, Slow Burn is a fun read. If Zed’s to be believed, he truly had a horrific childhood and can’t be blamed for numbing the world with booze and pot. Still he retains a spark of decency that is ignited when Murphy and Earl drag him along on their prison break and look out for him. Like a stray dog responding to a caress while expecting a kick, Zed discovers feelings he didn’t know he had, including the courage to risk his life to save others, rather than putting on his sunglasses and heavy metal and drowning out the world.

Bobby Adair’s Slow Burn: Zero Day, Book 1 is a quick fun read and it’s perma free on Amazon. You have nothing to lose by downloading it to your Kindle and giving it a try. If you like it, show Bobby some love and purchase the rest of the series, available both in paperback and Kindle. Currently Slow Burn boxed set Books 1-3 is only 99 cents.

Friday Book Review: Zombie Attack: Rise of the Horde

After finishing book 1 of Devan Sagliani’s Zombie Attack! Rise of the Horde, it was clear why this is listed as both an Amazon best seller and the Goodreads 2012 best zombie/horror e-book of 2012. The narrator, Xander, is a wise beyond his years, katana wielding 16-year-old who is waiting out the zombie apocalypse at Vandenberg AFB. A loner in a small group of mostly military family members who have survived to this point, Xander spends his time practicing martial arts and waiting to be reunited with his soldier brother. When Xander comes across a gang of base bullies tormenting 12-year-old Benji, Xander springs into action with the moves of a young Chuck Norris. In the aftermath, he’s a loner no more and Benji makes a great companion, full of the enthusiasm and excitement which provides a great contrast with Xander’s at times dour and pessimistic view of the world.

When zombie hordes overrun the base, Xander is one of the few that is quick enough and skilled enough to find an escape route. His little shadow, Benji, keeps close and follows along.  Forced to run for their lives, the unlikely duo must outwit fellow survivors, a task made more difficult by Xander’s belligerent teen male posturing and bravado. Much like the sword he carries, Xander is a sharp instrument who doesn’t mind drawing first blood. Benji manages to smooth the rough edges and every time Xander veers toward assholery, Benji pulls him back. It’s a sweet little brother-big brother relationship that left this reader looking forward to meeting Xander’s big brother, Moto, and seeing if that dynamic mirrors this one.

So, there’s relationships, an ineffective government response to zombies, and a rapidly decreasing number of survivors, yet Rise of the Horde doesn’t focus on the blood and gore part of the zombie apocalypse and doesn’t present stereotypical villains. Yes, there are scared townspeople. Yes, there is a crazy cult leader. Yes, there are biker gangs. But the great part of this tale is the care and depth the author uses in describing these so-called villains and their followers. They are individual, memorable, and as capable of evil as they are of redemption. Xander approaches each new encounter with a healthy skepticism of their motives and a tactician’s ability to see past the surface to the moves below.

Certainly one of the best YA zombie books I’ve read, it’s reassuring to know that once you’ve reached the end of Rise of the Horde, Sagliani has a second installment, Zombie Attack: Army of the Dead, available. Zombie Attack! Rise of the Horde is compelling, authentic, and worthy of the reader’s time. If you’ve already read it, let me know what you thought of it in the comments. If you haven’t read it, go buy a copy and update me after you’re done. This one’s a steal, currently at 99 cents on Amazon.

 

Friday Book Review: The Ghoul Archipelago by Stephen Kozeniewski

Stephen Kozeniewski’s The Ghoul Archipelago is not at all like his previously reviewed Braineater Jones. Where Braineater Jones is a straight shot of adrenaline and action, The Ghoul Archipelago is a sweeping, panoramic view of a world gone mad.

This seafaring novel, initially reminiscent of Heart of Darkness, branches off into various tributaries, including the Reverend Sonntag who attempts to integrate zombies into religion, billionaire Rand Bergeron who hasn’t found a situation he can’t manipulate himself out of, and Captain Henk “Howling Mad” Martigan who discovers zombies are the least of his worries. Needless to say, there’s enough tension, fighting, and crazed ambition to populate a trilogy.

Kozeniewski’s main characters are well drawn and come alive with great dialogue and descriptions. In the midst of the post zombie apocalyptic world, the testosterone level of his mostly male characters fuels plenty of chest thumping, ominous threats, and deadly double crosses. In this world of scoundrels, it’s hard to find someone to root for, but Howling Mad and his men provide an oasis of dysfunctional sanity in an insane world.  Summing this complex novel up into a few sentences is impossible, but it all comes together at the end and The Ghoul Archipelago delivers an excellent ending which left this reader satisfied.

Don’t worry, there is plenty of graphic sex, violence, and gore for those of you who demand lots of horror in your horror novel. In this case, Kozeniewski has also added plenty of heart. Check it out on Amazon, it is a story well worth reading.

 

Friday Book Review: The Tilian Virus

Tom Calen’s The Tilian Virus (The Pandemic Sequence Book 1) tells the tale of Mike Allard, former newbie school teacher now leader of a band of survivors of the Tilian virus. The virus, which turns its victims into flesh-eating predators, quickly wipes out the majority of the world’s population and leaves the survivors to fight off the infected as well as other uninfected survivors competing for limited resources. The narrative switches back and forth in time from the early days of the pandemic to seven years later and allows the reader to watch Mike and his former high school students grow up and mature in a world gone bad. Refreshingly, they remain decent people, even when it is to their detriment.

Mike transitions from a twenty-something inexperienced teacher, whose greatest worry is bus duty, to a solid leader who keeps hope alive in a seemingly hopeless world. He is not a man of steel, a ninja, or Jack Reacher. He’s a regular guy making do with what he has. A thoughtful, hard worker, he allows his former students to use their strengths to assist in their shared survival. He doesn’t always make the best decisions, but when he makes mistakes he takes responsibility and does the dirty work to correct them. Definitely someone I’d put on my pandemic survival team.

The story moves along at a brisk pace and though there is plenty of bloodshed and killing, there is more relationship building and maturity than found in many books in this genre. I won’t spoil the ending of this most excellent novel, but it is rare I am reduced to a sobbing mess at the end of one as I was when I finished this. The Tilian Virus has one of the strongest, most evocative endings I’ve read recently and though it filled me with deep sadness, it also made me want to continue the journey into Books 2 and 3.  Get yourself a copy of The Tilian Virus and a box of kleenex and email me when you’re done to tell me what you think. I’m dying to talk about it!

Get your copy at Amazon or check out other offerings at Permuted Press because they really do enjoy the apocalypse.

http://permutedpress.com/books/the-tilian-virus-the-pandemic-sequence-book-1#.U1J8nVfkpvA

 

Book Review Friday: Blood Soaked and Contagious

Blood Soaked and Contagious by James Crawford manages to entertain, educate, and horrify as it follows the adventures of Frank and his Man Scythe. Did I mention I love Frank? A great sense of humor, moves honed by numerous zombie death matches, and the desire to be a better man combine to make Frank a wonderful, yet deeply flawed, hero.

In Frank’s words: “I’ve been doing this gig, ‘Freelance Zombie Extermination,’ for just over a year and a half. My claim to fame is simple: Hey, I’m still alive! Better, I’m sure, than the other options.”

He’s sort of the American Juan of the Dead.

But Frank isn’t fighting brain-dead, sluggish zombies who travel in herds and eat anything in their path. These zombies are smart, organized, fast, and only attracted to people infected with the zombie virus. No infection with the virus means you can roam with impunity. Infection with the virus is akin to blood in shark infested waters, it’s only a matter of time before you end up as a zombie snack.

Sure, there’s plenty of zombie brain bashing, crushing, and skewering, but the real meat of this story lies in the bond between the inhabitants of Frank’s small, close-knit neighborhood.  When Frank’s good friend is asked to work for a zombie warlord and develop technology to allow the zombies to keep humans as cattle to feed upon, the friend must either submit to the request or endanger the lives of everyone in their community. If only it was as easy as putting up fences and stopping swarming zombies. Instead Frank and his compatriots must strategize against zombies with weapons, military tactics and discipline, and a rather casual attitude toward using their least gifted members as cannon fodder.

As if Frank’s life isn’t complicated enough, sibling rivalry and a hot female zombie killer, who admires Frank’s Man Scythe as much as he does, keeps the heat turned up on this page turner.  Blood Soaked and Contagious is a winner of a novel. Buy it at Amazon. If you can’t get enough of Frank, there’s a second book available called  Blood Soaked and Invaded.

Fast, Fun and Free Sunday: Zombie Games

Zombie Games by Kristen Middleton is fast, fun and free.

Zombie Games by Kristen Middleton is fast, fun and free.

Zombie Games (Origins) by Kristen Middleton is a fast paced YA romance set in the zombie apocalypse. 17-year-old Cassandra Wild, aka The Wild One, is both a firearms and martial arts expert. When an untested flu vaccine causes rampant zombie-ism, Wild leaps into action to protect her family and help other survivors. She’s aided by Bryce, a 20-year-old martial arts instructor who wows the women with his six-pack abs and slays zombies with fists and feet registered as deadly weapons (o.k., I totally made that part up. His feet and fists are lethal, but may not be registered in the big book of deadly weapons).

Of course the zombie apocalypse isn’t enough excitement. Wild and gang save the one girl in school she’d have gladly left for zombie bait, Eva. Eva is gorgeous, rich, and shallow enough to be more worried about making Bryce her next boyfriend than getting her hands dirty with zombie brains.

The majority of the story revolves around Wild trying to find her family and she is fearless in this quest. This is a fast read, partly because of its length but mainly because of its pace. Lots of movement, action, and tense situations kept me turning pages to the end.

My only complaint is that the zombie outbreak is blamed on an untested flu vaccine. As a healthcare provider, and someone who routinely gives vaccinations, the premise doesn’t work. I read carefully, trying to figure out if the author had some sort of anti vaccination agenda, but couldn’t find one. Since this is only book 1, perhaps in later books there will be a better or different explanation of the outbreak. Still, Zombie Games Origins was compelling enough to drag me past my disbelief and take me for an amusing and scary ride. Fast, fun and FREE means you should get over to Amazon and get your copy today.