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.

Book Review Friday: The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery

 

The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery

The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery

We asked for zombie stories that showed humanity at its best, and Michelle Miller’s novel The Thirteenth Step: Zombie Recovery sort of fit the bill, but definitely wasn’t a friend of Bill. In Miller’s zombie apocalypse, the zombie virus reaches flash over proportions at the same time worldwide. As the zombies rend flesh and create new zombies, a select group of people are able to avoid zombie detection. Turns out they’re either drug addicts or they have the alcoholic gene. Bill, a PR person for the New York lottery, survives the initial slaughter as does Courtney, a Lotto winner whose dreams are dashed when zombies interrupt the check ceremony. As they fight their way to safety, Bill and Courtney slowly figure out the secret to their survival, and pick up a few other former alcoholics or children of alcoholics to round out their band. Bill, a true AA adherent who believes in meetings and fellowship, is at odds with Courtney, the bitter child of an alcoholic, who despises AA and everything it stands for. Definitely no love relationship about to brew there.

The group grows to include a drug dealer, a zombie aficionado, a middle-aged woman, a former addict now Ivy Leaguer, and an illegal immigrant. Each of these characters must come to terms with the guilt of surviving while their loved ones died, as well as battle their inner demons. Let’s be honest, in a zombie apocalypse who wouldn’t want to drink or drug? When you’re surrounded by 12 Steppers, though, any use of alcohol or drugs becomes a group discussion.

The wanderers do find a sanctuary of sorts, a gated community that runs by the rules of Alcoholics Anonymous. Here, everyone is in recovery and the leaders impose a multitude of rules to keep everyone on track. Up until this point, the AA story line referred to in the title mostly consisted of Bill singing the praises of AA and Courtney suspiciously eyeing everyone as if they were hiding bottles under their coats. Once the survivors arrive at the AA community, the tone shifts and suddenly AA is a cult with a charismatic leader and arranged marriages.  The New York group, uncomfortable with “AA fundamentalism,” decide to leave the community and continue their search for a safe place to live.

For the most part, this was an enjoyable read. The zombies were easily dispatched and posed no real threat to the survivors. Rising radiation levels were another obstacle that seemed easily surmounted and not a true threat. The danger in this story came from other humans and there’s even a reference to Jonestown in an attempt to heighten the danger when the New York group flees the gated community. Even so, this isn’t a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat waiting to see if our stalwart heroes make it to safety.

The only parts of the book that kept me guessing were whether this was an indictment of AA and other 12 step programs or a very awkward tribute and the ending which was both convenient and unexpected. Still, a happy ending in a zombie novel is what we asked for and The Thirteenth Step delivered. If you’re looking for something short on gore and long on feelings, this might be for you.

Buy it at Amazon

Book Review Friday: Undead LA 1 by Devan Sagliani

Undead LA 1, by Devan Sagliani, uses the landscape of sunny California as the epicenter of a zombie infection deliberately unleashed upon the inhabitants of Skid Row. The infection quickly spreads throughout Los Angeles and points beyond. Rather than focusing on assigning blame or following the narrative through the eyes of government or media, Sagliani employs a diverse range of 6 narrators who find their normal existence interrupted by the zombie apocalypse.

Each narrative is a self-contained story, making it easy to read one and ponder the what-ifs before turning to the next. The narrators include a burned out airline pilot reminiscent of Denzel Washington in the movie Flight, a police detective squaring off against a serial killer, and a terminal cancer patient living out her Make a Wish dream at the Emmy’s. Though there is plenty of blood and gore in each story, there’s also a strong thread of introspection and making amends as people face the inevitability of their death, either from the zombie hordes or from the government’s attempt to exterminate everyone rather than let one zombie break free.

The most gruesome story follows Detective Gary Wendell. Bitter and defeated after being outsmarted by a serial killer, Wendell discovers the zombie apocalypse is a perfect time to mete out his own brand of justice. The most hopeful story, Dogtown Locals Union, shows two surfing brothers as they attempt to survive in peace and harmony while still catching some waves. In between are all levels of hope, despair, triumph, and tragedy. Sagliani does an excellent job of showing a few of the millions of stories that lie beneath the surface of any mass disaster.

Undead LA 1 is a fast-paced, unpredictable adventure. Open it up and enjoy the ride.

If you like this, you might also like another book by Sagliani, The Rising Dead. Read our review here

Now, enough reading blogs. Time to buy a book. Undead LA is available at Amazon.

Book Review Friday: Still Dying 2

Too distracted to sit down and read an entire zombie book this weekend? Good news. You can read Still Dying 2, an anthology of delicious zombie stories.

Still Dying 2, a zombie anthology worthy of your weekend reading

Still Dying 2, a zombie anthology worthy of your weekend reading

The first story, “How Me and Bozy Became Dads” is an excellent example of an author who knows who to write dialogue and dialect. The title characters, two convicts unlucky (or maybe lucky) enough to be on work detail when the zombie apocalypse starts, provide a down and dirty view of what happens when the shit hits the fan. It also totally slaps down the stereotypes of criminals as self-centered losers, out of touch with the world and the people around them. Not so in this tale, the men with balls and heart turn out to be the ones we least expect. One of those stories that make you want more. Hopefully the author, Patrick C. Greene, is hunched over a laptop at this minute writing a full length zombie novel with Randall and Bozy.

Armand Rosamilia contributes “Dying Days: Television” which is a cautionary tale about relying too much on reality television and not enough on reality. Patrick, a city living hermit who has multiple televisions, DVR’s and a generator, dedicates his life to never missing a television show. To him, the zombie apocalypse is another scripted series and he sees it as an opportunity to be on television instead of watching it.  Rosamilia quickly had me hating Patrick as much as any reality TV star, but instead of riches and fame, Patrick gets what he deserves.

The other stories in Still Dying 2 are just as inventive and interesting. There’s a great mix of characters, and a healthy blend of the worst and best of humanity. I recently complained there wasn’t enough zombie fiction that celebrated the part of us that banded together in times of crisis and helped each other out. Still Dying 2 tells these stories, most notably in “The Old Man And The Apocalypse” by A.D. Roland. Roland did an excellent job of showing the fine line between preserving your life and preserving your humanity. I hope in a zombie apocalypse there are plenty of old men left.

Still Dying 2 will satisfy your craving for zombie destruction and make you check your moral compass. Check it out at Amazon