I don’t know about you, but with Valentine’s Day having just passed by for another year, I’ve been watching quite a lot of romantic comedies. But as much as I love watching love stories (which includes the traditional happy ending – or the film equivalent), lately I’ve been craving a story with a bit more grit… or bone… or the sound of brains being consumed by zombies… or how about these and love, as in the case of Warm Bodies. Perhaps it’s the Halloween junkie in me, but I don’t see why can’t we celebrate other forms of human existence with a different perspective on life… and death… and zombies. So with that in mind, and in tribute to the holiday that not everyone wishes to celebrate, here are some gory tales of action, adventure, and, of course, love.
Take Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Slayre. If mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, then this novel slays them all. It follows the well-known tale in true fashion with a few important new details: Jane is a slayer, of both vampires and zombies. In due course we learn that Jane’s parents were also slayers, so the tradition runs in her blood. Her uncle’s family, the Reeds, who adopt her, are vampires who don’t feel the need to drink from those with “lesser” blood. Thus Jane is sent away to Lowood School, only to discover that students who die become part of a new kind of zombie servant class. As the tale progresses, her encounters with Rochester, St. John Rivers, and finally the Reeds in their altered forms, give added depth to the tale and, to my mind, a better explanation regarding certain events than in the original text.
If your mind is of a more historical bent, then I would suggest Lori Handeland’s Shakespeare Undead. Shakespeare is portrayed as a brilliant playwright whose vast knowledge of human nature derives from his long years as a vampire. Interspersed with his writing, however, is his need to deal with the current zombie outbreak, which is plaguing London society in the form of the Black Death. Full of references both Shakespearean and modern, literary and film, Handeland has woven a fantastic blend of fact and fiction into a marvelous undead tale. (By all means, read the sequel Zombie Island as well, which is set on isle from The Tempest.)
I hesitate to mention Max Brooks’ World War Z, since such a fuss has been made of the film but, by all means, read the book. Contrary to what many people think, the book and film work quite well together, though they take different points in the same tale. But if you are interested in something along the same vein, take a look at I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Set in New York, it chronicles one man’s attempts to survive a zombie outbreak. Most people will be familiar with the film version (2007) starring Will Smith, but did you know that the book spawned two other films? The first, Last Man on Earth (1964), starred Vincent Price, and the second, The Omega Man (1971), starred Charlton Heston. Both are excellent films and are well worth watching.
If you’re into sci-fi, then you are in for a treat. Can you guess which popular franchise has a built-in zombie tale? If you didn’t guess Star Wars, don’t worry, not many seem to know of it. Star Wars: Death Troopers, written by Joe Schreiber, is set one year before A New Hope. An Imperial prison barge, which is housing the worst scum and villainy of the galaxy, is suffering engine failure in a deserted part of space, when they stumble across an abandoned Imperial Star Destroyer. Despite concerns of why the ship was abandoned, a boarding party is sent over to scavenge parts… only they bring back more than just equipment. As the fallen crew and prisoners reawaken, so does their hunger… and the fight for survival begins. With elements as gruesome as any I’ve read, and a tinge of horror thrown in for good measure, this novel is a perfect read for sci-fi and zombie fans alike. And, if nothing else, keep your eye out for a cameo by our favorite heroes.
So after all that slaying, perhaps it’s time for a story that casts zombies in a new light. How about one that involves less moaning and eating, and deals with the daily realities of trying to remain undetected as a zombie, while still consuming the monthly requirement of brains. Enter Gwen Dylan, in Chris Robertson’s graphic novel series iZombie. Gwen is your typical girl, trying to live a normal life with work, family, and love. Only that’s not so easy when you are a recent member of the revenant community. Along with Ellie, a ghost who died in the 60s and Scott, a wereterrier, Gwen deals with her undeath the way she dealt with life: one body at a time. But what if her state as a zombie was more than a coincidence? What if her lack of memories serves a greater purpose, one with a darker goal? This 4-volume set is definitely worth a look (and in my mind, would make an excellent tv series).
But don’t take my word for it. Grab this, or any other zombie novel, and tell me what you think of this ever-growing genre. And don’t forget: happy un-loving!