The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 12, 2012

Lisa Brown: Zombies rise from pages as library's collection grows

By Lisa Brown
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — After a recent showing of the German zombie film "Rammbock: Berlin Undead" at the Joplin Electric Theater (check them out on Facebook), I realized that in a zombie apocalypse I would be so dead right out of the starting gate. Definite zombie fodder.

Perhaps that's why I love zombie books, movies and TV shows so much. In a real-life situation, chances are that I'd completely lose it.

But in a pretend world, I can observe, without impunity, how others survive -- or don't survive -- the dangers.

Zombie fiction is on my must-read list year-round, but leading up to Halloween, I devoured it. Here are a few books the Joplin Public Library has recently acquired.

"The Walking Dead:  the Road to Woodbury"

By Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga

I'm a wee bit obsessed with Kirkman's "Walking Dead" epic; the classic graphic novels, the acclaimed TV show, and now the full-length novels.

His first novel, "The Walking Dead: The Rise of the Governor," details the journey of the Governor, a memorable villain from the comics, through the early days of the outbreak to his takeover of the protected town of Woodbury.

The newly released sequel, "The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury," picks up several months after the outbreak has happened, and it features a cast of characters new to the "Walking Dead" universe.

It depicts the struggle of Lilly Caul and those with whom she's joined forces to find a safe place, which at first glance seems to be Woodbury, now firmly under the Governor's control.

The reader witnesses Lilly's development from a frightened, anxiety-ridden young woman into a person of strength and courage, who is capable of doing whatever it takes to survive.

The writing seems a little stilted at times, and I had difficulty with the lapses into omniscient narration, but the nonstop action more than made up for those flaws. Lilly's journey is horrifying, violent and bloody. Several times I wondered how she and her friends were going to escape from the threats -- both zombie and human -- that befell them.

Well worth the read if you're a fan of "The Walking Dead" in any of its incarnations.

"Devil's Wake"

By Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due

"Devil's Wake," the inaugural book in a new series, shows promise.

What kicks off the zombie apocalypse? The combination of a flu vaccine made to combat a new strain of the illness and a special mushroom that dieters take to suppress their appetite.

The book opens just as things start to go awry, much to the bewilderment of teenager Kendra and a group of juvenile offenders who are serving their time by working at a summer camp. Kendra and the other teens eventually cross paths and join forces to find a safe place in a world overrun by zombies.

I applaud the book's racial diversity and that the story is told from the perspective of young adults. I also didn't find "Devil's Wake" as gory as other zombie fiction I've read, which might make it more tolerable for those who don't relish blood and guts.

There was greater emphasis placed on the internal life of the characters -- their concerns about family members, anxieties, confusion and connections to each other.

Toward the end, the authors introduce a supernatural element that I didn't feel was necessary, but that's a minor quibble.

I enjoyed "Devil's Wake" and look forward to the next installment in the series.

"21st Century Dead"

By various authors

Like zombies? Like short stories? This anthology might be for you.

Some stories feature actual zombies, but others are more symbolic. Some are straight-up horror, while others strike a more elegiac or satirical tone. Still others address everyday issues such as parenting, reality TV and the media.

Overall, I found it an uneven collection, with some stories working better than others.

My favorite was Jonathan Maberry's "Jack and Jill," which occurs in the same universe as his zombie apocalypse novel "Dead of Night." But I also enjoyed "How We Escaped Our Certain Fate" by Dan Chaon, "All the Comforts of Home" by John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow, and "Tender as Teeth" by Stephanie Crawford and Duane Swierczynski."

Not a must-read for fans of the zombie genre, but it might be if you skip certain stories.

Lisa E. Brown is the Administrative Assistant at the Joplin Public Library.