The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 22, 2013

Lisa Brown: Undead make for some spirited, light reading

By Lisa Brown
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Summertime is fun time. Although I'm an avid reader, I do tend to slack off during Missouri's hotter, more humid months. You usually won't find me lugging around dense memoirs or classic novels.

It's brain candy time! Below is a sampling of what I've been enjoying lately.



'Zom-B'

By Darren Shan


I hadn't read anything by Darren Shan, author of the popular "Cirque du Freak" series, until a co-worker, knowing my affection for zombie stories, recommended "Zom-B."

This book is intense, but it's not a straight-up horror novel. Monsters come in other forms besides the guise of flesh-eating creatures.

B comes from a rough home life in contemporary London. B's father physically, emotionally and verbally abuses his wife and B, and his racist views and activities have started to rub off on B.

When my co-worker asked me what I thought about B, I replied, "I don't really like him." She just grinned and told me to keep reading.

A couple of nights later, I arrived at a point in "Zom-B" where I actually gasped and yelled, "no way!" The book was worth reading for that wholly unexpected, thought-provoking plot twist alone.

Even without that dramatic development, "Zom-B" is a good read. It deals with heavy issues such as racism and abuse, and while the hateful rhetoric and family violence are tough to stomach, these problems are a reality -- not just in B's world, but our own.

The action is slow to start, with murmurings of horrific, unexplained attacks elsewhere. However, by the final chapters, the violence has spread to B's neighborhood, and B is holed up in school with classmates, trying to survive. The zombie attacks are described in all their gross glory, much to my delight.

The first four books of the "Zom-B" series can be found in the Joplin Public Library's teen department.



'Revival, Volume 1,  You're Among Friends'

By Tim Seeley


Our teen librarian clued me in to this graphic novel and, as always, she was spot on.

"Revival" is described as "rural noir," a term and a genre I love. (Think Daniel Woodrell, author of "Winter's Bone"; that's rural noir at its finest.)

For one day, in a small Wisconsin town, the dead come back to life. They rise up in morgues and funeral homes, much to the horror, confusion and sometimes joy of the townspeople. Those who are revived aren't quite zombies, but they are different from when they were alive, and bad things start to happen.

Local law enforcement has been called in to investigate this strange development, and officer Dana Cypress has her hands full. In addition to being a single mother, having a strained relationship with her father and reuniting with her sister, who seems to be hiding something, she has to deal with this sudden influx of once-deceased people. There's also been a brutal murder that she's been tasked with solving.

The unsettling, sinister tone of "Revival" intrigues me. This strong start to a supernatural-tinged mystery series can be found in the library's adult non-fiction collection.



'The Infects'

By Sean Beaudoin


"The Infects" is a zombie novel that I feel ambivalent about, but ultimately I'll give it a thumbs up, though not an enthusiastic one.

The plot centers around Nick, a teenager who commits an act of vandalism in his workplace, a chicken-processing plant, and is sent to an outward bound-type program for juvenile offenders. He's barely on his way with the group when things start to go horribly awry -- as in people freaking out and eating other people going awry. From that point on, it's a fight for survival for Nick and the other group members.

The plot itself seemed familiar to me (Louis Sachar's "Holes" meets any teen zombie novel), and until I got used to it and the action kicked in, I was ready to dismiss the author's writing style as that of a self-conscious hipster. But it grew on me, and I stuck with the book.

I enjoyed the twisted sense of humor throughout "The Infects," as well as the theme of subversion. Fight authority. Speak up. It's OK to be different, it's OK to dress or talk or act differently from the flock.

The cause of the zombie epidemic became evident to me pretty early on, so there were no surprises there. Even so, I loved the ending, as well as all the gore leading up to it. Let's just say that while reading "The Infects," I was especially happy to be a vegetarian.

Interested in checking out "The Infects?" Wander over to the teen department next time you're at the Joplin Public Library.



Lisa E. Brown is the administrative assistant at the Joplin Public Library.