Zombies and the People Who Love Them

It’s pretty safe to say that I love zombies. Not the real thing, mind you. When the zombie apocalypse comes, I will hate zombies. But for now, I love reading about them. I love watching zombie movies. I love watching TV shows with zombies (really just Walking Dead, I don’t know what all that other nonsense is). I love discussing zombie plans – never giving mine away, mind you. We’ve had a debate that this generation’s focus on the threat of zombies (and really superbugs in general, as was seen by the Ebola “scare”), takes the place of the last generation’s focus on the threat of some very opinionated men with their fingers hovering over a very destructive button.

At any rate, I realized that I’ve been woefully behind on any sort of zombie reading. I’ve read Warm Bodies, the not-so-scary zombie romance, but nothing that really exemplifies the typical zombie motif. The running, the screaming, the blowing off of undead heads…

So I started reading World War Z by Max Brooks.

After reading what you could call the “first chapter”, I decided that this isn’t a book you read at 3am, in a dark room with only the lighting of your Kindle or your Nook to scare away the big scary monsters in the dark. No. This book is something you read with a light on. At a sensible hour. With a baseball bat next to you. You know, just in case.

Now, I’m not the squeamish or easily scared type. I’ve only really ever been disturbed enough by a scary movie to lose sleep once. But this particular book unnerved more than any zombie movie or plot has – and I saw Night of the Living Dead at a very young age, while living in a house in the middle of nowhere. At first, I couldn’t understand, but as I kept reading I started to realize the difference in this book and a zombie movie. This book is personal.

I think of zombie movies and TV shows as a sort of love letter to the idea of trying to survive a zombie apocalypse – most often finished with a doomsday postscript in which you find out everyone dies horribly anyway. Sure, you may get attached to the idea of a particular character surviving, but you know in the back of your head that it’s probably going to end gruesomely. And we’re in love with that. The Walking Dead has managed to quiet or silence completely that realism, and piss everyone off, by extending our interaction with these characters and forcing us to form attachments to these people who are ultimately doomed. Really, how pissed were you when a character you love died? And it was never a good death. It was always quick and unexpected, or slow and incredibly painful. I think the only character I haven’t really minded dying, besides the villains, is that guy in the very beginning who got bit. You remember that guy? Way back in season one, in the RV. I think they left him on the side of the road with a gun. I don’t even remember that guy’s name. But, you know, RIP. We root for these people, even though we’re 90% certain that they’re doomed. They were boned the minute someone who looked pretty dead bit somebody else.

Even though pretty much everyone who watches Walking Dead or reads Walking Dead is obsessed with Walking Dead, I don’t think we’re really unnerved by it. We still have that detachment, the feeling and sense of autonomy that being the “watcher” affords us. But that feeling is strangely absent while I’m reading World War Z.

If you don’t know the format of World War Z, it’s a compilation of personal narratives collected by this fictitious journalist who has gone around the world, post big zombie war, talking to people of all types. I’m not very far into it, but so far I’ve read entries from doctors, government officials, and a couple of civilians. The one thing these stories have in common is that they’re written in first person, with as little interjection by the journalist himself. This is oral history (as it states in the subtitle of the book) and it sucks you in. It’s realistic and unnerving.

Like I said, I’m not very far into it, but I’m enjoying it immensely so far. Once I’ve finished, I’ll watch the movie and do a blog post on that. And yes, I am very much aware that they are two very different concepts and don’t even deserve to be compared, but I’m going to do it anyway. Just because.

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Thoughts on the books

This past week I attended the Texas A&M University Book History Workshop, which was… intense. Imagine jamming every aspect of early book creation into one week. We’re talking type making, typesetting, woodcutting and engraving for illustrations, using the common printing press, making the ink balls for the press, making paper, and binding the book. All in one week. I’m lucky I made out with just one nick from the woodcutting.

The setup of the workshop was very well done. In the mornings we had a brief lecture for about an hour and a half. They were informative, and we got to bask in the glory of the very lovely old books. Then a break, followed by some workshop time during lunch. After lunch it was back to the workshop to work on various projects. By the end of the week, we had created a pamphlet, Thoughts on the Peace by Thomas Paine, all on our own. I felt accomplished. Everything was right with the world.

Then I had a thought.

So much work had gone into these books. Such a lengthy process to produce a book shows a dedication to the craft that I personally don’t see much today. With the homogenization of the printing process and the similarity in covers, it seems like the only books that lend themselves to creativity in presentation are for children. When did we decide that it’s not okay to have illustrations in novels? Why do book covers no longer come as embossed leather unless they’re classics? Why does the production of a book mean that it has to look like all of the others?

I know these thoughts can’t come without some consideration for budget, but I would like to put this out there to all of you publishing folk (some of whom I happen to know). Make me a book that matches the outside with the inside. Give me something grandiose and ornate and gorgeous. Offer me a book with gilded edges and a fine leather cover. Show me watercolor illustrations nestled in between the chapters of my novel.

I’m willing to pay extra.

As a side note, I’m beginning Warm Bodies as soon as I leave my place of work and travel to my place of residence. I watched the movie yesterday in grainy non-HD (yes, I’m a heathen), so I’m definitely shoving some comparison in this review. Give me a couple of days and I’ll deliver, I promise.

Also, I have a Goodreads. Follow me!

The Game Plan

I’ve been up and down Amazon, trying to figure out a reading list (which you can look at by clicking the tab if you want to know what I’m doing), and I’ve now got a game plan, my lovelies. After some consultation with fellow members of the reading everything committee, I’m going to start with Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Yes, that is the book that became the movie. Next comes The Book Thief, after which I thought I might watch that movie and compare. I’m told the costumes are excellent, and I will fall in love with one of the characters. So, I guess I have yet another fictional man to pine for in my future.

What I read after that is anyone’s guess. What do you want me to read?

Here’s what we do…

So, I originally started this blog as an assignment for class, but that’s all done with now. I had 3 random posts written last year, and they were all boring. Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this thing. 

Figured it out.

Here’s where I’m going to review books. Now, this isn’t an uncommon practice, but I try to do things differently because no one ever remembers you if you don’t. True story. This will be a book review blog written by someone who has never written a  book review that could be taken seriously. Ever. 

I’ll try to keep each one entertaining, most likely funny, and I’ll try to keep any major spoilers to a minimum.

No promises.