The Demonologist byAndrew Pyper Published by Simon & Schuster
Most of Professor David Ullman’s life has been dedicated to the story of Milton’s Paradise Lost. He central thesis is that Satan is the true hero of the work, along with demons. Of course he doesn’t believe in the veracity of demonology, this is the 21st century and he doesn’t even believe in God, let alone the Devil. But David’s disbelief is challenged after a strange person he refers to as the Thin Woman comes to his office one afternoon and requests that he come to Venice, Italy, because her employer needs for him to experience a phenomenon. As he and his wife are on the verge of divorce, David travels to Venice the next day with his twelve-year-old daughter, Tess. What happens while the two are in Venice will send David deep into study – and belief – of demonology with deeply personal consequences.
Ah, I loved this. Pyper has a way with words, and in The Demonologist he has created a beautiful and truly disturbing work of literary horror. David is very believable as a distressed father, as well as someone who has been melancholy and generally a little lost his entire life. I also adored the Milton angle, that is what makes The Demonologist special (plus I’m just a sucker for academics and historians – other than Robert Langdon – tracking down monsters, a la The Historian).
This is a smart, slightly scary book and I really enjoyed it. Highly recommended
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
R has always been a bit different than his zombie friends – if you can call them that – trying harder than most of them to hang onto his pre-zombie identity. So, perhaps it makes sense that it was R who managed to take in and keep the memories of a dying boy at the same moment that he was feasting upon his brains. R’s victim was in love with a girl named Julie, a girl who was in the same room, under the same attack, but somehow R manages to save her, and even bring him home with her. Back in the presence of the living in a non-predatory role, R begins to become more sentient, and even win Julie’s affections. How can their love survive, though, when zombies and the living are the most deadly of enemies?
I never expected to be talking about a beautifully written zombie novel, but here I am. At times, Warm Bodies verges on the poetic:
I don’t know why we have to kill people. I don’t know what chewing through a man’s neck accomplishes. I steal what he has to replace what I lack. -p. 8
The writing is lyrical and smart, including literary references to Melville and the Epic of Gilgamesh, not to mention the fact that the whole thing is essentially a post-apocalyptic version of Romeo and Juliet (R and Julie). Part of what is so interesting about Warm Bodies is that the Romeo and Juliet aspect is so subtle. Once you are alerted to it, it becomes obvious – what two groups could be more diametrically opposed than zombies and the living? – but Marion makes the story his own, instead of simply sticking to the story laid down for him by Shakespeare.
I will admit, I was very skeptical about the idea of a sentient, loving zombie, as that seemed to be the antithesis of all things zombie, but Marion makes it work beautifully. Not that there aren’t times where the improbablity of R’s character – even accepting the existence of zombies – can frustrate, but the story and the writing pull the reader through those times.
The White Devil by Justin Evans
Published by Harper Books, an imprint of HarperCollins
Andrew Taylor is on his last chance. After getting in trouble time and time again back at home, Andrew has been shipped overseas to Harrow School in London, with the promise that if he steps out of line again, he will be disowned. It becomes obvious very quickly that Andrew can’t escape trouble, when students begin dying and getting desperately ill. Somehow this is all linked to Andrew, and the fact that he is a spitting image of the school’s most famous student – Lord Byron. Suddenly Andrew must court the very trouble he was hoping to avoid to solve the mystery of Lord Byron’s past and figure out how to save his own life in the present.
Evans has written a spooky and engaging story. The way he melds Byron’s story with Andrew’s is smooth and effortless, bringing the past into the present in a truly horrifying way. I love the idea that it is only by solving the mysteries of history that Andrew can save himself, it brings to life the ways in which the past influences our lives today – even if the past is not typically so visceral, in more ways than one. Byron is not a literary figure I know much about, but The White Devil inspired me to learn more about him and even try his work (although I only made it about a page into Childe Harold when I did try).
Any book that can alternately terrify me and interest me in literary history is a winner no matter how you slice it. Highly recommended.
Sarah and David have survived the zombie apocalypse for longer than really seems possible, particularly since they are traveling and fighting zombies instead of sitting quietly inside a survivor’s community. Now they’re finally approaching the fabled Midwest Wall and possible salvation. Only a few things are slowing them down now: their hitchhikers, a tv tabloid reporter (think TMZ) and a batty aging rocker; David’s odd reaction to the zombie serum he was given in Flip This Zombie; and, of course, the zombies themselves.
The Living With the Dead series exists to entertain, and it does that beautifully. Petersen mixes survival, interpersonal relationships, and government conspiracies adroitly with witty and sarcastic repartee to create a fun and engaging story that will make you alternately laugh and cringe. Is this the book that is going to make you think deeply about the world and your place in it? No, if that is what you want from your zombie books, check out Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series Feed and Deadline, but Eat Slay Love and the entire Living With the Dead series provides very high entertainment value, and for that, I recommend it.
Sarah and David are back, and still more or less surviving the zombie apocalypse. With the skills they honed in the early days of the end times, they have actually set up quite a nice little business for themselves, ZombieBusters. There may not be very much cash to be made in the zombie apocalypse, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing at all to be gained.
“We ended up with quite a haul as pre-payment for the bionic zombie job. Two large first aid kits with actual antibiotics ointment (quite the coup because infection took down as many survivors as zombies did by this point) and a three-pack of Ramen. Doesn’t sound like much to you? Well, sit there in your non-zombie paradise and judge then.” -p. 16 (Nook edition)
Things begin to get a little tense, though, when Sarah and David are called out to the outskirts of town by a mysterious note, their services retained by a man who is clearly a mad scientist. David is convinced that his request for ambulatory zombies is related to the rise of so-called super zombies and proof of evil mad scientist status, but Sarah feels their potential reward is greater than the risk, so off they go, hunting for the living undead.
In the same way that Married with Zombies mimicked the style of relationship books, Flip This Zombie ventured into the motivation/job-related self-help realm, with chapter headings like:
“The seven habits of highly effective zombies. Hint: Most of them involve eating your brain.” -p. 132 (Nook edition) – Chapter 14 heading
This worked very well, although it was not quite as entertaining as the marriage advice chapter headings in Married with Zombies, but overall Flip This Zombie was equally as strong as Married with Zombies. I’m very much looking forward to Eat Slay Love, coming out at the end of June. Recommended.