28 Aug

Feed by Mira Grant: A review

Feed is one of those books that I was going to read when it first came out. I never got around to it. I’m not exactly sure why. I thought I bought the book but then couldn’t find it in either of my Amazon accounts for the Kindle. So, I wound up getting the book from the library.

The synopsis: In 2014, a cure is engineered for cancer. Then a cure is created for the common cold. When the two cures meet in the wild and mutate into a combined virus , the entire world is infected with a zombie pathogen. Everyone is infected. People, as well as any animal over 40 pounds and “amplify” and become a zombie at any time. The novel takes place 20 years after the zombie outbreak that is known as  the Rising. The books protagonists, Shaun and Georgia Mason are bloggers after the biggest story of their careers.

Feed was a fascinating read. I don’t know what my experience reading this book in 2010 or 2011 would have been, but it was definitely interesting reading the book in 2017. The themes about the media about power and about values really resonate with the political climate of today. People are afraid to leave their homes and look online for entertainment. Given the fact that we are now in the era where “fake news” is an issue, the idea of blogging supplanting the traditional media seems a lot more possible today then it did a year ago.

Some people have criticized the book as being the least zombie-like zombie book they’ve ever read. Given the fact did that the novel takes place years into the zombie uprising, I thought the way the zombies were represented in the book was appropriate and made total sense to me. What I found interesting was the changes that took place in society as a result of the zombie outbreak.

One criticism of the book that I thought was interesting is this someone complained that the author was being repetitive by constantly talking about the blood tests that were necessary to prove that someone was about to turn into a zombie. Since in the novel, everyone carried the zombie virus, the knowing When someone was about to turn (or amplify as the book puts it), made total sense. It also, for me, really sold the world that they were living in. While blood test after blood test after blood test might seem repetitive, for those living in the world of feed, it would make perfect sense in the same way we have to go through security checkpoints to fly on an airplane. The blood tests are the same type of security measure that everyone would have to deal with.

Another criticism was that the characters were too flat and one-dimensional. From my point of view, I thought the characters were supposed to be this way. In a world where someone you loved could become a zombie at any moment, a sense of non detachment would probably be an emotional survival mechanism. I saw those types of characterizations as part of the world building. Despite what they said above about non- detachment, there were some points in the book which were extremely emotionally intense. The ending surprise me and packed a big emotional wallop.

The book also scored big pop culture points with me for references to George A. Romero, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Steve Irwin.

I find myself wondering why I waited so long to read this and am looking forward to reading the next in the series. I have a feeling that this one is going on my fave zombie books list.

Feed is book one in the Newsflesh series. Other books in the series are DeadlineBlackout, and Rise, a collection of short fiction in the series. Also available is Feedback, a novel of events that overlaps with the events of Feed.

Mira Grant is a pseudonym of author Seanan McGuire. You can check out more of her books here and can connect with her on the web at www.miragrant.com.
21 Feb

Pride, prejudice and the mutation of zombies from Caribbean slaves to flesh-eaters

Victoria Anderson, Cardiff University

When George Romero created what is now recognised as the first modern zombie flick in 1968, he hadn’t imagined his Night of the Living Dead zombies as – well, as zombies:

To me back then, zombies were those voodoo guys who were given some sort of blowfish cocktail and became slaves. And they weren’t dead so I thought I was doing a brand new thing by raising the dead.

But since then this “new” zombie – the brain-eating, rotting, revivified corpse – has become omnipresent; a pop-culture staple. If our screens are to be believed, the zombie apocalypse is now; even Amazon’s terms of service were updated last week to cover just such a catastrophe – tongue-in-cheek, of course. The Walking Dead’s sixth mid-season premiere is now starting, coinciding with the release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Putting a zombie spin on a classic novel by Jane Austen might seem like an innovative twist. But it isn’t. In 1943 film director Jacques Tourneur partially based his I Walked With a Zombie on Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 novel Jane Eyre. I Walked With a Zombie, for all its schlock-horror aspirations, is a genuinely haunting piece of film history. But Tourneur’s zombie wasn’t the flesh-eating living dead kind (the kind that, after all, Romero never intended to be zombies). No; his was the original zombie.

True zombie

So what were zombies, originally? The answer lies in the Caribbean. They weren’t endlessly-reproducing, flesh-eating ghouls. Instead, the zombie was the somewhat tragic figure of a human being maintained in a catatonic state – a soulless body – and forced to labour for whoever cast the spell over him or her. In other words, the zombie is – or was – a slave. I always find it troubling that, somewhere along the line, we forgot or refused to acknowledge this and have replaced the suffering slave with the figure of a mindless carnivore – one that reproduces, virus-like, with a bite.

There is no one singular zombie tradition from the Caribbean. The word “zombie” itself has a number of possible origins, with similar words being found all across West Africa – which of course, is precisely where the slaves came from – and meaning anything from “devil” to “spirit” to “Creator God” (Congolese “Nzambi”). There is even a word in the indigenous Caribbean Arawak language – “zemi” – which refers to an “ancestral spirit” and which has also been cited as the etymological source. And with the fluidity that characterises folklore and shifting local traditions, there are different kinds of zombie too, and the word can sometimes be used to suggest a malevolent spirit or ghost, not unlike the locally-terryifing Jamaican “duppy”.

But the most resonant tradition of the zombie is one who has been conjured into a soulless state and forced to labour. Crucially, the zombie has no memory of who he was previously, nor understanding of what he has become, and is whipped and exploited cruelly, and fed only on meagre rations.

Scared not scary

An even earlier rendering of the filmic zombie came in the shape of White Zombie in 1932. Starring veteran horror actor Bela Lugosi, the film largely falls flat but – to me at least – was notable for a single scene set inside a sugar mill. In this scene, slaves – or zombies, we’re not sure – work the mill. Nobody here is staggering about in varying degrees of decomposition or attempting to feast on brains; they simply turn the machinery, around, and around, and around. It’s an uncanny, deadening scene. Are they zombies, or slaves? Either way, they are mindless, dead-but-alive; slaves who do not remember who they were; who do not know their names; who are unconscious; who exist only for exploitation and labour.

Because here’s the thing: in a direct inversion of our now-familiar flesh-eating zombie narrative, the Haitian zombie is not a predator but is afraid of people. His docile, cringing subjection is absolute, but there is one proviso; you must never feed him salt, for if you do, he will remember. He will remember who he is and who he was and everything that has been done to him – and then he will slave no more. I recounted this once to a classroom full of students and one remarked – with great perspicacity – that to taste salt was akin to tasting tears.

We can be pretty sure that the zombie is not a wholly Caribbean invention, but arrived with the slaves from Africa; because we must remember that forms of slavery were systemic within Africa too, although their impact and supporting ideologies shifted dramatically – and devastatingly – once transported west. It might be worth noting that Jane Austen herself lived and wrote during the peak of British abolitionist fervour, which perhaps makes it all the more ironic that zombies should crop up in a version of Pride and Prejudice. But this is not a rant about “cultural appropriation” or “cultural erasure” – although conceivably it could be, either or both – it’s simply a call to memory, which is precisely what the zombie does not have.

It’s a call to memory because the zombie – the actual zombie – reminds us of something very important. It reminds us to remember – who we are, and where we came from, and how we came to be – individually and collectively – especially for those of us whose personal and community histories are caught up in the blanketing fog of cultural amnesia. The zombie reminds us to taste salt.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Published under a CC by 4.0 license.

15 Oct

Books for Halloween

apocalypse_ZAll Hallow’s Eve is just around the corner! To celebrate, we are already starting to see some Halloween themed book sales. Amazon is starting off with a variety of titles in their $2 Halloween Kindle Book Deals sale.The selection features horror, zombies and some mysteries and thrillers.

In the horror genre, two authors stand out: Richard Laymon and Manuel Loureiro.

Richard Laymon’s works have been praised by prominent writers from within the genre, including Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

Also included in the sale are the books in Spanish writer Manuel Loureiro’s Apocalypse Z  series.

Sale prices are good through October 31, 2015.

Look for more horror and zombie sales as we get closer to Halloween!

 

28 Dec

Deal of the Day: Walking Dead Books

The Walking Dead novelAmazon has some great prices on e-books today. Included in the offerings for the Bonus Deal of the Day are the first four books in the Walking Dead novel series. priced at $2.99 or less. These are not comics. These are full length novels that go into depth and detail about the origins of some of the characters in the comics and the television series.

Today’s four titles are:

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor (The Walking Dead Series Book 1)

The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury (The Walking Dead Series Book 2)

The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part One (The Walking Dead Series Book 3)

The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part Two (The Walking Dead Series Book 4)

I also found a short story set in the Walking Dead universe: Just Another Day at the Office: A Walking Dead Short (The Walking Dead Series). This one also ties in to the Governor’s story. 🙂

These are great deals for zombie lovers and fans of the series.

 

5 Feb

Apocalypse Chicken, Corn and Black Bean Stew

Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah, I told you that I would post the recipe that gave me the idea for this blog.

IMG_20140206_174326I was making a pot of Chicken, Corn and Black Bean Stew and realized, that if I had to, I could easily make a passable version of this using ingredients from cans. Now, actually, this is a lot more of a radical concept than it sounds. One of the food trends we have seen in recent years is the emphasis on fresh foods and quality ingredients. Cooking in the zombie apocalypse turns that idea on its head. Yes, that’s right. I basically just told you that we are going to take healthy recipes and turn them into canned, processed meals. Welcome to the end of the world!

But, seriously? Depending on the scenario, fresh food may not be available and using what’s on hand (or what you can scrounge) is a whole different cooking experience. In many of the recipes we are going to talk about on this blog, the concept of substitution is key to making recipes work.

As we start a couple of things to remember here: It is always better to cook with quality, fresh ingredients if possible. Canned foods are processed foods and contain more sodium, additives and fats.  These recipes will be higher in calories than their healthier counterparts and that needs to be kept in mind.  Of course, you are going to be getting plenty of exercise outrunning the zombies, so that is going to help!

If you are a prepper, a survivalist, or just hate to grocery shop, there are a lot items like dried goods and herbs you can keep on hand. These foods are useful in a pinch even in the here and now (sans zombies). In a future blog entry, we will talk about the concept of an apocalyptic pantry.

These recipes as intended as a general guide: If you have fresh onions, use them. If you need to substitute dried, minced onions, do it. Cooking during the apocalypse is all about responding to the situation at hand. Be flexible!

Apocalypse Chicken, Corn and Black Bean Stew

This version is made with all canned/dried ingredients   (Original Recipe is here.)

approx 6 TB of dried minced onion

2 cans chicken breast

1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 cans whole kernel corn

Approx 1 cup of salsa, any flavor

1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes

Optional:

Dried Cilantro (to taste)

Approx 1 tsp Lime powder

Instructions:

Add all ingredients to a large pot and heat until hot. Serve with tortilla chips if you can scavenge them.

Substitution notes:

What ingredients you use will affect the taste. Hot salsa is different than chipotle; plain diced tomatoes give a totally different taste than Ro-Tel. Dried cilantro tastes different than fresh (you may need to add coriander to get the same effect as fresh). You also may need to add 2 TB olive oil if you cook with fresh onions instead of dried.