Posts tagged ‘zombies’

December 17, 2010

Book Review: Laidenn The Dark Elf by Lyle Perez-Tinics

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LAIDENN THE DARK ELF
by Lyle Perez-Tinics

CreateSpace
(November 2010, $8.99, 134 pages)

The great thing about zombie authors is their dedication to the genre. Just when I think they have reached the limits of the imagination, I stumble upon something that expands zombie fiction into other genres – engulfs them, really. NOM NOM NOM! While other genres add glitter to their monsters, one author has brought the zombie culture to the North Pole.

When I read the introduction to Laidenn The Dark Elf by Lyle Perez-Tinics and realized that I would be reading a story about vampire snowmen and zombie elves, I didn’t know whether to laugh or beat myself with my laptop. After carefully noting that Perez-Tinics loves Christmas and the holiday season, I decided to approach this book with the same seriousness I would give to any fantasy tale. Keep in mind, this is young adult fiction, with the goal of appealing to both children and adults, so not quite as dark as you might expect, and age appropriate for grade school and up.

There are Light Elves and Dark Elves. The Light Elves make the toys and are enjoying a well-deserved night off at an enchanted amusement park when Laidenn realizes that they are about to be attacked by vampire snowmen. Perez-Tinic’s talent for detail shows when Laidenn prepares to fight with bags of salt. As Laidenn tries to make the other elves aware of the impending danger, we learn more about how light and dark magic work at the North Pole. We also discover that there are actually two different breeds of vampires as well.

I laughed at the description of the horrible things that took place in Santa’s workshop, such as Barbie heads with Ken bodies! Santa defends his workshop with the stealth and swiftness that would make Van Helsing proud. Don’t let the fat, jolly appearance fool you – this Santa has the moves of a warrior. He also has command of zombie elves! This is the Santa I want at my house.

When I read Laidenn The Dark Elf to my five-year-old (we’re talking about a kid who has already acted in a zombie film), he thought this would make a great movie and I agree. (Maybe a joint Pixar and Full Moon production?) This is a great holiday story for the whole family, especially if you’re already fans of the classic monsters: vampires, zombies, and the like. I know Christmas will never be the same at our house again.

Lyle Perez-Tinics is the writer and creator of UndeadintheHead.com, a site dedicated to zombie books and the authors. He dreams about opening a bookstore filled entirely with the horror genre. You can contact him at Contact@undeadinthehead.com or follow him on twitter www.twitter.com/Lyleperez

Ursula K. Raphael

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November 29, 2010

Book Review: Descendant by Bob Freeman

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DESCENDANT
by Bob Freeman

Belfire Press
(August 2010, $14.99, 332 pages)

Descendant, the first in a new occult fiction series by Bob Freeman, is divided into two sections, Book One and Book Two, with a rather complicated storyline. Book One begins with Dr. Landon Connors embarking on a difficult astral journey to contact a demon. Afterward, he has a brief conversation with an unusual companion, setting the tone for a story filled with fallen angels, werewolves, zombies, vampires, and other evil creatures seeking to bring about the downfall of humankind. Dr. Connors, a powerful magician, is informed that he has been summoned to a crime scene at a cabin he owns. The cabin is a way station for the Nightstalkers, a group that fights evil without government sanction. He meets Agents Wolfe and Crowe for the first time (but not the last), and together they try to track down a gargoyle in the immediate area.

Wolfe and Crowe are part of the Paranormal Operations Division of the FBI and frown upon the activities of the Nightstalkers. While Wolfe can cast spells and travel through the astral plane, she is not nearly as powerful as Dr. Connors, which is one of the reasons the doctor has been asked to assist them. Crowe has his own special talents and is one of the undead and he shares his unique tale with Connors. This is the first time I’ve read a story with a zombie for a main character that was not about a zombie apocalypse. They leave Connors to tidy up the loose ends and move on to their next investigation. The two agents travel from one monstrous crime scene to another, usually located in small Midwestern towns with long supernatural histories. They are expected to eliminate the threat, and cover up the real events with a fabricated explanation.

Book Two includes even more complex characters, such as Father Rainey and Mr. Drake. Both characters were briefly introduced in Book One and prove to be critical connections to the various rituals that the agents have been investigating, including a horrific satanic ritual and a meddlesome family that seem tied to everything that has gone wrong.

Until I reached Book Two, I thought this was just a random assortment of paranormal crime investigations by two FBI agents, Wolfe and Crowe. As I continued reading, each chapter revealed another mystery that guides the two agents further into a tangle of demonic scheming. I was drawn into the ritualistic drama leading up to a confrontation of biblical proportions, when all the secrecy is stripped away and a plot to unravel the world is finally divulged. While this novel could be a stand-alone – no wicked cliffhanger or blatantly open ending – Freeman plans to follow it with more in the Wolfe and Crowe series.

Descendant is not a story with an occult theme; it is a fictional novel based on Freeman’s detailed knowledge of the occult, with extensive terminology and background information. Freeman is the founder of the paranormal research group, Nightstalkers of Indiana. He is also a member of the Aleister Crowley Society and the Indiana Horror Writers. More can be found about the author at his website Occult Detective.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 31, 2010

Book Review: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse by Bud Hanzel and John Olson

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THE DO-IT-YOURSELF GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
by Bud Hanzel and John Olson

Hanson Press, Inc.
(August 2010, $14.95, 160 pages)

The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse by Bud Hanzel and John Olson and illustrated by Mark Stegbauer, comes with a guarantee of “double your money back” if you do not survive the zombie apocalypse after reading the book. From here on out, the tone is set. The humor of this guide is one of the few things that sets it apart of from the many others that have been published in the past few years, though I’m still waiting for someone to write one for kids! If you look past the funny cartoons and the hilarious sarcasm, you will find that this book has actual info that could be used in a zombie apocalypse.

The ZTA (Zombie Transforming Agent) is a blanket description for all possible sources of infection, and the introduction into the hot topics commonly found in zombie forums/websites:

• Varying speeds of the undead
• Effects of climate/environment on “zombie un-life expectancy”
• Whether or not the person’s spirit is trapped in the body of the zombie

I’ve read so many zombie survival guides that much of the information wasn’t new to me, and some of it actually struck me as bad advice. For instance, police stations and firehouses were recommended as places to go. However, zombiephiles know that a rescue station with even one infected person on the inside can quickly become a death trap. However, I did like the idea of a warehouse club store as opposed to the famous mall idea. And, unlike Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide, there were excellent pictures of assorted weapons for those who lack the familiarity.

After all the zombie info, “the plan” follows. If you disagree with any part of the plan, you are directed to Appendix E for a detailed explanation of the consequences. I found the section describing the many types of crosshair candidates (those people likely to get killed due to stupidity in a zombie outbreak) extremely amusing, as well as realistic. Stegbauer’s artistic talent and comic book-like illustrations really shined in the Do’s and Don’ts section.
My absolute favorite parts of this guide were Appendixes C and D. The former is a “shovel blade cookbook” complete with a list of staples and preparation tips. The latter is a wide-ranging list of references to increase your survival knowledge.

The major oversight of this guide is the lack of survival tips for parents (“save the babysitter” did NOT cut it); some parents can’t even manage a trip to the grocery store or a domestic flight, so they need all the help they can get in an outbreak. I wish someone would write one specifically for parents, or even one for the kids of zombiephiles, but – at the very least – a separate section should have been written on that particular aspect.

All things considered, this guide is definitely worth adding to your zombie genre collection.

Ursula K. Raphael

October 18, 2010

Halloween Book Review: Monstermatt’s Bad Monster Jokes

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MONSTERMATT’S BAD MONSTER JOKES (VOLUME 1)
by Monstermatt Patterson

May December Publications, LLC
(September 2010, $12.95, 166 pages)

Know someone who is into everything and anything to do with monsters? If this person is also the type who looks forward to Halloween more than any other holiday, then I have the perfect gift suggestion for this October: Monstermatt’s Bad Monster Jokes Vol. 1. The monsters aren’t bad but rather the jokes are…intentionally. This book is the gift of self-torment, kind of like Jackass-meets-literature for horror fans (you know, “insert pencil into eye” kind of torment).

The introduction by Joe Moe describes the development of Matt’s love of cheesy jokes, and points out that Matt lives and breathes monsters as an FX monster mask sculptor and horror host. Kyle Kaczmarczyk, the illustrator for this joke book, also adds a tale of his personal experience with Matt and includes a brief explanation of how this collaboration came to be.

The jokes include all the traditional monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy, as well as aliens, zombies (of course! why else would I be reviewing this book?!) and superheroes. Matt even goes to town on the Jersey Shore cast, True Blood, Star Wars, and, sadly, the Human Centipede (which has traumatized me for life – Google the movie at your own risk, and have a bucket nearby to puke in). Some of the jokes are the kind my five-year-old likes to tell me and some of them are the kind of jokes you could share if you want to alienate people who annoy you.

Example of child’s joke:
Q: What moon phase will turn a baker into a Werewolf?
A: A “Croissant” moon!

On the other end is anything from the song parody section that is sure to kill your social life – you might even be able to get yourself arrested and/or committed, and no one will ever ask you for anything ever again.

One of my personal social life-killing favorites:
Q: What do you get if you cross a British sci-fi TV show and a Dr. Seuss book?
A: Horton hears a Dr. Who!

I really enjoyed reading this assortment of bad jokes, some of which aren’t quite that bad, and I don’t think any household should be without a copy this Halloween! You can see how insanely talented Matt is here.

– Ursula K. Raphael

October 12, 2010

Book Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead by Don Borchert

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THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER AND THE UNDEAD
by Don Borchert

Tor Books
(August 2010, $13.99, 304 pages)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is about a young boy growing up in a small town along the Mississippi River. It’s also the latest novel to be zombified. I’ve amassed so many mash-ups of classical literature and zombie fiction that if future archaeologists ever found my collection…well, the historians would have a field day with the discovery…probably the psychologists too. Some novel hybrids are just the originals with zombies jammed in, while others offer a spectacular blending of genres. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Undead falls somewhere in the middle.

Don Borchert’s take on this classic started out rather boring. The editor’s note, written from the world of the Zum, was extremely hokey, completely unnecessary, and did more harm than good. If a story is interesting, it should not need an explanation of the plot in advance. Read the editor’s note at your own risk; you have been warned.

In the first half of the book, the story follows the original pretty closely with a few minor changes, tailored to fit in the Zum – the name of the zombies that have overrun the United States. For instance, instead of being required to paint the fence white, Aunt Polly tells Tom to sharpen the tops of the fence posts. There was very little mention of Zum, which is a let-down when “undead” is in the title. More attention is given to descriptions of the survival modifications to the village that Tom lives in than the Zum or the infection.

I kept finding excuses to put the book down, and, truthfully, I only continued reading because this book was a gift. I also have a policy of only reviewing books that I’ve read from beginning to end. I was shocked at the difference in the narrative once “Injun Joe” made his entrance into the story: more Zum scenes, plenty of action, and lots of surprises. This novel is the perfect example of why people should read the entire book before they form an opinion. (Or you could just start on page 95.)

Before reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead, Zombiephiles should know:

1) most Zum are mindless shamblers, but there are a few thinking-Zum
2) source of infection is unknown and can be spread to animals
3) headshots don’t necessarily work; burning bodies is necessary

If you like mash-ups between genres or anything to do with zombies, it’s worth reading at least once. If Don Borchert decides to try his hand at The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I hope he works in more Zum hunting.

Ursula K. Raphael

September 3, 2010

Book Review: Night of the Living Trekkies

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NIGHT OF THE LIVING TREKKIES
by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall

Quirk Books
(July 2010, $14.95, 256 pages)

The title is a cheesy play on the popular zombie movie Night of the Living Dead, and the cover art looks like something that belongs on a choose-your-own-adventure book, but Night of the Living Trekkies is an awesome mash-up of two popular sub-cultures. How else to unite the sci-fi geeks with the apocalypse extremists?: zombies at a Star Trek convention.

They’re not traditional zombies, and the science fiction is reminiscent of Mystery Science Theater 2000, but authors Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall have done a fantastic job of pushing the boundaries of zombie literature. They have also fostered new respect for the dedication of Star Trek fanboys and fangirls. Anderson and Stall even managed to give a nod to the Star Wars franchise.

The prologue begins with two employees at an underground military facility in Houston, TX, making plans to go to a Star Trek convention; while they’re talking, the security system fails, opening some doors that should have stayed closed. Meanwhile, Jim Pike, a solider with serious PTSD who has convinced himself that working as a bellhop at a Houston hotel will reduce his stress, helps prepare for GulfCon, an extremely popular Star Trek convention. Incidentally, his younger sister Rayna is also attending with some friends. Let’s just say Jim’s bad day is about to get apocalyptic.

Before Rayna’s group arrives to the hotel parking lot (the importance of which I can’t reveal without spoiling the book) the staff is already having trouble with violent hotel guests and disappearing employees. Jim’s instincts are screaming at him that something horrible is happening but by the time he is able to convince anyone else that the problem is not just in his mind, the hotel is overwhelmed by zombies. Jim, with the help of a Star Wars fan, tries to rescue his sister and her friends, while Trekkies are dying all around them.

Star Trek fans should know that this isn’t just a horror story set at a convention, but again, I can’t elaborate without spoilers. Zombie fans should know that the undead are shamblers but able to move as a group, with a very unusual source of infection spread in a manner similar to 28 Days Later.

I am very impressed with the quality of books that Quirk has been publishing; some other great titles are Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, and Android Karenina. They may look like fluff pieces at first glance, but the stories are quite entertaining.

~Ursula K. Raphael

August 18, 2010

Book Review: Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile by J.L. Bourne

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DAY BY DAY ARMAGEDDON: BEYOND EXILE
by J.L. Bourne

Pocket Books
(July 2010, $15, 288 pages)

When I first discovered Day by Day Armageddon years ago, it was a self-published novel by first-time author J.L. Bourne. Loaded with typos and cheesy gimmicks like black and white photos, the journal format was still a welcomed addition to the zombie genre after The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead mania had ravished zombie fans. There have been two more editions since then (the first one had the simple black cover, the second one had the militarized look, and the third cover looked like a movie poster). By then, Permuted Press had picked up the book, and Bourne gained a massive following.

Day by Day Armageddon, the journal of an anonymous naval officer/pilot/expert-at-staying-alive, reveals the daily struggle of a military man who is on leave when the outbreak occurs. The setting is Texas, and the source of the outbreak is unknown. After finding out that several major cities in the U.S. are scheduled to be nuked, the soldier seeks out a secure location, safe from zombies and nuclear fallout. He finds other survivors, and they form a small group of men, women, one little girl, and a dog. They find refuge in an underground bunker known as Hotel 23. The journal ends with his group defending Hotel 23 from another group of survivors who are more of a threat than the undead. Meanwhile, the zombies seem unaffected by the radiation, and by spreading out from the nuked cities, they increase the threat of exposure to the outbreak.

Many readers described the main character as “right-wing,” and some complained that the book was overloaded with heavy military jargon. Bourne is an active-duty officer, which is why this sequel took so long, and why Day by Day Armageddon has a militaristic style. However, there is reason to believe he took the criticism into consideration when he wrote the sequel, Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile.

The writing has changed between the two books, even though they are both styled as parts of the same personal journal. Bourne still includes a lot of military terminology, but nothing so complicated that readers will have to run to the Internet to figure out what the characters are discussing. The entries in the sequel are much longer and more detailed than in the first book, a lot less like a journal in general and more like the personal story of a survivor divided by dates instead of chapters. Best of all, there are no cheesy pictures, though there are a few hand drawings.

The story begins exactly where it left off, after the battle with the other group of survivors. The explosions have attracted the attention of military convoy; while the soldiers are searching for the source, some Marines get trapped by a zombie horde, and call for help over the radio. An extraction group is sent out from Hotel 23, and they bring the Marines back with them. Although they go to great lengths to keep the location secret, after the Marines leave, they come back with more soldiers. In an attempt to avoid another bloody confrontation, the survivors come to a reluctant agreement with the military group. Soon after, the author of the journal finds himself separated from the safety of Hotel 23 when a scouting mission goes horribly wrong. In his efforts to find his way back he meets a sniper from Chicago and discovers a secret militant organization. When he finally finds safe sanctuary again at the end of the book, it’s quickly yanked out from under him.

It’s extremely difficult to write anything about this sequel without giving away major spoilers, but I will add that the zombies have been enhanced by the radiation. Beyond Exile was one of the very few zombie novels that frightened me at all. Bourne is taking his zombies in the direction of an epic nightmare. I recommend reading the first book, just for the background on the characters, but don’t expect the sequel to be much like it. I sincerely hope that Bourne can get out the third installment more quickly this time.

~Ursula K. Raphael

July 29, 2010

Book Review: Zomblog by T.W. Brown

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ZOMBLOG
by T.W. Brown

CreateSpace
(January 2010, $15.95, 262 pages)

While some have compared Zomblog to Day by Day Armageddon because of its journal format, author T.W. Brown has presented a zombie story that’s more like a memoir of survivor Samuel Todd, as he reflects on his efforts to stay alive during the first ten months of a global outbreak.

Samuel is a divorced father of one who plays in a rock band and supplements his meager income with a newspaper route. He decides to start an internet blog to describe the strange events he witnesses during his late night/ early morning deliveries. As the emergence of the Z-plague unfolds, Samuel realizes the importance of his daily accounts.

During the first week, he wonders if the new disease has anything to do with an ancient discovery made in an Indonesian jungle, which was barely mentioned in the news. Samuel attempts to maintain his normal routine, while those around him succumb to the mysterious affliction. As communication breaks down worldwide and violence escalates, city-wide quarantines and martial law become prevalent.

Eventually, Samuel makes the decision to flee to a more secure area, where he finds others struggling to survive. Every day brings them new obstacles and nightmares; the group soon realizes that zombies are not the only threat to their existence. The safety of the compound begins to feel like a cage to Samuel, and so begins his journey from the west coast to the Midwest, meeting various groups along the way, and escaping one horror only to be met with another onslaught of terrifying events.

Zomblog is T.W. Brown’s first zombie novel, but he is currently writing a sequel. In addition to Samuel Todd’s survival journal, Brown has begun a new zombie series with Dead: The Ugly Beginning (Volume 1), which follows the POV of multiple survivors spread across the United States. Brown has done a great job of expanding the social commentary within the zombie genre.

~Ursula K. Raphael

July 26, 2010

Review: The Official Zombie Survival Handbook by Sean Page

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THE OFFICIAL ZOMBIE SURVIVAL HANDBOOK
by Sean Page

Severed Press
(July 2010, $12.95, 202 pages)

The ever-growing zombie genre has given birth to a sub-culture known as zombie survivalists. These are people who seriously discuss and debate the possibility of an undead outbreak, and the various outcomes of such an event. As a result of this movement, several zombie guides have been produced, in an effort to make the general public aware of the danger zombies may pose. Unfortunately, depending on the personal background of the authors, most of the books do not contain practical guidelines that can be applied internationally. Consequently, new guides are being published, tailored to individual countries and their laws.

Sean Page, the author of The Official Zombie Handbook (UK), has taken it upon himself to write such a manual for his fellow Britons, as well as foreigners who may be able to adapt some of the concepts for use in their own countries. In the manual’s introduction, Page explains why other books like Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide are difficult to apply where it is nearly impossible to get your hands on a firearm for self-defense. He also points out that preparing for a zombie outbreak with his 90-day survival plan would appeal to the environmentally-conscientious with a “green” agenda (for example, self-sufficiency); as most zombiephiles know, if you’re prepared for an apocalypse, you’ll be prepared for any emergency.

Addressing the controversy over the various types zombies within the horror genre, Page defines a zombie as “a dead body that has been brought back to life by an as yet unidentified virus which leads to the body to behave in a low intelligent and cannibalistic way.” He emphasizes that the cause of an outbreak is not as important as keeping yourself alive. Beginning with the history of zombies and corresponding research, Page provides basic background information for those not already familiar with the field of “zombiology,” and walks readers through the science of zombie infection and transformation.

The UK guide quickly moves onto defense and disposal issues for varying levels of outbreaks, going so far as to address the concern that a zombie virus could spread from humans to animals. Readers are made aware of the tactical differences between land and water locations, while Page lays out the blueprint for his country’s national defense. He describes the complications that could arise if the UK government attempted a cover-up, illustrating this with a case study of one such incidence.

The most crucial section of this manual is Complete Zombie Defence [sic], which examines the barricades, provisions and skills required for a group’s survival. It tackles the who, what, why and how of the three main phases of the 90-day plan, taking lessons from past historical disasters, both man-made and natural, and including survivors with disabilities. There are a few diagrams, as well as a map of the UK, and critical details of every possible scenario are provided.

Even if readers have never been to the UK, or don’t intend on traveling abroad, there is still plenty of useful ideas to be gleaned from The Official Zombie Handbook for those who wish to prepare themselves for a zombie apocalypse.

~Ursula K. Raphael

June 25, 2010

Book Review: Valley of the Dead by Kim Paffenroth

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VALLEY OF THE DEAD
(THE TRUTH BEHIND DANTE’S INFERNO)
by Kim Paffenroth

Permuted Press
(April 2010, $14.95, 258 pages)

Most people in the literary community are familiar with Dante’s Inferno in some way. If you haven’t read this volume of The Divine Comedy, you may have seen the commercial for the video game Dante’s Inferno Divine Edition, which is based on the epic poem by Dante Alighieri. It is a story that describes the nine circles of Hell (limbo, lust, gluttony, avarice & prodigality, wrath & sullenness, heresy, violence, fraud, and betrayal), as conceived by the medieval age, beginning with the day before Good Friday in 1300 A.D.

Dante wrote The Divine Comedy during his exile from Florence. Until recently, no one knew for certain where he had been or what he had done during those years away from his home. However, author Kim Paffenroth (who also happens to be a professor of religious studies), wrote a book titled Valley of the Dead (The Truth Behind Dante’s Inferno) which tells the tale that inspired Dante to write his poem of horrors. In a captivating prologue, Paffenroth presents us with the story of how Dante survived a zombie plague, illuminating the lessons that the poet learned.

Don’t let the mention of zombies fool you into thinking this is just a gore novel with a twist. Unlike the spliced-together novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Paffenroth has written an original narrative with a style comparable to classical literature, bringing together historical fiction, drama and horror to chronicle Dante’s personal account of the pestilence and human suffering that inspired Inferno. Don’t expect the same zombies or character types that can be found in Paffenroth’s Dying to Live: Life Sentence, the second in his zombie series based on a group of people surviving an apocalypse in a museum.

In Valley of the Dead, Dante stumbles upon a village in the midst of an epidemic that is unknown to him. There he meets a pregnant woman named Bogdana, and together they travel west into a valley, attempting to escape an army that believes destroying all of the towns it finds is the only way to stop the spread of infection. Along the way, they are joined by an army deserter and a monk, and the four of them soon form the opinion that the survivors are the ones that are cursed, not the undead. Some of the most frightening and disheartening moments of the book are the exploits of the living, and not the zombies as one might think.

This novel digs deep into the human soul, and exposes all the nobility and ugliness that people are capable of. It goes beyond the bloodshed of most zombie literature, and provides some insight into the theology of Dante, one of the greatest literary icons of the Western world. Paffenroth is certain to grab the attention of the academic crowd with Valley of the Dead.

~Ursula K. Raphael