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Friday, June 16, 2017

What I’m Reading: Nights of the Living Dead and Killing is My Business

In the latest issue of Booklist, I have two reviews. I gave the first one a star.

Nights of the Living Dead.

Maberry, Jonathan (editor) and George A. Romero (editor). 

July 2017. 400p. St. Martin’s/Griffin, paperback, $17.99  (9781250112248); e-book (9781250112255)First published June 1, 2017 (Booklist).
George A. Romero made a small film in 1968 that changed pop culture forever. As editor and bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry explains in the introduction to this stellar collection, “No one who saw Night of the Living Dead without prior warning was ready. Not in 1968. No sir. Anyone who came to zombie flicks later….they just don’t know how it felt.” Romero never called his shambling hordes of the undead, wreaking havoc and eating everyone in their path, zombies. Why would he? Up until that point zombies were a specific supernatural creature from the Voodoo culture, but not any more. An entire generation of authors took the newly reimagine zombie of Romero’s film and began to write. Now, almost 50 years later, Romero and Maberry asked the best and most successful writers of 21st Century zombie literature to write a brand new story, set within the world of Romero’s film series. Authors like Brian Keene, Mira Grant, Mike Carey, Carrie Ryan, and David Wellington, to name only a few, jumped at this chance. While all of the stories are good, of particular note is Maberry’s own entry, “Lone Gunman,” which Romero asked Maberry to write as a way to officially connect his existing books to the movies. Taken as a whole this is a breathtaking book showcasing the breadth of zombie literature from the weird, disturbing and gross out to the touching, thought provoking, and even funny. This is a collection by masters, at the top of their games but it is also a tribute by fans to the man who inspired them to become writers who chased their own nightmares. Order this volume immediately, if only to protect yourself from the hordes of readers who will be shambling in to request it.

Further Appeal: These stories are excellent. All of them. These are the top people in the world of zombie lit. Their affection for the source material shines through, but so too does their own skill at writing great stories. Each story is unique and different. Each is also a great example of the author’s other works- whether that work has zombies in it or not.

But they are also good stories even if you don’t like zombies because they are just good stories. This is a good time to encourage you to move outside the genre box with your suggestions to patrons. These stories will be enjoyed by more than just horror fans. Think about it, people who aren’t horror fans love the movie source material, right? So, treat these stories the same way. There will be people who don’t think of themselves as horror fans who will eat these stories up [pun intended].

I also want to elaborate a bit on the part in the review about the Maberry story. I actually had this ARC with me when I was at StokerCon and I talked to Maberry about the collection. His story in this collection is a great bridge between all his other work and the Romero universe. I know he is working to connect everything he has written-- yes even Joe Ledger characters show up in the Rot and Ruin world. But specifically, if you like “Lone Gunman,” go out and read Dead of Night [link to my review]- this is advice from Maberry himself. It all fits nicely together and now also links back to Romero’s world.

Every public library needs to buy this book. I know for a fact that there are a handful of readers in every town in America who would want to read this. How do I know? I am the library world’s horror expert-- I have my ways. [cue evil laugh]

Three Words That Describe This Book: stories, zombies, fandom

Readalikes: This one is easy: if someone likes this book they should seek out the numerous works by everyone in the collection. That should keep them busy for awhile.

But also, as I alluded to in my “three words” above, this is also a great book for people who enjoy fandoms- especially those centered on the world of a movie. Another new book that does this in the horror genre is Aliens: Bug Hunt [also edited by Maberry].

Killing Is My Business.

Christopher, Adam (author).

 July 2017. 288p. Tor, hardcover, $25.99 (9780765379207); e-book, $12.99 (9781466867161) First published June 1, 2017 (Booklist).
All the genre blending, wit, and fun of an alternative 1960s LA is back with Christopher’s second Raymond Electromatic, robot PI, hardboiled mystery. To catch you up, Ray is still the last robot in the world, but he is also a licensed PI who has been reprogrammed to be a contract killer [it pays better]. Not to worry if you missed the first book, however, because so did Ray; his memory tape is only 24 hours long, so while this is technically the second book in the series, it can be easily read as a standalone since Ray has to be reminded each morning of everything that has happened before. The plot has a little of everything for fans of classic science fiction and mysteries- corrupt city officials, shady real-estate moguls, the mafia, foreign-born evil scientists, and of course ROBOTS! But while the fast-paced story will grab readers’ attention, what they will stay for is Ray, whose unique perspective and personality shine as bright as his metal exterior. While this is an easy title to hand sell to fans of the “golden age” when science fiction and hardboiled PIs overlapped, it will also appeal to readers of contemporary, thoughtful genre mashups with compelling and unique narrators like Ben Winter’s The Last Policeman trilogy or Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn.

Further Appeal: I reviewed the first book in this series, Made to Kill, in 2015 here. I gave that one a star because it was so original and fun that I was giddy. This one is just as good, but this time, I was not as surprised that it was so good; hence, no star.

The best thing about this series, as I mention in the review, is that it doesn’t have to be read in order. So it’s a companion novel, not a sequel. This is very helpful as we work with readers. Like Tana French, we can give this series out in any order and don’t need book 1 to be on the shelf in order to suggest it.

And Ray. Oh Ray. He is so endearing. I worried about him at times. People and his boss [a computer] are always taking advantage of him, but always he manages to overcome and save the day. He is happy go lucky, yet he also carries an underlying sadness with him, sadness about his origins and the way his world used to be, yet he cannot quite remember enough of it to be full on depressed about it.

This book is best enjoyed by readers who are fans of hardboiled PI novels OR classic, pulp SF. The pure affection and deep knowledge Christopher has for both genres is what makes this book work. He is not trying too hard to be cute-- I know it may sound like he is, but I promise you, he is not. The story’s period setting, characters and plot all feel right for the pulp style. This is a fun and thought provoking read for genre fans by a genre fan.

Three Words That Describe This Book: genre blend, alternative history, fun

Readalikes: Besides the two I mention in the review above, there are more suggestions in my review of Made to Kill.

Also, what about some classic, robot, pulp SF. Here is the entry on “robots”from the Science Fiction Encyclopedia which lists many reading options and puts them in context. Here is a link to images of classic covers of “pulp robot science fiction.” They are awesome. I want to read them all now.

Finally, the Dan Shamble, Zombie PI series by Kevin J Anderson which begins with Death Warmed Over [link to my review], is very similar to this series- the humor, the genre mashup, the wink-wink, but still loving stabs at the genre conventions- it’s all here except instead of robots we have zombies [and other supernatural creatures].

And with that I bring it all back around to zombies. Well, that is what zombies do best-- they come back.

Enough bad humor. Both books reviewed here come out next month. You still have time to get your orders in. Have a nice weekend.

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