Zombie! Haunted Mansion, by Zombie Origin Media

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Zombie novels are usually quick to grab my attention, and this one was no different. It had a nice, quirky opening done in a unique formula that was alright in small bursts. Unfortunately, it persisted throughout the entire narrative.

A bunch of friends gear up and set out to the middle of nowhere to celebrate graduation—the classic opening done in every horror film. Then, zombies attack, and they escape to a haunted mansion owned by an old, eccentric, elusive man. Their adventures get weirder as it seems not only are zombies out to get them, but the entire house is too!

The opening was true to classic horror and, to be honest, I was picturing very Camp Crystal Lake-type stuff going on. The friends, all of whom followed classic stereotypes, were engaged in some well-scripted banter. Ninety-nine percent of what transpired was told through dialogue or onomatopoeia, and the rest told by the inner monologuing of the narrator, Jesse. However, Jesse’s monologuing was mostly just commentary on what was happening because there was little to no description that existed beyond Jesse’s observations. At first it was a cute and quirky way of doing things. It didn’t take long to get old, though. I frequently found myself frustrated at being denied any sort of look at the setting or backgrounds. Things popped in and out of scenes by thumps and dialogue. Even with Jesse’s running commentary, no real time was given to the surroundings and the setting. Trying to picture what was going on was very frustrating. It started off face-paced and remained there, with little time for characters to rest between things.

With all my frustrations, I really liked how realistic the dialogue felt. At least if that was what I had to see ninety percent of the time, it was done well and easy to read. Let me also emphasize the realistic part. It brought the characters to life, gave them so much voice and personality. The characters themselves really popped. I’m so sad that nothing else did. The story itself was an entertaining one. It put a neat little spin on zom-comedy.

I get what the author was going for with the blatant sensory deprivation for the reader. It was done in a goofy, humorous way that felt like a Disney carnival ride. It was a unique writing tool that served certain scenes very well. Unfortunately, it was not suited for the entire novel. It was more suited for a graphic novel or a comic.

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The World Without Crows, by Ben Lyle Bedard

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I think the most interesting parts of zombie novels are the origin stories. Was it a virus, radiation, or an unfounded allegory to how “kids these days” spend too much time on their phone? Whatever the origin story, the point is that they’re all different. That includes all the different variations of the above mentioned.

In The World Without Crows, it was a viral worm. You had regular zombies and cracked zombies…there were several tiny nuances that set these zombies apart from others. Interestingly enough, the zombies are merely the backdrop of the narrative. The story itself follows a young man named Eric on his quest to reach an island in Maine. While zombies are certainly a huge concern, Eric’s real challenges come from the living and the self.

I think the fact that this wasn’t just a “survive the zombies” type novel. There were roving gangs, bad decisions, and some pretty shady people along the way. There was no centralized military trying to evacuate and round people up.

A big theme of this novel was a journey of self-discovery. Watching Eric’s development from beginning to end is not only wild, but mildly heartbreaking. There’s many metaphors placed throughout that give the reader a pretty good indication of how he’s coming along as a character, but there’s one classic scene at the end that really sums it up.

There’s a variety of different people Eric meets along the way. They’re all an incredible mixture of good, bad, and ambiguous. Each of the encounters is designed to further along Eric’s development, for better or worse. Like most people, there’s so many ups and downs it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

The overall writing style was fitting. I liked how well-blended the dialogue and narration were. The description was the best kind of horrifically gory. The kind that’s difficult to illustrate with writing. It had its suspenseful moments, its thriller moments, and its gory moments. Not scary, but definitely on par with expectations of horror enthusiasts. The inclusion of more than just the “token” POC was nice as well. There was a bit more diversity featured here that doesn’t fit with classic horror stereotypes.

Waging a war of moral versus immoral, where both sides become gray areas is an interesting thing. Decision making in the apocalypse isn’t easy, and it changes a person. This was a pretty intense journey of the self, with one crazy zombie background. Well done.

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Grave Robbers, by Matt Drabble

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Available June 20th, 2017!

I love it when a book excites me so much that I can’t wait to write a review. Grave Robbers was good. Really good.

A bank robbery botched in a brutal way leads Lucas Grant and his new partner, LT, into the arms of an intense mystery. To be fair, the novel starts intense. Then stays intense. The plot composition fit nice and tight, like the perfect puzzle.
Characters were brilliant. Their personalities and development meshed together so well with the story. They were so well-written–both men and women alike. But, I have so much love and respect for how the women characters were crafted. As characters, I adored all of them. I loved the way the women were received within their story. And all of them were useful, serving to further the plot in one way or another. Equally as important to the story as any of the other characters, without serving as only the “love interest.” Their development was on point.
There are so many things that go well together, and the coolest one thus far has been crime-fiction with zombies. And I’m fairly certain I spotted a nod to George Romero. Which, if it was, was kind of cool because the closer the end gone, the more Land of the Dead it felt. I like the fact that the author takes a different approach to the crime boss that served as the story’s antihero. Comparing character endings, his was my favorite. He had a unique story line that strayed from the stereotypes and norms of the genre. He was also a well-crafted character.
Action is a difficult thing to write. The action scenes in this novel were so awesome. There wasn’t anything flowery or lengthy about the style. Nor was it short and to-the-point. The perfect median between the two, in fact. The wording and pacing helped enhance the imagery. Visualizing everything was simple. I never had a problem seeing exactly what was going on.
It ended in the perfect way. Sure, there’s (hopefully) a huge hint that there’s going to be more. However, I would not be upset at all if this was the only novel. The ending serves both purposes. Not only that, but the stories all wrapped up with an appropriate ending.
This book was awesome. It was a non-stop thrill ride from beginning to end. It’s very rare I come away from a story with zero complaints. An absolute must-read.

Affliction, by Dottie Daniels

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At first, Affliction appears to be your everyday, run-of-the-mill zombie novel. Seanna wakes up and zombies are on the prowl. She goes to try and reunite with her family and–oh. She got bit. This is where the novel takes a different turn for the zombie genre.
I liked where it went. It was full of twists and turns, able to keep me guessing. And it ended on the perfect cliffhanger for a sequel. The story wrapped up in such a way that there’s loose ends, but they’re purposeful.
While the characters, for the most part, were different, some sounded the same. Affliction utilizes first person–an apt choice for the type novel. Seanna and her boyfriend, Graham, were the only two that popped. There were plenty of supporting characters. Each of them served a direct purpose to the plot. They felt a little flat, though. The interactions were fabulous.
The story pacing was good. Things happened in a way that made sense. It’s not an ultra-violent, hack-and-slash, survival zombie novel. There was a meaningful narrative. One that got built up very well. When it came to characters, the author was a big fan of the information dump. The story would pause for a few pages to give an entire background on one character. Not only did it jolt me out of the story, but it served to confuse me as well. I loved learning about the characters–don’t get me wrong. They had interesting backstories. The timing was off. It broke the flow and continuity.
Affliction does need editing. Paragraphs were long, full of exposition, internal monologues, and observations. Description wasn’t lacking. The fact that Seanna was a paramedic made for wonderful telling and plot points. While description wasn’t lacking, there was an awful lot of telling, not showing. There’s a lot of information to be had. Sentences run on for miles. There’s multiple tense changes per sentence. The writing style feels solid, but the technical writing aspect needs adjustment.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I liked how it started one way, and then went in a completely opposite direction. It was suspenseful, with a solid plot and characters in the right spots. There’s plenty of areas for improvement, but the same applies to lots of novels. I’d like to see a more polished version. Regardless of any of that, the author has a knack for good storytelling, and I look forward to future novels.

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