Brown River Queen cover art

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review: My Life as A White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

As I may have noted in passing a few thousand times before, I'm a fan of all things zombie.

Not all things zombie.  I should have said nearly all things zombie.  Because for every good zombie movie or good zombie book, there are half a dozen real stinkers just dying to sneak into your bookshelf or your Netflix queue.

Happily, the book My Life as A White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland is firmly in the good zombie group.  I snarfed this one down in a mere two days, because I had to know what happened next.  Who turned heroine Angel into a zombie?  Why did they turn her?  And how is she going to obtain the ingredients for her strict new diet without (ahem) learning to embrace her inner Romero?

This is NOT your typical zombie novel.  There is no undead rising.  No one is trapped in a mall.  Not a single cliche shambles past.  Angel appears normal to everyone around her, as long as she feeds on human flesh every few days.  Working in a morgue allows her the chance to do so without the usual zombie marauding.  and since the author has actually worked in a morgue setting, the details make Angel's day-to-day life come alive, so to speak.

What truly stands out about White Trash Zombie is Angel's journey from living deadbeat to undead upright citizen.  Seeing someone die and then manage to turn their train-wreck of a life around was an inspired theme, and I applaud Diana Rowland for taking the road less traveled.

If you're a fan of zombie fiction, I'd rate My Life as A White Trash Zombie as a must-read.  Better than 'Breathers!'

Also available in print.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Belated Movie Reviews

I've seen a few movies the last few weeks, but didn't get around to savaging  reviewing them until now.  So, in no particular order, here are my thoughts:


RATING:  Zero fractured skulls out of a possible 10.  No, in fact, this movie was so bad it owes me three fractured skulls.
Good points:  No one has since tried to make me watch it again.
Bad points: Everything between the opening title sequence and the credits.  This movie was so monumentally awful it spoiled movies playing nearby.  The acting careers of people who haven't been born yet are even now being destroyed just because they share initials with the poor unfortunates who appear in this film.  Even the font used in the credits is doomed.
Plot summary: Conan hits a lot of people, the end.
Compare to: Painful rectal inflammation, prolonged visits by religious zealots, poorly-maintained public restrooms.
Comments: I'm not even sure these people were aware they were making a movie.  Between the blurry, too-dark 3D photography and the deafening but largely incoherent soundtrack, I thought for a few awful moments I had somehow been sucked into the turbofan of an airborne 747.  Sadly, this was not the case, and I was forced to endure well over an hour of nonsensical grunts and random slo-mo sword-fights.  Oh, and the sneering.  Conan sneers a lot, which I suppose he was well within his rights to do, since I shelled out fourteen bucks for two tickets to this cinematic nightmare.  Buried somewhere in the muddle of jumping and rolling and slashing there was a pitiful scrap of a revenge-story plot, but, undernourished and ignored, it starved to death  halfway through the thing, leaving behind a series of disjointed and uninspired brawls that sent several members of the audience wandering away in open disgust. See it only if the gun being held to your head is bigger than a thirty-eight.  Take your chances with a head wound if it's anything smaller.


RATING: Eight screaming vampire heads out of ten.  Not quite perfect, but not far from it.
Good points: Takes the best elements from classic Westerns and combines them with a new twist on vampirism.  Stylish and imaginative.
Bad points: Minor plot quibbles.  For instance, if humanity waged a thousand years of war against the vampires and ultimately won, would we really set up vampire 'reservations,' even in the wastelands?  I don't think so.  I mean, why?  The vamps probably aren't going to sit around playing pinochle and peacefully reliving the good old days, are they now?
Compare to: High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider, Near Dark, Chuck Norris.  Not any Chuck Norris movie, just the Man himself.
Comments: This movie oozed style.  The world looks lived in -- well, not so much lived in as kicked around, wounded, and sent limping down a trash-choked alley.  The dialog is straight High Noon western, as is the look of the thing.  You've got dusty frontier towns and leather and sweaty, gun-totin' townsfolk.  Sure, they're riding jet-powered motorcycles instead of piebald mares, but the spirit of the Old West is very much alive here.  You've got your honest lawman, your flawed hero looking for redemption from a world that let him down, your black-hat villain with his big stomping boots and his villainous grin.  Look, just watch this one.  It's a good movie.

FRIGHT NIGHT (2011 Version)

RATING: Eight screaming vampire heads out of ten.  Again, not quite perfect, but a great movie anyway.
Good points:  Doesn't take itself too seriously.  David Tennant plays Peter Vincent.  Yes, that David Tennant, of Dr. Who fame.  Also, this movie is not 'Conan the Barbarian,' which in itself is a very good thing.
Bad points: Okay, you're a vampire who has survived for centuries by feeding on the blood of the living.  You've seen war.  You've seen pestilence.  You've seen hundreds if not thousands of attempts by humans to strike you down.  But have you never seen a ten dollar wristwatch?  No?  And it never once occurred to you that having some method of determining the time of the sunrise might be worth checking into?  No?  Well okay then.
Comments:  Yes, 1980s vampire killer Charlie Brewster gets a 21st-century reboot in the remake of the classic Fright Night.  This time around, Charlie makes his home in Las Vegas, which also seems inviting to his new next-door neighbor, who isn't the least bit interested in gambling.  Nosey Charlie soon knows too much, and fanged hilarity ensues.  My favorite character was Peter Vincent, who is a Vegas stage magician in this version of the story.  The movie is fairly faithful to the original, but about that I will say no more.  I won't call this a horror movie, because it never really went for the jugular, but it was a fun way to spend an afternoon, and I don't really ask much more than that from remakes of 80s flicks anyway.  Give it a look.