AWESOME-tober-fest 2013: Night of the Living Dead (1974) novelization and a shambling mob of other zombie novels
There are a lot of zombie novels out there. I can’t read and review them all, nor would I really want to. However, there are a few I read that I’ll quickly review for you in an opportunity to get them out there so you have other zombie books to read now that AWESOME-tober-fest 2013 has got you hot for zombies again.
Let’s begin with the novelization of the original Romero classic, Night of the Living Dead.
George Romero’s 1966 film, Night of the Living Dead, is a classic in the horror genre. While attending college in Pittsburgh in the 60s, George Romero and John Russo developed a horror script. They pitched it to a film company, received funding and created one of the most important genre-defining pictures of all time. This book is the novelization of that script. Surprisingly, the book wasn’t released until 1974, a clear six years after the release of the movie. Which means that it wasn’t based on an original draft of the script, it was just a page one copy of the movie. I didn’t realize that before I started reading. So, if you’ve seen the movie, you’ve essentially read the book. Except, the movie is actually better. The book is slow and a LOT less interesting than the movie. I don’t know if it’s the way Russo writes or what, but I had a hard time staying awake while reading plus there’s not really any new story information you get for reading. You may as well just watch the movie again.
In 1978, after Russo and Romero went their separate ways, Russo decided to write a sequel to Night of the Living Dead. He called it Return of the Living Dead. This book has nothing to do with the 1985 horror comedy of the same name other than it inspired that movie. Russo wanted this book to be the movie and wrote it as a screenplay, but Dan O’Bannon disliked Russo’s story and did a page 1 rewrite. This book was Russo’s attempt to continue the story they began in Night of the Living Dead. It’s boring, uninspired and will immediately put you into a reading coma before you finish the first page. It’s not even worth reading as a novelty. As a matter of fact, just skip both of these books. Watch the original 1966 Night of the Living Dead movie and the 1985 Return of the Living Dead movie. They are much more enjoyable and you’ll get more out of it.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith – This is sort of the grandaddy of the outlandish classic fiction category that has become all the rage the last few years. Stuff like Android Karenina, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter all began with this book. All the zombie/ninja embellishments were written by Seth Grahame-Smith who also wrote Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, that Johnny Depp Dark Shadows movie and he helped create and write the MTV TV show The Hard Times of RJ Berger. I read this book several years ago. It’s actually very entertaining. I thought that the structure would be 1 chapter of Austen/1 chapter of Smith. However, it isn’t. Smith manages to deftly combine zombies and ninjas into every aspect of this story. The lines have been blurred and it’s really hard to see where one story ends and the other begins. It’s actually quite amazing how well this book works. I can’t speak for the other quirky classic makeovers I mentioned, but at the very least, this deserves a read. I think you’ll like it. FYI, a prequel was written by another author called Dawn of the Dreadfuls, but I haven’t read it.
Cell: A Novel by Stephen King – I’m a pretty big Stephen King fan. I’ve read a lot of his bibliography. I snatched this one up very soon after it was first released in paperback around 2007 or so. This book is extremely well written and well paced. Lots of good characters and the action begins almost right away. I like King’s zombies and how they behave as a “society”. I even like the idea of “The Pulse” as a genesis for the apocalypse even though it’s never really explained ( which surprisingly only bothers me a little bit). My main problem with the book is THE GODDAM ENDING. It just drops you without resolving one of the biggest plot points in the novel. <SPOILERS>The main protagonist finds his son who’s been turned into a pulse zombie. The entire book is about him finding his son, protecting him, and finding a way to turn him back “human”. You get to the point at the end where he’s trying a crazy idea that “just may work” when the book ends. You never see what happens.</SPOILERS> THAT INFURIATES ME. Other than that, the book is great and I’d recommend it. But that ending…….ugh. *Fist in air*
World War Z by Max Brooks – This book was recommended to me several times by several different people. So I read it a year or two ago before the movie was announced. And I didn’t like it. The book is very well written, and the story interesting, however, my problem is that it’s written in a style that I don’t enjoy. Reading this book is like reading a textbook about Desert Storm. Well written and informative, but it’s dry, it doesn’t have a central character or group of characters you can connect with and it talks a lot about military response to the zombie threat. So, zombies and military and war. Three genres of storytelling I have very little interest in. Consequently, I didn’t love this book.
Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber – Death Troopers is the most famous one, but I’m really talking about both of Joe Schreiber’s Star Wars zombie novels which includes the prequel novel, Red Harvest. They are excellent. I won’t lie, I honestly didn’t think the Star Wars Universe would mix with zombies. However, Schreiber did a great job. On both novels. He made both novels work and work well. Death Troopers happens right before 1977’s A New Hope, therefore has a few familiar surprises within its pages. Red Harvest takes place hundreds of years in the past but is no less interesting as it takes place in a secret Sith training facility on the Sith’s version of Coruscant. Both of these novels are well written and provide endless entertainment. I can easily recommend both. As a matter of fact, I had planned on re-reading this duology for Halloween this year, but simply ran out of time.
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.