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Oct 31, 2014

October Ghoul Fest: Zombies

Every Friday this month is dedicated to the Ghoulish aspect of literature. I’m going to talk specifically about the monsters that haunt pages and share my thoughts on the creatures that have captured the curious and often terrified corners of our minds.

Happy Halloween!

Rounding out this year’s series with Zombies seemed like the perfect fit. Our current culture is obsessed with them and I’m willing to admit that the DH and I own close to 80 zombie films. They’ve taken over mainstream entertainment and are quite fascinating.
Zombies are most often associated with Hetian lore. While many people connect the myth with VooDoo, it is not a part of the religion’s practices. When not looking for a real source, zombie fans will turn you toward Romero & Russo (even though White Zombie came out in 1932). The two men can easily be attributed with bringing the living dead into the public view. Their differing viewpoints on their own first film may even be the spark that spawned a thousand and one ways to make a zombie film.
Theories of how Zombies came about tend to lead toward the magical or the chemical. Hetian lore believes the dead are brought back to life by magic and witchcraft. The chemical theory suggests that the living can be put in a zombie-like trance with the use of neurotoxis and dissociative drugs.
Others still look at Zombies and see little more than a sociological condition. Technology turns us into mindless automatons who pay no attention to anything that happens outside of our screens.
Most recently, the film adaptation of World War Z has brought zombie literature a little closer to the mainstream spotlight – the book itself drew a lot of attention too, but who has more pull than Brad Pitt? Among the other Zombie related literature in the past several years, you have the Dystopian YA take in Forest of Hands and Teeth (a Village type setting where Zombies lurk beyond), State of Decay (Wonderfully weird mix of thriller and Zombie), Bone Shaker (Steampunk, Seattle & the Living Dead?) and they’ve even made their way into Science Fiction in The Down Home Zombie Blues (Though I think that traditionalists will argue about what the zombies really are in this one.)
When it comes to Zombie books, my favorite is the Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest. Her take on the mythos mixed with gold-rush/Civil War era America is delightful. (But… ask me again when I finish World War Z).
 
 What’s your favorite Zombie novel (or series)?

Oct 30, 2014

Halloween Movies


We had a plan to watch 31 “Halloween movies” in October. I’m not certain we’re going to get through them all, but, from the stacks below (Cabin in the woods was also included – but streaming), these are my five favorites.

This is not an ordered list.

 

Feast

Henry Rollins in pink sweat pants, Jason Mewes plays himself, and the “Hero” isn’t much help. That might be all you need to know about this movie. If it’s not… well, the film is disgusting, vulgar and an utter delight. Fair warning: The sequels get so much worse and somehow that makes them more than worthwhile.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil

This comedy of life-ending errors is so much fun, I have a hard time remembering that not everyone knows about it. Turning the typical “teenage campers terrorized by local woodsmen” trope on its head, this movie is at the top of the list of favorites in the horror-comedy genre.

Nightmare Before Christmas

I cannot recall when I first saw this movie. I know I wasn’t terribly young, but it has stuck with me since. The darkly adorable characters, the whirlwind plot, and the catchy songs make it a staple in my fall viewing schedule.

Shaun of the Dead

I like Zombie movies - we own enough of them to leave that with no doubt whatsoever. But I always prefer movies that don’t take things seriously. So I really love this film. We quote it to each other far too often. I love the idea of Shaun venturing out into the post-infection world and not noticing because he is incredibly unobservant, but also because there is so little interaction between people anymore.

From Hell

 Who doesn’t like a little Ripper around Halloween. I love period films and there’s something deliciously creepy about the antiquated medical procedures in this film. I tend to forget it was filmed in the early 2000s because it does a very good job of making me forget present day. The cast is a ton of fun – I’m looking at you Ian Holm – and the plot still doesn’t boor me after all this time. And there is such an attention to detail that I’m always a little stunned.

Oct 28, 2014

Review: Storm Front







Storm Front

By Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files #1


My Summary

As a Private Detective, Harry Dresden’s life is not that glamorous, as a wizard, it’s less so. When the Chicago PD brings him in on a case that stinks of magic, Dresden has to tip toe down a wobbily line of what the powers that be will let him tell the detective who’s called him in and what he can get away with not telling her before he gets arrested.


My Review:

The plot is fun and fast paced, but there are a few places you can catch your breath. The magic in the book feels like an organic way to escalate the normal crimes seen in noir detective stories. Even though the supporting characters were – at times – a little over the top, they were well fleshed out enough to feel extraordinarily real. On more than one occasion I stopped and thought… I know this guy.

The one major downside was that this whole book smacked of sexism. Sure the character admits he’s “old fashioned” but the drawn out descriptions of the female characters and the way in which he treats them left a foul taste in my mouth. Hopefully the character will grow out of that.

It’s been recommended that I skip ahead to White Night or Small Favor… and I might. We’ll see what happens.

Oct 27, 2014

Review: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale


We Can Remember it For You Whole Sale

By Phillip K. Dick


My Summary:

Douglas Quail Dreams of Mars. Rekal, Incorporated can give him the memory of a trip he’d never be able to afford. But what do they do when the memory he wants is already there?

My Review:

I read this the other day when it finally hit me that I’d never gotten around to it. Total Recall was one of those movies I watched with my dad when I was little and, even knowing it was a story by PKD, never really considered that maybe I should pick it up. Sure I thought about it from time to time, but it was one of those things that I was always “going to get around to.”

So I finally read it and while I’d seen both adaptations of the film and read several synopses of the short, I was intrigued by differences.

Short as it is, the story does not give much time to get to know Mr. Quail. We are quickly informed that he is a clerk with a boring life, a nagging wife, and a desperate dream to visit mars. He heads to Rekal Incorporated, has a meeting where the memory implantation procedure is explained, and then, quite suddenly, Quail’s life changes.

The one disappointment I had was that the story is written in a way that does not allow for confusion. I wanted to be able to question Douglas Quail’s sanity. I wanted to walk away from the story wondering if maybe… just maybe, it was the chronicle of a man’s complete psychotic break. Instead, there are perspectives outside Doug’s that don’t allow for that possibility.

Oct 24, 2014

October Ghoul Fest: Golems

Every Friday this month is dedicated to the Ghoulish aspect of literature. I’m going to talk specifically about the monsters that haunt pages and share my thoughts on the creatures that have captured the curious and often terrified corners of our minds.

 
 
A part of Jewish folklore, a golem is a creature created of inanimate material and magic. Usually, the Golem is made of clay (or sometimes stone). The magical element is usually a spell (or the name of God) written on a piece of paper and placed into the golem’s mouth.
The golem story came about in early Judaism, in the Talmud. One could posit that human life is the result of the creation of golems (God created Adam, forming him from earth and breathed life into him).
 
While I have no proof, I can’t help but theorize that a similar thought process is what spurred the terracotta army of Quin Shi Huang in China.
Popular in Czech folklore since early times, the figure of the golem was adopted by most of European society in the 20th century and lead to various twists and turns in the story.
Golems are usually associated with the geographic area surrounding Israel. Most often, I’ve seen them associated with Prague and Jerusalem.  
Honestly, I don’t have a favorite golem book. I’d like to, but I haven’t read enough to really know.
I own the Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, but haven’t gotten a chance to read it, and The Golem’s Eye by Jonathan Stroud was a lovely read… but I guess I’m looking for recommendations.
What’s your favorite Golem novel (or series)?