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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What I'm Reading: American Vampire 2

American Vampire Vol. 2Boy, I have been on a sequels kick recently.  Here we have another installment of what is a great vampire graphic novel series.  American Vampire Vol. 2 by Scott Snyder continues the set-up presented in the first volume.  We are dealing with new world vampires who can cavort in the daylight.  Their only weakness is still a secret to many. Click here for more on the first book.

Again we have the VERY evil Skinner, but this time we have moved forward a decade and are in Las Vegas of the Depression Era.  The men in charge of building the Hoover Dam are being killed by a vampire.  Is it Skinner? The local lawman teams up with Federal vampire killers to solve the case, but the fight becomes very personal.

The alternating story finds Pearl, Skinner's protege, living as normal a life as possible with her love Henry (a human) in rural California.  Pearl was a vicious killer, but has left that life behind.  As the novel closes, Pearl's former best friend (turned vampire) is out for revenge.

Volume three promises more of the same only this time during WWII.

While one of the obvious appeals here is the joy of a story with truly scary and evil vampires (Skinner got more evil in this book; I did not think that was possible), what I also love is how the story explores American history of the early twentieth century as it scares your pants off.

The drawings are again vivid and detailed, with brutal killings.  Black and red are the dominant colors.  The story also jumps around, with lots of foreshadowing, so you have to pay attention to the box that appears at the top of the page and identifies when you are in a new town or time period.

We barely see the old world vampires here, but I am not sure that they are gone.  Skinner, our American Vampire, is definitely doing better than his old world only out at night rivals, but as the book ends, his hold on Vegas is slipping.  But as usual with Skinner, when he is down, he is never out.  Stay on your toes.

Read this series if you like graphic horror with mean, vicious vampires.  Stay away if you like your vampires to be sweet and romantic.

Three Words That Describe This Book: evil vampires, American History, violent

Where This Book Took Me (Summer Reading Feature): The American West of the 1930s.

Readalikes: Previously I suggested these books:
If you want to read more horror graphic novels check out the Locke and Key series by Joe Hill, The Walking Dead series by Robert Kirkman, or the Hellboy series by Mike Mignola. 
I also felt that my alternating love and disgust for Skinner and Pearl reminded me of Ig in Horns by Joe Hill. 
For more scary vampires you can also try The Passage. 
For those who want to try a western, if you haven't read Louis L'Amour before, go to the library and check out Hondo.  There is a lot of similarity here.  I have had students read Hondo in the past.  Click here to see what they have had to say.
To this list of suggestions I would also add anything by Brian Keene.  He doesn't write about vampires, but he has the same level of violence as well as a similar feel to his story lines.  He writes bloody, fast-paced horror which tends to feature zombies, but not always.  He has great character development, and no one can describe a body being dismembered better.  Try Castaways.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What I'm Reading: Deadline

Deadline (Newsflesh, Book 2)Last month I read the second volume in Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy, Deadline.

Click here for the full set-up, but here is a snippet from when I read Feed (book 1):
Feed is set in a near future in which the cure for the common cold, mixed with the cure for cancer has caused a zombie problem. The world is full of zombies and they are not nice. Another speculative feature of this world is that when the dead started rising, the traditional news outlets ignored the story, but not bloggers.  Bloggers saved the day by working together to figure out what was going on and pass on information on how to properly kill a zombie and protect yourself.
So in book 1, the bloggers led by Georgia and Sean (siblings) are the official reporters for the Presidential campaign.  While working they are caught up in a conspiracy that led to Georgia's death.  (Again click here for details).  Deadline picks up a year later with Sean now running one of the biggest news organizations in the world.

Sean is not taking Georgia's death well; in fact she still talks to him inside his head and he answers her out loud.  He spends most of his time trying to find out who was really responsible for his sister's death. In the process he (with the help of his team) uncovers another BIGGER conspiracy which may get to the heart of the virus which has changed the world.

As I have said before, despite the zombie backdrop, these are NOT horror books.  The Newslfesh series is pure thriller.  This book reads like you are riding a roller coaster.  There are build ups to a very fast paced action sequence, then things quiet down before again returning to a slow build up to more fast paced action, etc...  This happens over and over; there were too many little bursts of intense action for me to count.  Without the world building that was necessary in Feed, Deadline is all about the action and uncovering the conspiracy.

If you are only picking this book up because it has zombies, you may be disappointed.  The goal here is not to scare the reader.  The appeal is all about the rush.  This is not a judgmental comment because personally, I loved reading Deadline.  It was a non-stop fun thrill ride.  I was worried I wouldn't like Sean as much as Georgia, but he was great.

Another appeal here is the post-apocalyptic setting.  I know for me that is a huge plus in any book, no matter the genre.

One final word of warning with Deadline.  Make sure when you finish the book that you read the included first chapter of the next book. Without reading it you will not fully understand the ending of Deadline.

Three Words That Describe This Book: conspiracy, post-apocalyptic, thrilling

Where This Book Took Me (Summer Reading Feature): post-apocalyptic America

Readalikes:  Here is a link to the readalikes I mentioned previously.  I do want to highly suggest the Joe Ledger supernatural thriller series by Jonathan Maberry again for fans of Grant's series.

If you like the intense, cinematic action and uncovering of conspiracies and don't need the supernatural elements, you should also try Dan Brown.

Other authors with similar pacing and tone are Kelly Link, John Farris, and Koji Suzuki.

Of course if it is simply great zombie action you are after go read The Walking Dead graphic novels by Robert Kirkman or the short story collection The Living Dead.

Monday, July 18, 2011

NY Times Article About Horror Movies.

Picture of Linda Blair from
The Exorcist (1973)
from the NY Times Article
Previously, I mentioned the new book, Shock Value by Jason Zinoman.  Well, on Sunday, he also had this essay in The New York Times talking about the academic research being done analyzing the appeal of horror movies.

Much of what is in this essay about horror films translates to the appeal of the book form of horror too.

If you love to be scared by a horror book or movie, read this essay.

I would also like to thank Zinoman's publishing team for executing one of the issues I bring up in my new book--- Horror should not only be discussed in October.  Zinoman's book was published this summer and is getting a lot of press.  Good for him, but more importantly, good for horror as a genre.  He is proving what we at the library already knew-- people like to be scared all year long.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Monsters on NPR

I already knew Wisconsin Public Radio was cool since they had me on last year to talk about horror books, but this past weekend I heard another WIPR show, To the Best of Our Knowledge run this show on monsters.

They had the cartoonist Linda Barry talking about her favorite monsters, Justin Cronin talking about one of my favorite books of recent years, The Passage, and Stephen Asma, a professor of philosophy at Columbia College in Chicago talking about our human fear of monsters.

Overall, it was a great show for anyone who likes anything scary.  Click here for full access and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New Release: Shock Value

Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern HorrorBrand new this week is Jason Zinoman's Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror.

Zinoman's arguments about the importance of the horror films of the late 1960s is dead on.  In my new book, like Zinoman, I also spend time focusing on the excellence of Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, and Night of the Living Dead and how these movies changed horror forever.

Zinoman was on Fresh Air yesterday to talk about his book.

I have the book on reserve right now and will review it soon.  By the way, notice the cover.  Hands coming out of the ground must be "in" right now.