Tag Archive: survival


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“Attack on Titan, Vol. 1”
by Hajime Isayama
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 19th 2012 by Kodansha Comics
(first published March 7th 2010)

I can’t say I’m a big fan of Manga, I like most of the stories, but the books seem gimmicky to me. I love comic books, and I love a good story, but with Manga comics the books are printed backwards and it takes me about halfway through the book before I start to get the hang of reading right to left. I understand the original printings in Japan are written that way, but they could easily be printed in the same way books are printed on this side of the planet and nothing will be missed. When Western hemisphere books are printed in the other countries that read in the opposite direction they are printed to make it easier for the readers there. So to be geek chic when you find a good Manga they are printed to be read “backwards.” The only reason this happens is to be different, cool, or hip.

I had to overcome this bias because I had heard a lot of good reviews about both the “Attack on Titan” Manga books and TV series. When I started reading this book I hadn’t yet started watching the TV series and all I knew was that it was a survival series much along the lines of “The Walking Dead.” Yes it did take some time to get used to reading backwards, but once I started flowing with the story I was rewarded with a great story told in comic book form and using the tools of flashbacks, and weapon and tactics specifications all interwoven in the story. Again I say, I would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t have to retrain my brain to read backwards.

As for the story, it is a survival story set 100 years after the Titans have forced humanity to live behind walls. Humankind is down to just a few thousand people who live in a city surrounded by three concentric walls. The walls protect them from their enemies, the Titans. The Titans are humanoid giants that eat the humans alive. Untouched by the Titans for a century, humanity has become complacent. But Eren Jaeger, a trainee in the Army has had enough. While his fellow citizens are content to hide, Jaeger has the passion to take action to not only protect the city, but to learn what the Titans actually are. But on his first mission he comes face to face with horrors beyond his imagination and secrets from his own past that could shift the tides of war.

I have since started watching the animated TV series and am hooked. The story is phenomenal. I am glad I read the Manga first only because it introduced me to the TV series which I could have easily not watched and would have missed out on a great show. If they do reprint these to be read from left to right I will definitely continue to read the series, but until then I’ll just have to settle with the fact that I’m too old to be taught new reading habits.

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roadtowoodbury

“The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury”
by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
read by Fred Berman
Published by MacMillan Audio
Running time: 10 hours

For the year 2013, I’m declaring February Zombie month. This is the month when the phenomenal TV series, “The Walking Dead” starts back up to finish up season 3 this month, I have just caught up to issue #106 of the comic book series and I have just finished listening to the second audiobook written as a companion to the series. I am ready for more zombies.

The two novels written in this series coincide with the comic books and not the TV series. The first novel was “Rise of the Governor” and the sequel to that novel is this one “The Road to Woodbury.” Both novels follow the stories of two characters that were introduced early in the comic book series. The first one covered the Governor and how he became leader of the settlement called Woodbury. In the comics the Governor is much more brutal than the one portrayed in the TV series, at least so far. This time around we are told the backstory of Lilly and in part, that of a lesser characters, Bob and Martinez. In the comics Lilly is the one that puts a bullet into the head of the Governor after the attack on the prison. At first those only knowing “The Walking Dead” through the TV series may see this as a spoiler, but anyone that has read the comics knows, the TV series has branched off in directions that stray a bit from the comic book storyline enough that the TV series can go anywhere and it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen.

The bulk of this novel is the development of the character of Lilly. When I read the comics I didn’t think too much about her character. In fact, I considered her pretty much a lesser character, but with a major role. Someone had to kill the Governor, really he had to die, so she was chosen. Apparently she was enough of a character for Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga to tell her story, and I’m glad she was. This book is a great survival story like all of the stories from all forms of “The Walking Dead” multimedia experience, but what made this novel even better for me was zombie clowns and circus performers. More on the zombie clowns later.

Before I summarize the meat of this book, I’ve got to first talk about the reader, Fred Berman. Mr. Berman does an outstanding job of bringing this book to life. Not only does he provide each character a voice, but he is able to make all the emotions and actions of the characters come out in their voices. At times it nearly seems like this is a multi-cast performance. This book is a full audio experience thanks to the voice talents of Fred Berman.

“The Road to Woodbury” starts out with a group of survivors setting up a tent village putting together all their efforts to stave off the zombie apocalypse. The center of this makeshift survivor campground is a circus big top tent, left behind when the plague hit. Now, if you are like me, then you probably see the problem with this from the start. I had to wonder what was going on, why on Earth would anyone think a tent village would be safe in a zombie apocalypse? The flaw is soon discovered when a herd of zombies attack and some children, which were under the care of Lilly are under attack, while most of the others in the group are out scavenging for food and supplies. Lilly manages to save three of the four, but when the oldest of the kids gets spooked and runs away, she soon meets her demise under the chomping teeth of zombies.

The father of the children becomes distraught and begins beating on Lilly, breaking some ribs and fracturing her jaw, seeing this, a man who is somewhat of a love interest, Josh Lee Hamilton, comes to her rescue and beats up the man. The problem is that all of Josh’s pent up frustrations come out and he kills the man. The people in the tent village discuss this and decide to exile Josh. Lilly is furious with this and while in no condition to do anything, she decides to leave with Josh. Possibly seeing what is to come, Lilly’s high school friend and her boyfriend, a stoner couple who spend the apocalypse getting high, decide to go with them. Also deciding to leave is former Marine medic, now never sober, Bob Stookey.

The group of 5 leave the tent village and find an abandoned gas station. Josh and Lilly head out scavenging for food, actually Josh has in mind to hunt down one of the many deer in the area, when a herd of deer are spooked their direction, fleeing from something the deer run right past the two humans, soon Josh and Lilly discover the horror that has the deer spooked. It is at this moment that the creepiest scene in any zombie story ever occurs. The zombified members of the circus which the members of the village were using the big top tent, is leading a herd of undead heading straight for Josh. The authors describe in detail the characters that are now flesh eating zombies from this circus. There are clown zombies, the fat lady zombie, acrobat and contortionist zombies and many more. Just take a circus and freak show from the early days of touring circuses and turn all its members into zombies and have them travelling in a herd toward the survivors. Yes it gets creepy.

Later, while regrouping and trying to decide what to do next, the tent village seems to come under attack. Not knowing what is going on but seeing the flames and hearing the noise from the tent village it can’t be good. A couple of vehicles approach the gas station as they are fleeing from the village, but do not stop and ram into the station destroying the outcasts’ shelter.

This sends the outcasts on the road again and after walking dead encounters they come across an abandoned Wal-Mart superstore. Gathering what is left of the looted store for survival supplies the group is confronted by a group of men. The leader of the men, Martinez, tells the group of a town that is full of survivors working together to ensure they all survive. Thinking this too good to be true, but tired of being on the road the group follows the men to Woodbury and meet the Governor.

The group discovers that Woodbury is not all it seems to be. An evil is lurking beneath the town and at the cost of lives the Governor is becoming more and more brutal.

Along with the book “Rise of the Governor,” “The Road to Woodbury,” is a great addition in the world of “The Walking Dead.” Whether you are a fan of the comics, the TV series or both these books should be added to your must read now list.

the-walking-dead-goveror

“The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor”
by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
read by Fred Berman
published by MacMillan Audio
Approx 11 hours.

Not sure where it all started but I’m really loving this new love of zombies. I do know that a lot of the newfound love of the undead is brought about by the multi-media incursion of the works of Robert Kirkman and “The Walking Dead.” What started out as a simple black and white print comic book has developed into a television series, a couple of novels, a social game as well as many other games available as apps. “The Walking Dead” series is not one of those simple horror films about zombies eating brains, the ongoing story tells the story of survivors and their day to day struggles. The stories all cover politics of a world with a sudden loss of a central government and how to reform social order, or whether that social order can be reformed, all this while trying to avoid being eaten by a horde of zombies.

What really grabs the public’s attention in this is the collection of very human stories that could be anyone, all the characters created in this series are human, make mistakes and have emotions that make the situation very real. Then throw in some adrenaline pushing horror into the mix and you have a well rounded story that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.

One of the storylines in the comics, and currently running in the TV series is that of the “Governer” and his brutal way of maintaining the peace. In the comics we meet the Governor after he has already established his community in Woodbury. His actions are very brutal, like chopping off limbs of people if they don’t see things his way, forcing prisoners to fight zombies and his keeping a little girl zombie locked in a closet and treats her as though she is still alive. But what made the Governor the way he is. I know when reading the comic I thought, my gawd, how can someone be this brutal and insane and yet still have a community allow him to lead?

That’s where this book comes in. When the book was originally released back in 2011, I wanted to read it and had it on my list, but never quite got around to reading it. When it was released in audiobook form later that year, I thought, now’s my chance to grab on. But my list was overpopulated and I still didn’t get around to listening. Now I find out there’s somewhat of a sequel to “Rise of the Governor” released called “The Road to Woodbury” I now have no choice, I can’t fall too far behind. So I latch on to this one and have a copy of “The Road to Woodbury” on top of my stack for the next listening. So that is my journey to getting here, let’s talk about the journey of the Governor, but before I do, after listening to this thrill a minute novel I can see why it took a whole novel just to tell the Governor’s story. It seems that it doesn’t just happen overnight for someone like him to become brutal and insane, even in a zombie apocalypse.

“The Rise of the Governor” begins with the story of brothers Brian and Phillip Blake and Phillip’s daughter, Penny, getting together with their friends, Bobby and Nick and trying to escape the havoc which is the dead rising and eating the living. Doing everything he can to protect Penny, Phillip gets the group loaded in an SUV and seek safety. Following all the TV and radio broadcast instructions to head to Atlanta where a survival area is supposed to be in existence. The first stop the group makes is in a gated community called Wiltshire Estates. Readers of the comic will find Wiltshire Estates familiar as one of the stops for Rick Grimes and his crew, the main characters from the Walking Dead comic and TV series.

Wiltshire Estates appears to be safe and after settling down in one of the homes, the group finds themselves settling in and raiding the nearby houses for supplies. The group begins to reinforce the fence around the community too keep the cannibalistic corpses out. Soon the numbers of walking dead become too much and a weakness in the structure allows the dead to invade. Bobby gets attacked and bitten by a zombie in hiding and soon dies. Before he turns Phillip shoots him in the head. Distraught by the loss of a good friend the remaining group make their escape and continue on to Atlanta, but not before Brian makes a sign warning of the dead inside.

When they arrive in Atlanta they find that the safe zone is a myth and that Atlanta is overrun by millions of zombies. They are trying to escape a horde when they are flagged down by a woman who leads them to safety in an apartment building. The woman is April Chalmers, who is holed up in the first floor of the building with her aged father, David, and her sister Tara. They again think they may have found a place to settle and begin growing a garden on the roof and making escape routes among the buildings as well as routes to scavenge for food and supplies. When David dies of natural causes and turns into a zombie, it is up to Phillip to “kill” the zombie David. Tensions mount between the men and the women, and Phillip does something stupid which results in Tara holding the group at gunpoint forcing them to leave.

Once again the group is on the run trying to survive. They find motorcycles and plan on heading to the Gulf of Mexico to find a place to live out this apocalypse. Along the way Brian keeps getting glimpse and feelings of people following them. Chalked up to paranoia the group ignores his stories. Soon they find themselves in a villa conveniently located on top of a hill and in the middle of a peach orchard which, while they are weaponless, seems like a safe place. The only problem a group of ruthless outlaws soon find the villa and force them to leave. The battle that ensues is one of the most tragic described in the series, this is where Penny gets bitten by a zombie and is turned into one herself.

This is the turning point where Phillip becomes brutal, he fights back with a vengeance and manages to keep alive two of the attacking party, the rest are all killed and destroyed. The two are kept alive in a barn where only Phillip can enter. He tortures the two captives on a daily basis because they are responsible for the death of his Penny. Phillip also has another sign of snapping in that he is keeping Penny alive as a zombie tied to a tree. When Nick and Brian discover what is going on in the barn they kill the two captives, who by this time are begging for their own deaths. Phillip keeps them from killing Penny and eventually they decide the villa is no longer a place to be.

Travelling further the group comes across the community of Woodbury, where no one cares who comes or goes. The group set up in an apartment and the darker side of Woodbury becomes known. The town seems to be run by a group of National guardsmen who charge admission for anyone wanting to watch the car races at the local dirt track. When Brian can’t pay the admission a gun is placed in his mouth as the brutality and bullying ensues.

Phillip sneaks Penny into the apartment and soon begins feeding her fresh cuts of human flesh to the horror of Brian and Nick.

At this point the book becomes very brutal and the Governor takes command but there is a huge twist in the tale that will leave the listener/reader amazed. When the Governor finally takes over the town of Woodbury is destined to be the town seen in the comics and the TV series, but like I said, there’s a twist. Check it out and be ready for a super thrill ride in zombie-land.

The reader of this book, Fred Berman, does a superb job of capturing every thrilling second.  He is able to express the emotions, the attitudes and even at times make the book feel like a multi-cast performance.  His vocalizations of all the characters is perfect.  In fact there were times when I would just get thoroughly lost in the story thanks to his vocal expertise.

“Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection – Field Notes from Dr. Robert Twombly”
by Don Roff
read by Stephen R. Roff
published by AudioGo
1 hour 41 minutes

Well, I finally got to get back to another zombie book, and this one is a gem. What makes this one a gem is that while it is still a dead become reanimated and eat the living typical zombie book, the telling of the story makes the difference with this one. It is told as though through a series of journal entries. In the print version of the book which was first printed back in 2009, there were sketches and various illustrations that gave the book a sort of study in the year of survival in the zombie apocalypse. This audio version, while no sketches were provided, continues that journal feel with the main character, Dr. Robert Twombly, recording his thoughts in a recorder. In the beginning of the book it is explained that the recordings were found and that the good doctor was a bird watcher and was accustomed to keeping such records.

With this style the story is told through a series of dated entries beginning in January 2012, with the initial infection coming to notice to the doctor via patients coming into the hospital where he works. Granted this book was released in 2009, but the audiobook has just been released this year (2012) and with the year of this tale being 2012 it seems a bit dated. If I were the one producing this audiobook, I would have kept the dated entries but left off the year allowing the recording to be timeless. No, it doesn’t take away from this great story, it’s just a way I would have done it.

Dr. Twombly’s entries cover everything from how he survives, escaping a zombie surrounded hospital, to finding fellow survivors and trying to avoid being eaten by the flesh-eating zombies. Some of the entries are descriptions of the various states of decomposition of the bodies and the different activities the zombies are found doing. Each new action by the undead spurs the doctor to wonder whether they think and how they stay animated.

Along the various groups of survivors the doctor manages to outlive, he finds that the infection may have been started by a food processing plant and an additive that is found in nearly every food and beverage. As he finds other survivors and he interviews them and at those times there are other voice actors performing the characters. Mixed in to this audio production are various incidental sound effects that give this production the feel of actual audio journal entries that are recorded whenever possible, putting the listener in the middle of the story and surviving along with Dr. Twombly.

At this point I have to point out that what makes a good zombie story is not necessarily the zombies eating people or the people hunting down zombies, but the actual survival and how the living keep going. This book provides a superb mix of the action, in story form, and the survival to keep you interested. This along with the “real” feel of the story being told as it happens makes this book a must have for any zombie story fan or anyone that loves a good survival / horror story.

“Autumn: Aftermath”
by David Moody
Published by Thomas Dunne Books (2012)
388 pages

What an adventure!!  If you, like me, have been reading the entire “Autumn” series by David Moody, this final book in the series is a bittersweet thing.  First of all It brings an end to the series of books where the dead have risen and only about one percent of the population have survived.  Now, before I go any further, I should clarify that this is not your typical Zombie Apocalypse novel.  While the dead do rise and there are a few survivors having to fight of the hordes of rotting, walking dead, they never use the word zombie.  In fact, the things that make this different from other zombie stories, is that the walking cadavers do not have the need to feed on the dead, and the infection is not spread and the survivors do not have the risk of being turned into the living dead.

This series is primarily about survival and how the interactions of the human race could allow us to destroy ourselves further or enable the species to live on.  The cadavers in David Moody’s book can kill but only by mere mass of thousand of bodies closing in on someone.  They do become violent when threatened, but they are not out to eat your brains.  So if you are ready to survive that then get ready to read an outstanding series about apocalyptic survival.

This is the fifth book in the series (you could almost say 6th because of another story that was released online, but maybe I’ll explain that more if I get a copy of that one on my Kindle) and wraps up the entire apocalyptic events and even attempts to explain why the undead “attack” the living.  The extra super cool thing about this book is that it fully explains and brings into the fold that last book, “Disintegration,” the 4th in the series.  “Disintegration” introduced a completely different set of characters from the first three books and I just assumed it was a side book which took place at the same time as the others.  But this final book in the series wraps them all up in one nice neat package.  (However, Mr. Moody, if you are reading this, there is room for a follow-up, that would be fun.)

While it was amazing to wrap up all the books and find out what was going to happen to mankind in a world overrun with rotting dead folks walking around, I was sad to see that the story was over and done.   The best part about the series was not the walking dead, nor really the survivor’s stories, the best part of the series and especially so in this book, was the descriptive writing by David Moody, that kept me in the story in all dimensions.  There were times when he would describe the surrounding areas covered in decomposing bodies that through his words I could actually smell the rot and decay.  In a similar manner I could hear the squelching of the people walking through the liquid depths of decay through fields where the bodies were decomposing and leaving a liquid slurry of rot.  At the same time as writing about these gory details the author also placed the reader into the heads, in a very realistic manner, of each of the characters and made it easy to understand why they acted as they did.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that this guy, David Moody, is the bard of zombie apocalyptic stories.

Okay the main story of this book finally converges the two parties mentioned before and brings in a few new characters.  As soon as you open to page one you will not be able to stop until the end because of the non-stop action and will to survive.  The first couple of books told of the group that started the whole walking cadavers experience in cities, a university, an army base and finally finding an island to settle on after clearing the few dead.   Book four took us on an adventure where a small group was surviving in the city, but when the dead overpowered their home base, took off and found a group holed up in a remote resort hotel.  That book ended with the hotel being overrun by the zom…oh wait…walking cadavers.

“Aftermath” takes us first to one of the characters from the hotel finding a small group of people surviving in a castle where the bodies cannot get inside.  When the winter sets in and the dead are frozen the group heads back to the hotel and finds the few survivors and brings them back to the castle.  In this castle there is a bit of a rift between 2 men who want to lead, one says they should plan for the future, while the other says no need to plan, just wait out the bodies.   When they make a trip to raid a town of food and supplies, one man, Harte, distracts the unfrozen dead so the raiding party can get back to the castle.

Now it’s time to bring in the folks that are on the island.  If you remember they have a helicopter and are still using it to fly to the mainland for the occasional supply run.  This time they fly to the mainland to find boats for future trips.  They fly into the same city where Harte distracted the dead, and find Harte still alive.  Harte tells them of the survivors in the castle and with the idea of adding more to the population of the island a few fly to the castle to bring the survivors to the island.

The leaders of the castle are split as to whether they should stay or go and a schism develops which further develops into a small war between the islanders and the castle survivors.  The outcome is a long battle for the survival of the human species.

While the zombies don’t eat flesh, this is definitely a book and series that any zombie lover should add to their library.

WE’RE ALIVE: SEASON 2
Written by Kc Wayland
created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland
Multi-cast performance
Published by Blackstone Audio
Approx 14 hours

Wow, I couldn’t wait to get to the next season of “We’re Alive,” and this second season is just as good as the first, maybe better.  First of all let me recap a little.

“We’re Alive” is a podcast audio drama about a zombie apocalypse.  The story was written by Kc Wayland who took a hiatus from his film studies at Chapman University, to enlist in the US Army shortly after 9/11.  While in the Army he trained as a broadcast specialist.  Shortly after training he returned to Chapman to continue his education but halfway through the first semester back he was deployed to Iraq.  He did manage to make it back from the deployment and finish his education.  I mention this because, in the series “We’re Alive, three of the main characters are active duty military and a fourth is an old marine.  Wayland is able to create actions and dialog for these characters with such realism, that you know he’s pulling from his experiences in Iraq.

The main idea behind “We’re Alive” is that something has created zombies and the survivors must fight some way every day for their survival.  The three active duty soldiers realize that in order to survive they must create a base.  The officer in the group has a girlfriend who lives in a 14 story apartment building and they decide that is the place to make as a safe zone, or rather a base.  In season one survivors come to the “tower” and set up residence in the apartments that are now empty thanks to whatever has turned the people into the walking dead.  Also in Season one the survivors in the tower learn that they not only have to survive a world of flesh eating zombies, but also other humans.  A prison which held some of the most dangerous criminals has been opened and the inmates avoid being turned and take over a mall and set up their base there.  When the tower survivors need fuel for their generators, they go to an old pumping station and take a tanker filled with diesel.  The “mallers” as they become to be know, consider the pumping station theirs and soon a war between the two sets of survivors is waged.

At the end of season one the tower survivors have managed to fight off the mallers but their tower is on fire and the zombies are trying to get in.  That’s where we begin in Season 2 of “We’re Alive.

After a lot of work and sacrificing their water supply the tower survivors manage to save the building.  Soon some of the survivors come to the conclusion that the tower is no longer safe.  Some want to stay and fortify but some want to leave, but to leave some things need to happen.  First medical experts are needed.   Two of the soldiers are injured, one, Saul, has a bullet wound that because of only having the most basic of supplies available is not healing well.  Same goes for the other soldier whose broken arm is not healing.  Now the group is run by Burt, the old marine and while he keeps the group together he does it only barely.  One group heads out to find a medical expert, and other go out to find food, water and ammunition.

The group heading for medical experts is led by Michael, the soldier with the broken arm and former leader of the survivors.  Michael and his group discover that there are different types of zombies and encounter a couple different types.

On this I have to speak about this concept of different types of zombies.  There is a video game that is hugely popular called “Left 4 Dead,” in which a group of survivors perform missions and have to fight the various types of zombies.  It’s interesting to note that some of the types encountered in that game closely resemble the types mentioned in this story.  I am by no means saying this is a negative thing, in fact, quite the opposite.  This adds a whole new layer in the story possibilities and that is what makes the game popular.  It was just nice that I could relate the two and almost picture them in the same alternate world.  Basically the battle plans have to change when you know the enemy is not just a mindless brain-eater, but rather, they each have different strengths and weaknesses, keeping the story more than interesting.

Back to the story, Michael and his group discover a rescue center turned into a survivor camp where they have it all going on and it looks like it is to good to be true, and, spoiler alert, it is.  This group has a doctor and Michael will do anything to get help to his friends back at the tower.

Another side mission is that a couple of the survivors are pilots and soon the search for helicopters begin so they can evacuate the tower and find a safer place, but not before the Mallers threaten again.

“We’re Alive: Season 2” carries on with the superb audio production.  The sound effects are so real that there were times when driving in Hummers I felt my little compact car was a Hummer and I wanted to go off-road while listening on my commute to and from work.  The acting is superb as well as the dialog.  The dialog is very real, and very engaging.  If you are looking for an audio adventure, go on this one.  If you are a zombie fan make sure you don’t overlook this audio performance.

“We’re Alive: A Story of Survival” (The First Season)
Written by Kc Wayland
Multi-cast audio drama
Produced by  Modern Myth Productions, LLC
Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc (2011)
Approx. 10.5 hours

If you are a regular reader of my postings then you already know I’m a huge fan of all things zombie.  What attracts me the most to any zombie story is not necessarily the gore and horror of the zombies but rather the stories of the post-apocalyptic survivors.   I guess really you could say I’m a fan of post-apocalyptic tales, but throw in some zombies and the horror of a body rotting but still living and possibly wanting to eat your brain, and you’ve got some fun.  I think that’s what I liked most about this story is that it focuses mainly on the survival of a few people and what they do to survive.  Sure the author adds his own twists to the flesh eating undead, but the main focus of this audio drama is the survival and relationships of people after the world is nearly wiped out.

This story was originally released as a podcast and when I found out (sometime last summer) they had already started podcasting the second season.  I knew I wasn’t going to start in the middle so I downloaded the entire season to my iPod.  Well here’s where my frustration came in.  I don’t know if it is something that is eluding me or what, but I cannot, for the life (or undead) of me get my iPod to play podcasts in order from start to finish, instead it wants to play the newest release first.  So what ends up happening is something like chapter 8 first then chapter 7  and playing in reverse order.  I could play each chapter one at a time but when listening I usually don’t have my hands free to constantly click the iPod.  So after listening to the first chapter of the Podcast, I was annoyed so much I deleted the entire 2 seasons from my iPod.  I was mad about this because judging from the first chapter the series was going to be phenomenal.    Then just around last Thanksgiving I found out that Blackstone audio was releasing this series in an audiobook format.  I shouted for joy, and could finally listen to the rest of the story.

I wish I didn’t have to wait, but I will say the wait was worth it, for several reasons.  First off the production value of this audio drama is through the roof.  While this story could be listened to through a car stereo, headphones, a small set of speakers connected to whatever device or even a full blown stereo every detail can be heard.  I did listen through all of the mentioned devices not just to test this out but because I couldn’t stop listening and no matter where I was if I could hook up my iPod I did.   I’ll start off with the music;  the placement of the music between scenes and at the end of chapters is perfect.   All of the music perfectly reflects the mood of the moment.

Now to talk about the sound effects.  There are numerous effects needed for this audio drama, first of all you’ve got gunshots, and the folks behind the production didn’t use simple gunshot sounds, rather they went all out.  Each character that uses guns, use different guns, you’ve got Burt with his gun “Shirley” which the character Saul calls his hand cannon, and each time Burt fires that gun you know it’s his gun.  The army guys in the story use a variety of weapons from 9mm hand guns to m-16s and more and each shot sounds like the guns should sound, there are several other weapons used and even the shotgun sounds like a shotgun.  I’m sure that Kc Wayland’s military experience was what made this production use this attention to detail in the drama.  Another aspect are the zombies, there seem to be different types of zombies (I’ll talk more on this later in this review) and each one makes a specific sound and the production quality stays on that same attention to detail when discriminating between each type.  Finally the vehicles used even have their realistic sounds.  When they take a Prius for a drive, it sounds like a Prius.  But I have to say the most fun was when I was listening in my car in the beginning of the story and the three army soldiers are driving a hummer to get to safety, the sound was awesome, I felt I was riding in a hummer with them, it was that realistic.   Based on the sound effects alone this drama was a winner with me, but there’s more, oh so much more.

Part of that “so much more” is the writing.  Kc Wayland knows how to not only tell a story but to tell a story with real people.  Every piece of dialogue or narration is completely realistic.  The characters are consistent.  One thing I’ve often complained about when watching any zombie movie or even sometimes in a zombie book, is that all of a sudden everyone becomes the expert marksman and is able to make the headshot or that all of a sudden everyone knows what created the zombies and knows how to combat the virus, curse or whatever.  This just makes the movie or book less interesting because it is less believable.  I know, I know, you’re saying, but how can zombies really be believable?   Well maybe they can’t but when a writer, like Wayland, can make the people and the situations believable, that whole zombie thing seems like it is a real occurrence.  That’s exactly what goes on here, everyone is fighting for survival, there are a very few that are expert marksmen, and even though the ones that are experts train the normal civilians, they don’t all become experts.   Not only that aspect but no one in this story (at least not in season one) have any idea of what happened other than dead are rising up and chomping down on the living, and they don’t waste their time with trying to figure out how, they are trying to live and keep living.

As for the gist of the story, one morning while Army Reserve soldier Michael Cross is getting ready to take a test in his everyday normalcy of college life,  an explosion is felt in the distance, Michael leaves class, under threat that test retakes will not be offered, and finds that mobs are rioting and attacking.  Michael’s reserve unit is immediately called in to the base and he heads to the base to find out what is going on.  Upon arrival he meets up with Saul a former Mountaineering Division soldier and Angel a newbie Officer, they get into the armory to prepare for what looks like mere rioting and when the armory alarm goes off the mass of zombies which include their commanding officer attacks.  The escape in a humvee from the motorpool and decide to go to Angel’s girlfriend’s apartment building, first to check on her and second because the place would make a good securable base.

On the way they find a couple of survivors and then upon arrival the building’s maintenance man is on scene and trying to get the power back on in the building while fighting off a few zombies.  After clearing out each floor of the 15 floor apartment building they arrive at the top floor to find the building’s owner, Bill, barricaded in and shooting at anything that moves, after not able to reason with him they leave him be.  One of the rescued survivors makes a sign that reads “We’re Alive,” and soon more survivors arrive.

After setting up a small community they decide to send a party out for supplies, what they discover in the world outside is not too friendly.  Zombies storing the living for food and worse yet a group of survivors from a prison holed up in a mall ready to fight for turf.

The survival story continues with day to day living and excursions out to try and find out what can be done about the zombies.   They soon find that the undead may not be the worst of their problems, when the “mallers” decide to invade the apartment building.

This story is phenomenal and every aspect is done right, from the production to the writing, especially when some chapters are told from different survivors’ perspectives.  Get this audio drama now and get hooked.  I’m ready to start Season two now.

“The Cay” by Theodore Taylor

“The Cay”
by Theodore Taylor
Read by Michael Boatman
Published by Listening Library (2006)
2 hours and 58 minutes

How many of you out there have read a Young Adult book?  Hopefully many, but for those of you who haven’t, I hope I can get you started in a new direction.  Young Adult literature are books that are aimed at the ages of 12-18.   These books run the gamut of genres and can be some very interesting reading.  Sure they are written for “the kids” but we adults can thoroughly enjoy them as well.  Take for example the “Eragon” series or the Harry Potter series, many adults found hours of enjoyment in those books, and there are lots more where those came from.

A couple of summers ago I was introduced via an online community the group Audiobook Sync.  Each summer they have pair up  YA (Young Adult) audiobooks with a similar theme, so each week in the summer kids & adults can download 2 audiobooks for free.  Last summer I downloaded every week’s pairing and even though it has taken me until now to get to some, I love these books.  This book, “The Cay” was teamed up with “Storm Runners.” I haven’t listened to “Storm Runners,” yet but if this book is any sign, it should be fun.

“The Cay” takes place during World War II but is not a war story, rather this is one of survival and friendship.  When WWII breaks out Phillip Enright and his family are living on the island of Curacao.  Phillip’s father was brought in from the states to help build oil refineries for the Island.  The Germans send submarines to the island to prevent the refining process so the non-axis countries cannot have the fuel.  When the island becomes unsafe Phillip and his mother board a boat, the S.S. Hato, to Virginia.  The ship is torpedoed and Philip is separated from his mother.  He finds himself on a raft with an old West Indian man, Timothy, from the boat and a cat named Stew. Phillip has been warned by his mother about black people, “They are different, and they live differently,” and is wary of Timothy.  Timothy rescues Phillip but during the boat attack Phillip was hit in the head and after a couple of days becomes blind.

Phillip becomes extra dependent on Timothy because of the blindness.  Soon the odd trio arrive at a cay, a small island with no fresh water, and begin setting up camp for survival.  The two characters learn to overcome their disdain for one another, and develop strong bonds of friendship by the end of the novel. The two characters learn to overcome their disdain for one another, and develop strong bonds of friendship. Timothy teaches Phillip how to do many survival skills, such as weaving sleeping mats, building ways to catch fresh water and ways to fish, all while overcoming Phillip’s blindness.  The trio overcomes many obstacles until a hurricane blows in and they must rush to tie everything down, including themselves.  During the storm they lose their shelter, also sometime during the storm Timothy, who is somewhere near 80 years old, dies, leaving Phillip to fend for himself,  Phillip soon learns why Timothy did the things he did, he was preparing Phillip to survive alone.

This story was one of those filled with every emotion from anger, anxiety to love and friendship and will keep you listening until the very end.  Michael Boatman does a superb job of voicing this book, and captures the accents and emotions of both of the characters perfectly.

Podcast (to listen to review of audio book click here)

“Dog Blood” A Novel
by David Moody
Published 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books

In this book David Moody has created a thrilling joyride through an apocalyptic world of zombies, but without an apocalypse or zombies.  This may need some further explanation, so bear with me.  First of all this novel, “Dog Blood” is the sequel to Moody’s previous novel, “Hater.”  In “Hater” the world changed.  Many people suddenly began killing other people, it was soon discovered that a percentage of the population was changing int what was being labeled as Haters.

The Haters would kill for no reason using only their bare hands in most cases.  The book “Hater” followed Danny McCoyne as he tried everything he could to protect his family, but near the end of the book Danny, became a Hater.  The change in him was sudden as if a switch was thrown. Once he had changed he immediately felt the urge to destroy the Unchanged.  One of the Unchanged was his father-in-law.  When his wife witnessed this she knew he had become a Hater.  As she gathered the children to make their escape Danny looked into the eyes of his 5 year old daughter and knew she was like him, but by then he was incapacitated and could do nothing.   This left the novel “Hater” with either the most thrilling ending ever or a serious hint at a sequel.

As it turns out David Moody has written this novel, “Dog Blood” and continues the story with such a a delivery that you get tired as if YOU are running around and trying to survive.  The story creates such a unique insight into the world of Haters and Unchanged, that not only do you read about the battles, the survival, the lack of governmental control but Mood writes in such a fashion you feel as if you are part of the story.

In “Dog Blood,” Danny McCoyne continues the bloody kills to destroy the Unchanged but this time he is also looking for his five year-old daughter, Ellis.  Danny makes his way back to the city from which we was taken to where his wife and daughter could be hiding/surviving.  Danny was taken to a camp where the Haters where being mass slaughtered not unlike the German concentration camps of World War II.   After escaping Danny learns of the Haters, led by a former politician, grouping to form an army to destroy the Unchanged.  The biggest obstacle in this is that as a Hater organization is hard to come by because all killing is done by instinct, not unlike a zombie horde.  This is where the zombie aspect comes in, the Haters act as vicious as any zombie from any zombie movie or story, but they can think and they don’t eat their victims, well, not always.

Moody also takes us through the lives of the Unchanged by jumping into the story of Mark Tillotsen as he helps the military to scout for food and survivors in the area.  Mark gets extra rations for this volunteer work, which he needs because he has recently taken in a family member and his wife is pregnant.

Survival, hordes of violent attackers, and the possible end of the world, “Dog Blood” takes up where “Hater” left off and I will warn you the ending keeps you questioning.  I will warn you make sure you allow extra reading time when you approach the end of the book, the last few chapters are so exciting you CANNOT put the book down.  You won’t want to put the book down at all once you start.

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