Monday, October 16, 2006

"World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War" and "The Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks

I received "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War" and its predecessor "The Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft)as belated birthday presents recently. The former is an oral history in the models of Studs Terkel's numerous books and Sir General John Hackett's "The Third World War" and the latter is a straight up guide on how to survive the zombie apocalypse.

"World War Z" is a blast. Through a series of interviews with a cast of character ranging from Chinese public health officials to con men, politicians and soldiers, Brooks creates a vivid picture of the emergence, spread and onslaught of zombies on the entire world. His logic of how a virus based zombie apocalypse would spread is ingenious and actually logical. The depiction of how governments would respond is also evilly logical and something I found cold enough to be believable.

"The Zombie Survival Guide" on the other hand is a bit of a bust. It's too dry and too long to really be any fun. There is a section at the end detailing zombie outbreaks over the last four millenia that's fun but it's not enough to salvage the rest of the book's tedium.

"Wizardry & Wild Romance" - Michael Moorcock

I just received and read "Wizardry & Wild Romance" by Michael Moorcock. I have a decent little collection of non-fiction books about fantasy and swords & sorcery literature so I assumed anything by Mooorcock would be a welcome addition. As a young man he revolutionized the field with the creation of the brooding heroes Elric of Melnibone, Corum of the Silver Hand and Dorian Hawkmoon. As editor of New Worlds he also helped revolutionize the entire field of science fiction and fantasy. I guess I wasn't wrong but I was disappointed.

What purports to be a reasonable survey and critique of the field of fantasy fiction is instead the ultra-cranky rantings of a bitter old man. It's not that his attacks on Tolkien, Lewis and several other writers of the old guard are totally off base but they often seem over the top to no real effect.

If there's any hint of conventional morality, un-skeptical characters or actual heroism, Moorcock seems automatically down on a book. There's a place for his rejection of tradition in fantasy but of course tradition shouldn't be rejected just because it doesn't mesh with someone's modern beliefs.

It's an interesting overview by an important writer but it's not essential. It's a shame.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"Velocity" - Dean R. Koontz

So I succumbed and bought "Velocity" the other day. I'd been checking it out since its initial publication last year because of its cool seeming setup. A seemingly mild mannered and disinterested with life bartender leaves work one evening to find a note under his car's windshieldwiper. It lets him know that if he involves the police a elderly woman involved in charity work will be murdered and if he doesn't a pretty, young school teacher will be killed. Things only intensify from there.

I tend to avoid Dean Koontz because my few interactions with him in the past have been amiable. He tends to zoom right up at you with a terrific concept, being you along at break neck pace and then crap all over you with a short and curt ending. I hoped things would be different. Alack, alas, they were not.

Look, he's a gifted writer of sharp prose and ideas at times. The main character is revealed slowly and with precision and it's great. Unfortunately the end is tossed off in a couple of pages. If you can get it cheap or from the library, give it it a shot. He reads super (super) fast. If you're faced with having to pay full cover, hold off. If you're lucky you might find a remaindered hardcover.