Saturday, December 11, 2010

Zombies:The Walking Dead

As the title suggests, the theme for tonight is zombies. The earliest memory I have of zombies is this old movie from 1993 called My Boyfriend's Back. I didn't revisit the zombie sub-genre until later with Shaun of the Dead.

In terms of novels, it started with The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore: Put plainly, the series is about Rick Grimes waking up in the hospital alone from a coma to find that the world he left isn't the same one he's returned to. Something happened and now the Dead are walking. The series is about the events after Rick wakes up, the survivors he meets and his survival in a world where the Living is scarce.

What I really love about this series of graphic novels can be found in the introduction written by Robert Kirkman himself. While zombies are in the novel and part of the story, the main focus of the series is the human characters that we meet - the living and survivors. Who they are, their reactions, their decisions and what they become. The human condition is at its core and has been the subject of literature for so long (example: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad) and I don't think it will ever be a boring subject because it continually reinvents itself.

Another point to be made about The Walking Dead series is the art. It's so well done and strong and it compliments the story perfectly. The high school art nerd in me just giggles giddily over it. Oh Rick Grimes, your chiseled jaw is appreciated.

The graphic novel series isn't finished but instead ongoing. Let's enjoy it while we can shall we?

The Walking Dead was also adapted for television recently by AMC (the guys/ladies who brought you Mad Men). I actually rushed home from work that Sunday night of October 31st just to watch it and I wasn't disappointed. I love it just as much as I love the graphic novels. The biggest complaint I've seen so far is that it's a slow moving show and that it needs more zombie action. I think in terms of adaptation, the tv series is trying to stay true to the graphic novels' spirit by focusing it more on the interactions and lives of the human survivors. People see zombies and they think it's going to be a gore fest and when they don't get what they want/expect, they're disappointed. There's more to The Walking Dead than that. I think people just need to shelve their expectations and be a lot more open minded about it.

The series just ended it's first season last weekend and will probably return next year around Halloween. That's, at least, what AMC seems to have promised its audience.

The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks: A survival guide for a zombie apocalypse that outlines almost all the possible human and zombie encounters. Words of wisdom that will keep you alive while the undead roam the streets of your neighborhood. "Use your head; cut off theirs."

World War Z by Max Brooks: A more serious turn this time around, this novel acts as a recorded future history of a zombie apocalypse. The facets of this new future is told through several different first-person accounts. People from all walks of life and from different countries sharing their stories and experiences. "Most people don't believe something can happen until it already has. That's not stupidity or weakness, that's just human nature."

So the first of Max Brooks' novels is a parody and a survival guide against zombies. A lot of fun to read and I couldn't stop laughing as I read it. Truly a good novel. The humor is spot on and it's something you'd love to read right after watching Shaun of the Dead for the thousandth time.

The second World War Z is a lot more serious. A fictional history of a zombie apocalypse told through the experiences of various characters. I really enjoyed it but I know not everyone will. It reads a bit like a literary history text and not everyone enjoys that. I still say take it out from the library and give it a try if you're not sure about it.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: Mary's life is governed by simple rules. Listen to the Sisterhood and be careful around the fence at the edge of the village. Beyond that fence protecting the village, the Unconsecrated roam the Forest of Hands of Teeth. But the secrets Mary learns makes her question both rules. Soon chaos engulfs her village when the fence is breached and Mary must decide what to accept and what to fight for.

This novel is the first in a series which is followed by The Dead Tossed Waves (out now) and The Dark and Hollow Places(out spring 2011). This book reminds me greatly of M. Night Shamalan's 'The Village' film because it's about a closed community with an enemy on the outside of its walls. In this novel it's the living dead that roams the forest beyond the fences of the village. The relationships in this book are complicated and intense, which I enjoyed. And I also liked the religious aspect that got thrown into the mix with the Sisterhood and how the people in Mary's village allowed themselves to be controlled by it in order to survive. Overall, a superb book with good descriptions and interesting characters. Thought the novel as a whole flowed really well.

I watched a special on Halloween night all about zombies (in which various authors and filmmakers involved in the genre were featured including Max Brooks) and the one thing that stayed with me is the suggestion that the interest in zombies stems from the belief that everyone has a rotten and dark side. This malevolent nature finds a physical representation in the zombie.

Just some food for thought.

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