“Autumn” by David Moody

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"Autumn" cover

Cover art by Lisa Marie Pompilio from a photo by Jake Garn

“Autumn” by David Moody, 2010

Finished September 24, 2012

There is some really excellent fiction that gets its start online. It seems to be a great way for authors to build an audience, find their voice, and get the support they need to get published (and paid!). I think this is wonderful. One of my favourite books, “John Dies at the End” by David Wong, has such a history. It is an approach that works well in genre fiction. Well, maybe it works well in mysteries and romances and stuff like that too, but I really don’t have any interest in those sorts of stories. Unless there are monsters and blood and the like. Scratch that, I’ve tried reading urban fantasies that combine these genres. I have developed a quiet hatred for this approach. Not my cup of tea. Anyways, the blurb on the back of this book says that David Moody “used to give his books away for free.” Happily, it seems he is now getting paid for them, and has at least two successful horror series out there in the world and in bookstores.

“Autumn” is book 1 of his zombie apocalypse series. His other series seems to be about an apocalypse of hate, so already I like him. Sadly, I found this book to be a bit boring and, at times, frustrating. The setting is the U.K., which is a nice change from the overwhelming monopoly the Americans have on the zombie-induced end of the world. The apocalypse hits hard and fast, and David takes you straight in to it, no messing around.

A virus is spreading so rapidly and kills so quickly that pretty much everyone is dead, at least in this little corner of the world, within a couple of hours. There are no ill survivors that recover. You are either totally immune or you are dead in seconds. And those that survive are shell-shocked, to say the least. My main complaint here is that it is over too quick. One of my favourite things about apocalyptic books (and I love them way more than is probably healthy) is the breakdown of society and the characters’ struggle to find their place, to adapt. In this, there is no breakdown. Everything is just done and over, and we are left with a few survivors standing in corpse-filled streets, so stunned that they can’t cope. They congregate in a dilapidated community centre, barely able to function. Someone makes soup. No one really talks. And then, a small percentage of the dead get up and start to move around.

At first the reanimated dead are totally mindless. If they walk into a wall, they just stop. Later they seem to learn how to manoeuvre. And after that, they start to attack. Before they become anything more than a creepy nuisance, however, three of the survivors decide that staying in a crummy old community centre isn’t how they want to spend their time. The others seem to find this infuriating, and send them on their way with threats that they will never be allowed back. With a whole world full of empty homes, buildings, grocery stores, etc., and no known threat (at that point), I am not sure why one would choose to stay in a place like that. Thousands of putrefying corpses lying and walking around would send me out into the countryside post haste. And that is where our crew go.

They find a farmhouse, with a generator, which they stock with supplies. They even find a shotgun. Unfortunately, this is also the time that they learn that the dead are now drawn to noise, and they aren’t passive, harmless creatures anymore. And if enough zombies show up, they can make enough noise in the silenced world to continue drawing more and more dead. A note on the dead: They don’t try to eat you, but they will hit and tear at you. If you imitate them you can pass through them fairly effectively. They continue to rot but this does not affect their locomotion, eyesight, or hearing (standard stuff in the genre).

I got a bit frustrated by a few things in regards to the zombies. Firstly, no one even speculates as to what killed everyone and then reanimated some of them. No one asks why they lived, or why only a few of the dead rose. No one wonders why the zombies seemed to get more intelligent even as they continued to rot. No one decides that they should arm themselves, or tries the old “destroy the brain” technique. In this world where no one seems familiar with the concept of zombies they seem to lack any curiousity. There is very little discussion about anything, really. Our trusty band of one girl and two guys just prefer to hunker down, maybe watch a few dvd’s. No one even has sex, or discusses sex. Maybe it’s a British thing. They do cry quite a bit.

So, we are left with watching them have a couple of excursions that don’t go so well. Once the zombies get mean they build a barrier. And of course, this doesn’t keep them out for long. The premise is good, and the writing is ok, but man the characters are uninteresting and largely interchangeable. I had to keep checking the front of the book to keep track of who was who. And there were only three of them! I’ll probably track down the sequels, but I have no burning need to read them. All in all a rather blah apocalypse, sadly.

 

“The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” by Christopher Moore

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"The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove" cover

Cover art by Ruth Marten

“The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” by Christopher Moore, 1999

Finished September 13, 2012

This one was recommended to me by a new friend that I met on a film set. We had HOURS to kill and I think it is safe to say we were both thrilled to find a like-minded nerd to hang out with. She raved about this book, and although I have long been aware of Christopher Moore I had never gotten around to reading him. This sounded like a good place to start. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as my friend did. I mean, there is nothing wrong with it; it has its moments and there is no question it is original; but I didn’t find it terribly funny.

The setting is Pine Cove, California, and I understand Moore has used this fictional town a few times. There is some reference to earlier weird happenings that some of the minor characters lived through. We begin with local constable and pothead Theophilus Crowe getting called out to deal with a suicide, that of obsessive-compulsive wife and mother Bess Leander. When the town’s psychiatrist Valerie Riordan learns about it, she is overcome with guilt. She decides to stop taking the easy, drug-focused route to treat her patients, and unbeknownst to everyone but the pharmacist (also a patient of hers) she replaces their meds with placebos.

Several other things come together at this point, most notably the arrival of a large sea monster/dragon. A bluesman by the name of Catfish Jefferson pulls into town around the same time and gets a steady gig at the Head of the Slug bar. He has his own link to the monster, which is the story behind how he got his name. Blues turn out to be popular in Pine Cove now that everyone is suddenly off their antidepressants.

We also meet Molly Michon, a former B-movie queen and current local oddball. She has a habit of practicing her swordwork in her old costume, which happens to be a fur bikini. She is the second person to encounter the monster, after the fuel-truck driver who is burned to a cinder when the creature tries to mate with his truck. The sea beast is trapped on land as he heals from his burns, and he and Molly form…an attachment. She has anger management issues so she has few compunctions about feeding him a few people she is not fond of.

The monster has the ability to affect people’s moods, which leads to unusual amounts of amourous behaviour in Pine Cove. Theo finds he is no longer dependant on pot, which ruled his life and kept him in thrall to the evil Sheriff Burton. Burton has been running a meth lab on farmland near Theo’s home, and Theo is too much of a cowardly junkie to even want to know what’s going on. But his new found freedom from his addiction, along with his interest in the monster and in Molly, puts him right in the middle of the action.

There are many minor characters and they all have their own odd stories, so it is an enjoyable enough read. But I didn’t find it moved me or really grabbed my attention. I’ll give Moore another shot at some point, I’m sure. I don’t NOT recommend this book, especially if you want something a bit mindless to pass the time, but there is better stuff out there, in my opinion.