James Knapp is my guest today, with a special post on one of my favourite topics – zombies! The Silent Army, the second book in his Revivors series is a zombie thriller with a very different take on zombies. It released earlier this month (Oct 5) and is the sequel to State of Decay (Feb).
These are not your shambling flesh-eating zombies and I think it will appeal to even those readers that have stayed clear of zombie novels. Check out the book synopsis below and see if you don’t agree.
Would you allow the military to reanimate your corpse, knowing it would commit atrocities, if it meant avoiding service in a brutal war during your lifetime?Read a sample chapter of State of Decay. You can also visit James Knapp’s blog or the Revivors website.
What if your level of citizenship depended on your answer? To gain a chance at a better life, or feed your family, which would you choose then? Or would you choose neither, and accept a life of hardship and poverty?
What if you came face to face with your own death, and realized too late you had made the wrong decision?
We are also sponsoring a knock ‘em dead giveaway. Five different commenters will receive their choice of a signed copy of State of Decay or a signed copy of The Silent Army. Entry details are at the end of the post.
James will be dropping buy to respond to reader comments and questions so please welcome him and feel free to ask him about his books and writing over and about the contest questions.
So on with brains… I mean James. Welcome!
The Enduring Popularity of Zombies
The first zombie movie I ever saw was Day of the Dead back when I was in High School, and despite some serious scenery chewing (Captain Rhodes is pegged at 11, though to be fair he'd lost his mind by then) it immediately struck the nerve in me that the genre in general has struck in so many others. At the time, I went out and spent some time playing catch-up starting with more Romero (Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead), then just *more*, making my way through the Return of the Living Dead series along with a host of others (I even watched Dead Heat)...I've watched a lot of zombie flicks since then - zombie movies are just fun and the old school ones are especially fun.
The people trapped inside that disappearing world were coming to terms with the fact that the war they were fighting had been utterly lost, and as resources dwindled, and the survival of the human race began looking more and more like a pipe dream, we watched to see how the last vestiges of humanity unraveled...would they fight for survival to the very end even if it meant fighting each other? Or would they check out, huddle up, and wait to die together? Zombie stories aren't typically about zombies per se...they're really about humans being threatened by zombies.
If they're not individually interesting, though, then why do they endure?
I think it boils down to a few things; fear of being eaten (which I think is probably wired in our DNA somewhere from all those years when we *did* get eaten) combined with the cannibalism taboo, their inhuman persistence (they usually don't move fast, but they never stop coming), the fear of something beyond our control wiping us out (the same vibe as nuclear apocalypse or plague), and the fear of losing our identities. Their lack of individual personality is actually what makes them scary, since it presents the possibility you might suffer a fate worse than being eaten, and actually become one of them.
You take those things together and they're the perfect storm of fears; something beyond our control has toppled society, taking with it our government, our laws, and the forces that once protected us. On our own, we are faced with a cannibalistic horde that continually adds to its numbers and never stops looking for you. You will eventually run out of food, water, or energy but they will not, and when they find you, they will eat you alive and screaming. Even if you do manage to escape the assault, you will likely be infected. Then it will only be a matter of time before you lose your mind, forget who you are, and join the mindless horde to stalk and eat those who were just like you. It's a nightmare scenario, a particularly hellish form of plague that actually seeks you out no matter where you hide, and only ends when the planet is dead and everything left to rot.
Uninteresting? I agree with Mister Ebert on many things film-related, but not that. Different strokes, I guess. I think, though, that if State of Decay were ever made into a film that I could buck that trend for him. In the Revivors series the reanimated dead not only walk but talk as well, and in some cases their motivations are just as complex as any human’s.
I play around with the traditional zombie tropes a lot with State of Decay and The Silent Army... enough so that I would hesitate to really call it a zombie story, although the reanimated dead are a key component of it. My zombies (which I call 'revivors') are reanimated using biotechnology, and they retain much of their intelligence and motor functions. How much of their identity they retain is a subject of debate in their world. They are reanimated on purpose, and those who are reanimated are (usually) volunteers, doing so to gain benefits in life while their revivor is shipped off to war after death. They are supposed to only be deployed overseas, far away, but circulate underground on the black market because of their value in the illegal labor and sex trade. It's less of a 'trapped in a box' story and more of a science-fiction thriller but I think my love of the zombie genre shines through regardless.
And why not mix things up a little? The zombie has been around for a long time... I liked that the Dawn of the Dead remake sped up the zombies, it doesn't mean the end of the 'old' zombie, it's just a new way to tell the tale.
Telling stories in new ways is one of the reasons *why* they endure. Nosferatu looked like bat-boy, and now vampires usually look like they all stepped out of cologne ads. If there had been an internet back then, there would have been newsgroups devoted to why the addition of hair and fang spacing was all wrong, but tropes evolve. Yesterday zombies were slow and rotting, today they're fast, at one point they were supernatural, then the product of a virus... putting a new spin on an old idea keeps it fresh. I mean, if Daybreakers had been told from a strictly human point of view, it would have almost been a zombie vampire movie (if you want to see a (in my opinion much better) modern telling of vampire/human society integration, check out the 1998 British miniseries ‘Ultraviolet’).
Has anyone told a zombie vampire werewolf story yet?
- Five (5) signed copies to be awarded to commenters drawn at random. Winner may choose either State of Decay or The Silent Army.
- To enter tell us what type of zombies you prefer, traditional or re-imagined? What’s your favourite zombie film (if you have one). Or ask James a question!
- Entries open to residents of US and Canada.
- Entries must be received by midnight (EST) on November 4.
- Ensure you leave a way for me to contact you.
- If you can (not a requirement), share the link of the interview/giveaway on your favourite social media website or blog.