I wanted to close out my Hammer-for-October articles with The Plague of the Zombies, but hesitated because the movie isn’t easily available in North America. The Anchor Bay DVD has been out of production for more than fifteen years and used copies don’t come cheap. Then, just as I was about to scratch it off the calendar and substitute The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll or Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, the news hit — Shout! Factory will release The Plague of the Zombies to Region A Blu-ray in January. For once, I picked up on the Blu-ray release announcement before making a hasty prediction about a movie never showing up in HD and looking like a dope again. So consider this a pre-release celebration.
Anyway … Zombies! Yes, Hammer Film Productions made a zombie film. The Plague of the Zombies was released in 1966 as the second half of a double bill with Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Although the Dracula film brought Christopher Lee back to the role of the count for the first time since Dracula (1958) and was the main selling point of the double feature, The Plague of the Zombies is the more intelligent and gripping film. Dracula: Prince of Darkness is beautiful but plodding, while The Plague of the Zombies is one of the best of Hammer’s mid-‘60s pictures, with a few memorable shock scenes and underlying themes that have encouraged a range of readings.
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The First Days
TOR (335pp, $14.99, Paperback July 2011)
Reviewed by Beth Dawkins
The First Days lives up to its title. Opening with Jenni getting attacked by her own children pulls the reader right into it. Housewife Jenni witnesses her abusive husband chewing on their near infant son. Jenni flees while her older son stays behind to confront her zombie husband. By the time Katie enters the picture Jenni has barricaded herself on the porch. Katie hasn’t had the best of days. She went home to find her wife turned into a zombie, and has decided the best thing to do is to get out of town. She is trying to find her way out of the city when she comes across Jenni. Katie is there in the nick of time for Jenni, who is forced to make a mad dash for Katie’s truck. The two women form a bond with one another as they go out to rescue Jenni’s stepson, and find a safe haven in a small town to start rebuilding their lives.
This is the first installment of a trilogy, and a rerelease of an originally self-published title. The heart of the novel is about what happens to people during the zombie apocalypse. They have to come to grips with their loved ones turning into monsters, and the bleak future. The story is nothing new, yet it is done in a very compelling way. After Jenni and Katie set out to find Jenni’s stepson, they find themselves forced towards a town containing other survivors. The town of Shady Springs former construction crew has put together a perimeter fence that is keeping the zombie hordes out. It is in the town where the story slowed down. A lot of time is spent on what each character feels about certain situations, and how they come to decisions. The two lead men are introduced near the middle of the book, and once they enter the story a lot of time is spent on how each character feels. The narrative can at times slow the story down, but it is a character driven story.
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Dreadnought (Amazon, B&N)
Tor (400 pp., $14.99, 2010)
Reviewed by Andrew Zimmerman Jones
Cherie Priest returns to her “Clockwork Century” in full force in this third novel. In some ways, I would recommend that readers begin with Dreadought, even though it’s the third book in the series. Basically, the plot twist at the end of Dreadnought is the entire premise of Boneshaker, as I’ll explain later in the review. (Spoiler-ish alert!)
The book focuses on Mercy Lynch, a Confederate nurse whose husband has just died fighting for the Union. (Gotta love those border state romances!) She receives word from her father – who left her as a child – that he is dying, and he would like her to visit him in the Washington territory. That father is Jeremiah Swankhammer, who readers of Boneshaker will recognize as one of the key characters in that story.
With nothing really to keep her in Virginia, she sets off on a cross-country journey by airship and train to reach Tacoma and, ultimately, Seattle. Unfortunately, the only train that can get her from St. Louis to Tacoma is the Union steam engine Dreadnought, and the train is carrying some bizarre cargo … cargo which makes the train trip into a harrowing ride that brings Mercy and the other passengers into conflict with bushwackers, a mad scientist, and even zombies!
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