1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I've been on a real indie book bender lately. There's something refreshing about small press novels that I really enjoy, be it the DIY spirit of the venture in general or the groundbreaking ideas that the books themselves contain. I think one of the things that grabs me the most about the small press world is the sheer amount of heart and dedication that go into the production, a feeling that's miles and miles away from the cold, corporate feel that sometimes radiates from Big Publishing.
Don't get me wrong, corporate entities have their place, I suppose, but small presses give me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, even when they're printing things that shouldn't generate that kind of response.
Drop Dead Gorgeous, published by Permuted Press, is one such book. I loved it, every page and every minute spent with my nose buried in it, but damn is this one of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read. I don't think I've ever read anything quite so bleak before, despite having read literally hundreds of horror novels from my teen years to this day.
DDG is, essentially, the story of a zombie outbreak in and around Belfast, Northern Ireland, but what makes it so unique (and, in my opinion, chillingly effective) is that the focus throughout remains squarely on the characters. Two high school kids, a tattooist, a radio DJ, an aging Loyalist soldier, an IRA supporter, a retired college professor, a twenty-something slacker and several others have found themselves alone, the rest of the citizenry suddenly dead for reasons unknown. People have fallen in their homes, keeled over at the wheel of their cars and dropped dead on the streets, all for little to no reason. Bodies are left to rot where they lay as the city's infrastructure shuts down, and the survivors hole up in enclaves scattered throughout the country.
Some of the bodies, however, defy the rotting process, and become more and more beautiful with each passing day...
I don't think I read the word `zombie' once during the whole novel, though I could be wrong about that. My point to this is, though, that the reanimated dead are never treated as the shamblers found so often in Romero-style zombie stories. Nor are they swift-footed zombies, tearing after human survivors while screaming and clawing at the air. They're dangerous, to be sure, and sometimes form mobs, but the reanimated women are wholly original creatures. Inside their non-living brains reside memories, albeit seemingly hidden ones, and when they return to life their former emotions come very much into play.
DDG is a very slow burn. The horror doesn't come into play for quite some time, instead focusing on the people who've found themselves thrown into chaos and the things they must do to ensure their own survival. These are people who have lost loved ones, sometimes their entire families, and must now make do with a life without camaraderie or the comforts they once took for granted. Simmons handles this heartbreakingly well. Several times I found myself feeling real pity for his characters, wanting them to somehow find their way to happiness. There were times, as well, when I almost didn't want to turn the page, knowing fully well that in horror novels those that die often outweigh those that survive to see The End.
DDG is a wild, highly emotional ride that I'm very glad to have taken. Its sequel, DOLL PARTS, is forthcoming, and I'll be picking it up the moment it hits Amazon.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Mark Louis Baumgart
- Published on Amazon.com
On June 6, 1941 we invaded Normandy; on June 5, 2005 the world ends. Musta missed it on the telly, and despite it ending in a whimper instead of a bang, I'm pretty sure something of that great a significance wouldn't have happened without me noticing. I'm sure there was significance in Simmons picking that date; it certainly wasn't because that's also my birthdate.
Anywho, Despite being young, Jimmy and Siobhan already have the demeanor of an old married couple trapped in a loveless marriage. Siobhan is depressed, and Jimmy is just a dick. They are driving down the road when Jimmy buys it, along with ninety-nine percent of the populace, including the animals, of Belfast. Unfortunately, people hate dying alone, so when Jimmy dies he manages, to Siobhan's great consternation, as he is the one driving, to take Siobhan with him. Too bad, I kinda liked her. Anyway, they drive their car into an upcoming train that is carrying teenagers Caroline "Caz" Donaldson and Tim Adamson.
We are then introduced over the next couple of chapters to three separate bunches of people. Congregating together, there are the survivors of the Belfast die out, a bunch that includes Caz, Tim, and drunken lout Sean Magee. There is also the nihilistic tattooist Star, who finds that her business has just taken a nose-dive, and who unfortunately, while looking colorful, turns out to be a rather colorless character. Belfast also gives us a seperate bunch led by the Preacher Man, a survivor who, astounded at still being alive, decides to start his own church, and preach and help other survivors.
Then there is the convoy lead by Roy Beggs and Mairead Burns who are traveling down the motorway and are about ten miles shy of Belfast. They are a couple by convenience, traveling together for safety's sake, and the trip is a contentious one, Beggs is an ex-soldier, brutal and racist, and Burns is militant IRA, and neither forgives and neither forgets, and both hate the other. They decide to camp out at an abandoned school only to find that somebody had already broke into it. Deciding to check things out Beggs and Burns find that the school's cleaner has gone to her final reward, but they also find Clare McAfee, a small child who is hiding at the school after her mother has died.
So much of the populace has died that there are barely any street gangs, the type that usually inhabit these type of novels, to worry about, so the characters feel free to freely move about, a mistake as we later learn. As the novel progresses we learn more and more about the Belfasters and their post apocalyptic existence. Then there is something that begins to puzzle some of Belfast's inhabitants, and it is the fact none of the bodies are rotting in the sun. None of the women's bodies that is, the men's get pretty ripe, but all the women's stay perfect.
The most interesting bunch though is the caravan people. The Belfasters unfortunately for the most part just exist, with some just content to sexing and drinking the novel away, although Caz and Tim develop nicely as characters. At the caravan however, things are starting to deteriorate as Beggs starts throwing his weight around, starting his own little authoritative and totalitarian cult, and Burns has just about had it, there is a death, undiscovered until too late, an attempted murder, then a mutiny as Burns decides to leave.
A street gang finally arrives on the scene at Belfast, there is a kidnapping, a rescue, Beggs arrives, and to make matters worse, the dead rise.
The trouble is that this is marketed as a zombie novel and it's not, not really. What it is, it is a novel about the immediate days following an unexplained apocalyptic event. The zombies don't even appear until near the end of the novel, in which we find that this is the first novel of a series. If you don't believe me, I think that the "Hang in there for `Drop Dead Gorgeous: Doll Parts'!" that is found in the acknowledgements is a clue.
Now this didn't really bother me, although it will bother others. In fact, although this is part of a series, the novel is pretty self-contained, and while those looking forward to some finger-licking good cannibal zombie action will probably be bored with the fairly slow moving first three quarters of this novel, I however, found it fairly interesting and I look forward to the next chapter, if there is one.
***Spoiler*** As to who the zombies are, here's a hint; it wouldn't be the first time women tried to destroy the world, check out "Xombies" by Walter Greatshell, "Ladies' Night" by Jack Ketchum or "Blood Fever" by Shelley Hyde (Kit Reed).
This novel has a great cover of the tattooed Star holding off a number of zombies with a bloody axe, and like most Permuted Press books, this is a sturdy trade paperback that would hold up to multiple re-readings, with a laminated cover that will hold up to much abuse, making it perfect for libraries if you could just get a library to stock it. I give it a four star rating because I have to, it's actually a three and a half star book, but I like these apocalyptic melodramas, others looking for fast-paced zombie action will no doubt grade it lower.