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Hands, Teeth, and Pitchforks

July 18, 2010

I know I’ve said it before, so I guess this makes be-five; I dig zombies.  I’m not generally a horror guy.  Never got into Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th or Halloween.  Not much of a vampires versus werewolves enthusiast.  Hauntings and demons freak me out.  But I dig zombies.

I just finished (a couple nights ago, while on vacation) Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  It’s been mentioned in my sidebar for a while and in an old post or two.  It’s YA (young adult) and very much centered in the mind of a female teen.  Had I been less motivated to get into the book, I might not have.  Why?  I’m a man in his thirties, hardly the target demographic.  Had I not met Carrie and been so impressed with her at ConCarolinas, I never would have picked the book up.

I’m glad I did.

TFHT is set well after the zombie apocalypse has occurred, so much after that the characters don’t know a life before.  Stories still exist; those paired with a pheromone-driven kind of love are the driving force behind the characters and hence the plot.  Oh, and some desperation.

I spent way more time inside the main character’s head experiencing her very narrow selection of emotions and topics.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since I do work with teen girls and they seem to have very limited catalogs as well.  It was, for lack of better terminology, a bit more “angsty” than I usually prefer.  (Is that a word?  No; no it’s not.)  This is angsty in the Twilight style.  Ooh, I just did the unthinkable, comparing a book I liked to Twilight.  Maybe I should say it’s ansty the way Twilight should have been.  The angst did drive characters to act rashly and lose focus and do things a normal person might not do, but no one ever became even temporarily stupid.  Sentimental, yes.  Paralyzed, yes.  But never stupid.  (Thank you for that, Carrie.  I get enough stupid elsewhere.)

The plot arc starts out complicated and gets much more linear in the end; again, not a complaint, just a necessity of the way it’s written.  Actions had consequences and consequences required action.  It was a plot that moved and the characters sometimes pushed the plot and other times were swept away by it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the zombies themselves.  Excellently devised and explained.  The zombies, you see, are outside the fence; people are inside.  So what do the zombies do?  Go after the fence, of course.  This leaves their fingers broken and cut and hideous.  It was a well that was visited often, but the descriptions were always graphic.  Besides, if the fingers are what penetrate into your world, that’s what you notice.  Their fingers are like sharks’ dorsal fins that way.

Will I read the sequel, The Dead-Tossed Waves?  Eventually, I suspect.  What better endorsement could there be?  I guess I could be typing furiously on Amazon to get it, but the book’s just a little too far from my zone to be that enthusiastic.  If you like zombies or teen angst, you will likely enjoy this book.  If you like both, you’ll love it.

So what did that have to do with the pitchforks in the title?  I also watched (the new version of) The Crazies.  Zombie movie?  Eh, close enough for me.  And it rocked.  A lot purer a science fiction movie than most zombie films, it was sufficiently disturbing and violent without being ridiculous.  The whole pitchfork scene was very disturbing, more from a stress and anticipation angle than anything else.  And the notion that the crazies are not undead, just…well, crazy, made the plot that much more credible.

Oh, the plot had faults, but not too many.  It might have been better if the words “stay here” had been purged from the script.  And let’s discuss the foolishness of wasting ammo.

Sufficiently scary.  I still have to take the dogs out tonight, so we’ll see how freaked out I ended up.  If there’s a human outside, I’ll surely scream like a little girl.  In my defense, I can’t see any neighbors from my house so no one should be out there.

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