Liam is tall for his age (12) and just a wee bit beardy, so people keep assuming he's older than he is. This can be awful (teachers keep telling him he should know better, being a big lad) or cosmic (almost getting to test drive a Porche). With his regular-sized friend Florida (11), he may even end up lost (awful!) in space (cosmic!).
Why I picked it up: There are too few good science fiction books for young readers. Plus this one promised to be funny.
Why I finished it: Liam approaches the challenges of life and space the way he approaches a quest in World of Warcraft: reading a manual, gaining skills, and figuring out his opponent's weak spot. When he applies this to people, he’s compassionate and uses what he knows about what that person really wants. Pretending to be Florida's dad makes him think about what choices are enough to convince the people he meets, and he ends up figuring out a lot about why dads are important. (I got pretty weepy at some of those bits.)
I'd give it to: Diana (13), who has also had to deal with people assuming she should be mature when she's mostly just tall. She won't appreciate the parts about the sacrifices dads make until later, though. I’d also give it to Rick, because he totally will.
Also enjoy Alan Silberberg's comic treatment of Cosmic.
Over two dozen classic love songs with Zombie-appropriate titles and lyrics, including "50 Ways to Eat Your Lover", "When a Man Bites a Woman", "That'll Be The Day (When You Make Me Die)", and "Eat Caroline".
Why I picked it up: Gene handed it to me with that "trust me, I'm a librarian, I know what you need" look.
Why I finished it: Jana kept laughing as I sang snippets to her. I even got a snigger out of my wife for "You've Lost That Livin' Feeling".
I'd give it to: Jim and Corey, who first introduced me to Jonathan's Coulton's Re: Your Brains. This is also the perfect book to take to a karaoke bar and mess with people's minds, presumably before eating them.
After having sex with a drunk woman (in a turtle costume) at a party, Rex (in a dinosaur costume) and his friend Josh (in a penguin costume) go out for burgers. The penguin analyzes the subtext of old Johnny Quest cartoons as he tries to comfort his Jurassic friend. They go see the Jamming League of America, a superhero band from a parallel world.
Why I picked it up: Bizarre looking indy graphic novel I’d never heard of with a reasonable cover price.
Why I finished it: When Rex and the turtle woman are undressing and taking off their costumes:
Rex: You're really beautiful.
Woman: And you're a charming, gently kissing boy in a big, scary dinosaur costume. "Says the fast girl in the turtle get-up." I don't think either of us is fooling anybody, huh?
But Rex is serious. And he's wearing Spider-man underwear.
I'd give it to: Jennifer, whose appreciation of the weird and witty would extend to these potty-mouthed softies, despite the foul act one of them commits with a pickle. And Bill, who would initially dismiss it because everyone (except the League members) is wearing an animal costume, but would be won over by the dialogue.
PS: The book isn’t currently available through book distributors or in the Modern Mythology Press store. I found my copy at Zanadu Comics, and they said they bought it from the publisher. I hope yours can get you a copy. Or you may need to track down Eric and Dave at a comic convention.
Civilization is no more, though pockets of humanity survive in the sea of shambling zombies. Benny lives in a small village of about a thousand people. When he turns fifteen, he will be considered an adult and must find a job. He apprentices with his older brother, Tom, a humane zombie bounty hunter. He secretly considers Tom a coward, unlike Pink Eye Charlie and Motor City Hammer, two grizzled bounty hunters that look and talk like killers.
But outside the fences he learns he hasn’t been seeing his brother clearly. Tom has wicked skills with a sword, and a well-earned reputation as a tracker and sniper. Together they need to leave the village, bring in several evil bounty hunters for trial, and save a kidnapped friend from a horrifying fate at GameLand.
Why I picked it up: Gigantic zombie eye, complete with grave pallor, on the cover.
Why I finished it: The specific, clear, and unusual details of zombie behavior made this book fun. Benny and Tom take five minutes to move twenty feet because zombies are attracted to fast movements and noise -- this really made it easy to imagine their tension and racing thoughts. A scene where they walk through a forest filled with zombies tied to trees was brilliantly creepy, as was Benny running down a line of abandoned cars, fleeing a staggering horde.
I'd give it to: Dustin, who would be fascinated by the intricate traps Pink Eye Charlie leaves behind for Tom and Benny. Jenn, who would enjoy its heart and dignity, particularly in its sub-plots about family. And all the 8th grade boys at my school who would love the descriptions of bounty hunters bringing back limbless but still moving zombie torsos.
Two government agents try to eradicate zombies in the old west. Looking for silver, miners hit something bad. Then the living dead show up. Some religious people in a nearby town consider it a miracle. Others, like the Union soldiers guarding a little-used mountain pass, have a hard time understanding what’s happening.
Why I picked it up: Mark Rahner works at the Seattle Times with my friend Jonathan. After repeated attempts to get us together for dinner, Mark and I settled for a blind man-date. He gave me his comics, I tried to convince him of the power of The Blood of Heroes.
Why I finished it: High body count, lots of cursing, and gore that moves the story forward. The book also uses the living dead to comment on military stop-loss, the pro-life movement, corporate involvement in politics, and rigged elections. (Issue 7, not included in this book, is worth picking up for the way it skewers Todd and Sarah Palin.)
I'd give it to: Allen, who discovered the Walking Dead at Comic Con a few years ago, and who would appreciate that the representative of Hep Industries travels with a supply of red Bourdeaux. My friend Dave Hammergren (where are you Dave??), who watched horror movies with me in high school, would love the creepy, slow-moving zombie onslaught caused by winter weather in the last story arc of the book.
Manfried and Hegel Grossbart, murderous grave-robbing brothers, travel across 14th century Europe in search of plunder while battling the plague, demons, road bandits and more. Their journey wreaks havoc on everyone they meet. One farmer is in hot pursuit, fueled by vengeance for his family's murder and aided by a witch also wronged by the brothers. And still the Grossbarts rob, torture, and slaughter as they see fit, even finding time along the way to discuss religion, their devotion to the Virgin Mary, and the merits of eating horses.
Christopher Lane masterfully expresses the monstrous nature of the brothers but also made me laugh even when it felt like I shouldn't.
Why I picked it up: A friend suggested I give it a go because of the excessive amounts of profanity, disgusting descriptions, body fluids, grotesque creatures, and root vegetables.
Why I finished it: I was riveted by the gratuitous body count and flowing effluvia. Torture, murder, sex, vomit -- I gritted my teeth through the stomach-curdling scenes and tried not to gag while listening in traffic. But the dark humor kept me laughing (and grimacing) until the final track. The look on my face while I was driving must have been priceless. (There really are a ton of turnips, too.)
I'd give it to: My friend, Nate, who never shies away from controversial theological debates, and my husband, Carl, who insists that corpses don't smell nearly as bad as people think.
The result of a long-running debate between the editors’ blogs, both recruited authors to write stories to prove that either unicorns (Black) or zombies (Larbalestier) are better. Contributing authors include Scott Westerfeld (Larbalestier’s husband), Garth Nix, Carrie Ryan, Margo Lanagan, Meg Cabot and Kathleen Duey so the writing is suspenseful, humorous and well executed.
Why I picked it up: No words on the cover, just a cutout of a zombie, arms extended reaching toward a reading unicorn. The border illustrations show or imply bloody fight scenes between the two creatures.
Why I finished it: Each story is prefaced by an argument between the editors about why the story proves her case. (Warning: for Margo Lanagan’s “A Thousand Flowers,” read the editors’ discussion after the story because it contains a spoiler.)
And if I hadn’t finished it, I would have missed this line by Libba Bray: “What’s the difference between an undead and my last boyfriend? One is a soul-sucking beast from hell and the other is an undead.”
I'd give it to: The boy I saw waiting at guitar lessons who was embarrassed to let me see he was reading [The Zombie Handbook](http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/partner?