Double Take Takes on Night of the Living Dead

A new company, Double Take, launched its initial products this month. They’re creating a comic universe around the mythos and plot of George A. Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. 2T simultaneously released ten issues, each the first in a new sub-series. Collectively, however, they all take place within the hours and days of the movie and within the same county with the zombie problem.

A couple of the series even use Barbara, a character from the movie. “Rise” #1 follows Barbara’s brother from his stumble in the cemetery to his grabbing his sister from the farmhouse window. While, “Soul” #1 shows the authorities shoot the last survivor through the farmhouse window and then continue their mission.

Others follow particular occupations of people around the county as the zombie apocalypse starts. Police and government officials are at the heart of “Z-Men” #1 and “Honor” #1. Medical professionals lead “Medic” #1 and “Slab” #1. A radio announcer stays on the air long after her co-workers have crossed over in the series “Remote” #1. While the employees of a grocery store seek refuge within as a horde approaches in “Dedication” #1.

I’m particularly interested to find out where the storyline of “Spring” #1 is heading. This tale weaves together a tale by a lifeguard and an unrelated story by a beach-goer [both unrelated to the present events] and snippets of a half dozen radio stations while the life-guarded family beach and adjacent nude beach turn ominous with people disappearing below the water, almost Jaws-like. . .

The writing and artwork is not consistent between the series which is both disappointing as they share one world, and to be expected since the writing and art teams are different for each series. Also, I was particularly surprised that no less than half of the series show zombies craving food-stuffs. I have never seen this in any zombie-lore before, nor do I remember that from the movie. Normally, the Romero-style zombie [as compared to the rage-virus, insomniac, and Obeah/voodoo zombies] are depicted as dead: not breathing and not digesting, just cannibalizing.

The 2nd installment of each of these series will release together in 2016.

Review: Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due

Ghost SummerGhost Summer by Tananarive Due
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This anthology of 14 short stories and a novella ranges from quite good to brilliant in its mastery of horror, and speculative apocalyptic fiction with a few historical fictions thrown into the mix. Most of the tales stand completely independent of each other, but three form an apocalyptic trilogy [“Removal Order”, “Herd Immunity” and “Carriers”] and three others form a supernatural triptych in and around swampy Gracetown, FL [“The Lake”, “Summer” and novella “Ghost Summer”].

I had four favorites receiving top ratings in my reviews of each separate story. Firstly, the novella “Ghost Summer” creates a world on multiple timelines with a supernatural horror bridging the two. More of the stories would have benefitted from longer treatment such as this.

“Herd Immunity”, the second in the apocalyptic trilogy was also very strong in its depiction of human motivation against a backdrop of pandemic and panic. Two other apocalyptic stories were independent of all others in the collection. “Patient Zero” provides the unique perspective of someone sheltered from a pandemic infiltrating the world around them. While “Danger Word”, written with Due’s husband Steven Barnes, invented a new type of rage zombie with demonic scheming. It brings a entirely new meaning to the term Horror. Apparently, this tale spawned a novel . . .

I’ve reviewed all of the included tales separately:
“The Lake”–4 stars
“Summer”–2 stars
“Ghost Summer”–5 stars
“Free Jim’s Mine”–4 stars
“The Knowing”–3 stars
“Like Daughter”–3 stars
“Aftermoon”–3 stars
“Trial Day”–3 star
“Patient Zero”–5 stars
“Danger Word”–5 stars
“Removal Order”–4 stars
“Herd Immunity”–5 stars
“Carriers”–2 stars
“Senora Suerte”–3 stars
“Vanishings”–4 stars

I received my advanced copy of the anthology directly from Prime Books.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Review: “Carriers” by Tananarive Due

2 of 5 stars.

After the fantastic first 2 installments [“Removal Order” and “Herd Immunity”] of this short story trilogy, this final piece was disappointing. The trilogy creates an original apocalyptic / post-apocalyptic scenario with many unforeseen aspects, however this third tale overextends itself and would require a novel to give the story its due.

Forty years has elapsed since that first brutal year of The Plague which saw Nayima undertake a lonely journey to find other survivors. She has been broken, betrayed, and abandoned by the society that arose in the wake of its predecessor. The accusations of what has happened in the decades since the prior tales are neither shown nor explained and yet the issues raised are poignant, just unfulfilled.

Nayima is a disease carrier–one of many. However, the new society belongs to non-carriers that managed to avoid the pandemic. The carriers , most long-dead, were then treated as criminals and lab-rats. Revisionist history is erasing the cruelties they endured and continue to endure in their near social exile.

Appearing in the anthology, Ghost Summer, this short story first appeared in The End Has Come, eds. John Joseph Adams & Hugh Howey (Broadreach Publlishing).
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Kumbaya: An Origin Story

Kumbaya, as a phrase, just popped up in a short story I was reading. Coincidentally, I was planning on explaining the history of the phrase ever since I wrote a post about the Gullah origins to the non-standard pronunciation of ask as aks. [That post is here.]

Many people likely know that Kumbaya refers to the 1920s song of the same name. However, its common social use now is to indicate a coming together of people as if to sing hopeful songs, such as “Kumbaya.” This is what is meant when one says, They tried to make it a Kumbaya moment. So, “Kumbaya” as group bonding potentially with a nuance of naivete. Indeed, the Urban Dictionary defines it as “blandly pious and naively optimistic.” Fair enough.

But what does the song mean? Notice that I keep calling it a phrase rather than a word. “Kumbaya,” the song title, is a variation on the Gullah phrase, Kum ba ya. Glad I could clear that up. Gullah diverged from English centuries ago by way of Africa and Jamaica, so the pronunciations have strayed a bit. Also, the language does not have a written component, so natural drift happens. Still, 2 of the words are quite recognizable:

Kum = Come
Ba = By

The third word has diverged from its origins significantly. Firstly, Gullah tends not to pronounce the letter “r,” much like the way people in Boston say cah for “car.” Secondly, the English “h”-sound has drifted over to a “y”-sound. This is not so very different from Donald Trump exclaiming that something is going to be “Yooj” rather than huge. Put both of these together and suddenly it’s not so weird to see that

Ya = Here

So, kum ba ya = come by here. And the opening lines of the song make sense:

Kumbaya, my Lord. Kumbaya . . .
Come by here, my Lord. Come by here . . .

As a wise cartoon once said, Knowing is half the battle.

Review: “Herd Immunity” by Tananarive Due

5 of 5 stars.

An apocalypse is a failure of society–a failure to keep the bad at bay–a failure to keep from unraveling when tested. The opposite of society, is the individual in isolation. In this second installment to a 3-part short story series [along with “Removal Order” and “Carriers”] the failure of the herd [ie society] to keep it together leads to the opposite extreme of isolation for protagonist Nayima. This, too, is tested when she spies another lone individual . . .

The better part of a year has elapsed since Nayima’s post-apocalyptic journey began after a fatal flu pandemic wiped out 99.99% of humanity. At first she had wanted to find other people, survivor camps, that promised vaccines and herd immunity, but science failed and the herds turned rabid before they died [not unlike insomiac or rage zombies], but die they did.

She escaped the herd first by car, then bicycle and then by foot, until she finds herself on a generically named state road in central California having not seen a soul in 3 months. Every marooned car is out of gas and low on provisions. Her loneliness is nearly complete when she spots a man with a guitar walking ahead of her the same direction. When she abandons safety to yell out to him, he pauses then keeps walking. It takes her 3 days to catch up to him as he encamps in a sad county fair / abandoned Red Cross Survival Center.

Now that the world is reduced to the NIs [Naturally Immune], Nayima is desperate to start teaming up and sharing resources and maybe companionship. Guitar-playing Kyle is less convinced that everyone is naturally immune and credits his survival to his wits to leave everyone well enough alone . . .

Appearing in the anthology, Ghost Summer, this short story first appeared in The End is Now, eds. John Joseph Adams & Hugh Howey (Broadreach Publlishing) / Lightspeed, September 2014.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Review: “Removal Order” by Tananarive Due

4 of 5 stars.

When disaster looms, it’s the caretakers that sacrifice themselves, often myopically. This theme has pervaded Hollywood. In this first of three related tales [along with “Herd Immunity” and “Carriers”], Nayima has put grad school on pause to care for Gram who raised her. Gram’s cancer has gone necrotic as the two women have missed the evacuation in the face of a deadly flu pandemic.

Without neighbors, services, much food or electricity, Nayima’s only brush with the broader world is the occasional looter, distant gunshots, the rare police patrol and the constant thickening smoke from burned out neighborhoods over the horizon. She worries about the persistent fleas that stayed after the cats left.

The boldest move that she can envision is to wheel Gram’s hospital-style bed over to Mr. Yamamoto’s immaculate house across the street where they will be more comfortable. It’s a tedious endeavor with a rude welcome in the form of Sanchez, a patrol cop–they have 48 hours to clear far away from the city before it’s burned to the ground. Gram barely made it across the street . . .

Appearing in the anthology, Ghost Summer, this short story first appeared in The End is Nigh, eds. John Joseph Adams & Hugh Howey (Broadreach Publlishing).
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Review: “Danger Word” by Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due

5 of 5 stars.

This tale’s fresh take on the zombie genre is particularly horror-worthy and welcome. The fast-moving British-style zombies here also retain a bit of their former personality and use it to lure their intended victims–family and friends–into a false sense of security. The ploy is rather demonic in nature.

Grandpa Joe, early in the apocalypse, thought to create a “danger word” [usually called a “safe word”] with his grandson, Kendrick, that even his parents would not be privy to. He also talked the parents into creating a safe room able to be opened only from the inside. When Joe’s daughter, Cass, calls to say that neighbors have come calling and that he should fetch his grandson, he has to fight through a pack of freaks that includes his daughter and son-in-law to get to his grandson locked in the safe room.

Flash forward many months, and Joe and Kendrick, aged 9, are residing in a remote cabin and living off Joe’s hunting skills. Supposed safe cities dot the Pacific Coast, including Kendrick’s former neighborhood, but Joe prefers to keep well enough alone except for occasional jaunts to Mike’s gas station where he can trade deer jerky for supplies. Mike and his 3 grown sons live behind electric fences and rule this new reality.

Joe and Kendrick, on a trip to Mike’s, notice a hitchhiking freak that almost looks normal but for a hitch in his gait. Then, at Mike’s the gates are wide open without the sons on guard duty. Nervous tension rises until Mike appears at the station door beckoning them inside . . .

Appearing in the anthology, Ghost Summer, this short story first appeared in Dark Dreams: A Collection of Horror and Suspense by Black Writers, ed. Brandon Massey (Dafina Books / Kensington Corp.).
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Review: “Patient Zero” by Tananarive Due

Patient ZeroPatient Zero by Tananarive Due
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In a compelling mix of naivete and knowing, 10 y.o. Jay has both been protected from and thrust upon the harsh realities of truth in this short tale of pandemic apocalypse.

At 6, Jay saw his Dad come home sick to Georgia from Alaska’s oil wells. In short order, Jay’s parents and only brother died of the disease and Jay both sickened and recovered. Now incorrectly dubbed “Patient Zero,” Jay has lived in a large observation, reverse-isolation room at the CDC for 4 years. Innumerable blood draws have been taken from him, but between his fun nurse, Veronica, and optimistic tutor, Ms. Manigat, he keeps his spirits up.

He is denied windows to the outside world, television and all news. Blackouts start to push into his world. Food shortages. Staffers start to disappear. Others scream terrible things at him in their frustration.

His tutor starts to secretly teach Jay survival skills and the codes to get out of the building just in case a day comes when nobody comes to give him food . . .

Appearing in the anthology, Ghost Summer, this short story first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 2000.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Review: “Vanishings” by Tananarive Due

4 of 5 stars.

A terminal illness in a family member affects the entire family. This vignette captures the moment of awareness about how much has changed and been left numbingly un-realized in the face of a young girl’s battle with cancer. Each person’s ebbing there-ness for each other is a vanishing act, if not betrayal. Within an anthology of urban fantasy, magic and horror, this brief tale of realism holds its own.

Nidra stumbles through life as a single mother of 2 girls ever since her husband vanished a year prior in a bizarre auto accident–the car was found totaled, his body was not found. She suspects he saw his out and took it. Better that than to face the prospect of watching his youngest daughter die of cancer.

Sharlene can’t live the unburdened life of the typical teenager–not with her younger sister so sick and getting sicker and her mom in a haze not seeing it. Her resentment manifests in bad grades, especially for the teacher romantically distracting her mother.

Asia knows she’s wasting away. The kids at school call her Ghost as if she’s already passed . . .

This tale appears in the anthology, Ghost Summer by Prime Books.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Review: “Trial Day” by Tananarive Due

3 of 5 stars.

Through the filter of a young girl with her mix of knowing and naivety, this story shows the fear of living in racially segregated America in which lynchings go uninvestigated and black teens are given the death penalty for alleged robberies.

9 y.o. Lettie lives with her business-owning Daddy and cruel stepmother who resents her husband’s two kids by different moms. Brother [Wallace Lee] lives an hour deeper into Klan country with his poverty-stricken mother. Lettie’s mother, also poor, is an Obeah priestess living nearby. Brother, 15 y.o., has been accused of a crime and “justice” wants to act quicker than a defense can be scraped together. With his mother of low means, Brother stands little chance of avoiding “The Chair” unless his middle-class father is willing to stand up for him. But there’s no guarantee that his father will do so . . .

The themes of this story fit as topically today as when it was written ten years ago–possibly more. However, the tale doesn’t resolve which is a disappointment and especially confounding with a throw-away final line implying a long life for Lettie and no resolution on the trial and family conundrum.

Appearing in the anthology, Ghost Summer, this short story first appeared in Mojo: Conjure Stories, ed. Nalo Hopkinson (Aspect / Warner Books).
[Check out my other reviews here.]