Friday, December 30, 2011

Viking Dead

When the winter months descend on me I tend to want to find ways to hibernate or at least stay close to comfortable, warm surroundings. My usual outgoing nature becomes less so and I turn more than normal to older entertainments or at least ones that key some relationship to the joys of my youth. A part of this manifests itself in what I am inclined to read in the colder seasons and, since it also touches on one of my favorite films since childhood, I like to read tales of Vikings. I've been fascinated with the dreaded Northern raiders because of several forgotten tales in kids books, THOR comics from Marvel and the incredibly fun Kirk Douglas film THE VIKINGS (1958). I love this movie and rarely go a year without watching at least part of it just to enjoy the amazing pulpy energy of it. If you've never seen the film I highly recommend you do. If you like adventure tales involving swords, villains and lusty men battling over women I suspect you'll get a thrill or ten.

So, to supplement my desire for Viking tales I am always on the lookout for new or previously unknown examples of this admittedly small genre of fiction. I've been told by several friends that I need to read the classic novel 'The Long Ships' but I have as yet to find a copy. I'll get to it one day but it hasn't happened yet. But earlier his year I learned of a book that made my eyes widen in shock. The title is 'Viking Dead' and I was told that it was a novel length tale pitting Viking raiders against zombies! Holy Crap! Its like author Toby Venables looked inside my head and wrote the story I had been begging to read for years. There was no way I wasn't going to get my hands on this and read it as soon as possible. Actually, it took months but I finally did find a used copy and have now read it in a blaze of horror geeky speed.

I am glad to report that the book is very good. As a matter of fact it is much better than I expected in that I expected it to be a fairly silly romp, poorly written and badly researched that sloppily threw together these two iconic character types in a jumbled tale to make a quick buck. Imagine my surprise to find with in the first few pages a competently told story that spent plenty of time establishing strong characters and relationships before the living dead problem enters the picture. This is the author's first novel and his background as a Cambridge lecturer shows in the attention to detail and careful, evocative descriptions. As much as I love the zombie element of the book I have to admit that even if it were left out of the story it would still be a damned entertaining novel. It would have a very different ending (hoo, boy- would it) but it would still be a great read.

I won't give anything away so that potential readers can come to it fresh but just let me say that I rate this very highly and consider it a great piece of modern pulp adventure fiction. Check it out!

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