Posted on August 28, 2009 by Flames
The Flash Fire Mini-Reviews series has crawled out of its grave and returned as a regular feature on the Flames Rising website. To celebrate we’re going to be taking a look at several kinds of undead this week. We’ve got a mix of games, books and more. This particular edition of Flash Fire Mini-Reviews is going to feature a few different reviewers.
Crystal Mazur offers us her perspective on the book Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum.
In Zombie Haiku, we read about a poet that gets turned into a zombie and documents everything he sees and does in the form of what he remembers from life, the poetry form known as Haiku. His seemingly normal observations and encounters slowly turn sour as the bite he received from a secretary turns him into a mindless zombie who wanders his town looking for food. In Haiku form, his zombie “feasts” are depicted well in the limited form. The only break the reader has from the Haikus, are the frantic scribbles of the last survivor in the area that was able to procure said journal.
Biting into heads / Is much harder than / it looks. / The skull is feisty.
What is my diagnosis? Zombie Haiku has a very simple storyline that allows the Haiku form of poetry to be digested easily for any zombie lover. Even after reading the book, I’ve found I’m quoting some of the poetry and lines from the book. Without realizing it, I’ve noticed it has expanded my mental zombie “library” of information.
Part of Zombie Haiku‘s appeal is also the way it is laid out. The artwork in the book is laid out like a personal journal with Polaroid photos inserted and bits of flowers and string that the poet happens across. As his condition worsens the artwork gets more horrifying, the inserted bits turn into hair and toenails from the victims, the little drawings around the margins are those of brains and fingers moving along. The personality of the journal fits the writing and the poet’s devolution.
If you have an interest in zombies, definitely check this book out. It is a quick read, wonderful reference for quotes and fun poems, and has many interesting pictures.
Vampire: the Eternal Struggle
Crystal also reveals her experience with the Vampire: the Eternal Struggle collectible card game (CCG) from GenCon: Indy 2009 at the White Wolf booth.
My friend Bill and I headed over to the White Wolf table to demo some of the games they had set up. The main game they were demoing on Sunday was their Vampire: the Eternal Struggle CCG, so we sat down to learn how to play.
The decks White Wolf had chosen for the Demo were pieced together to show the different phases and abilities that could be found in a full deck. We each picked up our decks, picked the vampires we wanted to start with and dived into the dark angst-filled world that is part of Vampire. If you have a background in Magic: the Gathering, Pokémon, or any other CCG of that caliber, you’ll be able to catch on to Vampire: the Eternal Struggle pretty quickly.
As a player, you have your own health pool and your “chosen” characters have their own health pools. You have to deplete your own health pool to bring out your characters. During a set round, players can attack people. You have the option of playing political maneuvers, outright threats and sneaky bastard moves which you can put together with different decks. What we learned at the demo was not enough for us to fully understand Vampire: the Eternal Struggle, but it was enough for us to get started and learn more on our own. After playing the demo, we were both very interested in picking up Vampire: the Eternal Struggle to continue playing it. If you’re curious about this card game, I should point out that it’s based off the old World of Darkness and Vampire: the Masquerade‘s signature characters, rather than the new.
Vampire: the Eternal Struggle is available at Amazon.com.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Jason Thorson did a little reading recently and wants to share his thoughts on the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies novel.
When I first heard this book’s name, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I immediately thought of the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials: Imagine a pretty young woman in Regency era dress and a young man wearing a Dawn of the Dead t-shirt walking toward each other, both of them carrying manuscripts. As they attempt to pass they collide and manuscripts fly, the pages intermingling as they float to the ground.
“Hey,” the woman yells. “You got zombies in my Austen!”
And the young man replies, “You got Austen in my zombies!”
My next thought was: How the hell is that going to work? The answer is that it works surprisingly well. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is written by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. The vast majority of the book is Austen’s classic, unchanged. It’s supplemented with a zombie infestation backdrop courtesy of Grahame-Smith, which necessarily changes various attributes of the characters. For example, Liz Bennett and her sisters are all deadly human weapons having studied Kung Fu in China, a common trait held by those who are equipped to withstand a world overrun by the walking dead.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a zombie book. It’s a literary masterpiece enhanced, believe it or not, by the existence of zombies in the English countryside where Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy play out one of literature’s most famous courtships. More of these mash-ups are sure to follow and hopefully they’re as tastefully done as this one is. For fans of horror fiction and connoisseurs of high-concept prose alike, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is, in a word, delicious!
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is available at Amazon.com.
Geist: The Sin-Eaters
Matt M McElroy has had the chance to explore the Underworld a little more with White Wolf’s new World of Darkness setting, Geist: The Sin-Eaters.
Geist: The Sin-Eaters is a different kind of ghost game and adds some new twists on what we’ve seen so far in the World of Darkness. I had the chance to take an early look at the pdf of the game and wrote a little something called A Deal with the Dead, which covered a few bits of the game/setting that I thought were pretty cool. At GenCon Indy I managed to pick up the core book and have had a little time to read more of it.
White Wolf has also released two excellent free additions for Geist that are worth checking out if you get the chance. Dem Bones and The House Always Wins are one scene/one characters extras that Storytellers can use to kick start a game or drop into a game they already have going on. I’m a big fan of the Storytelling Adventure System so I thought these were great little extras.
Geist explores ghosts and the Underworld of the new World of Darkness in ways we have not seen previously. While we’ve seen a few adventures and even an entire book on ghosts previously, now we’ve got characters that entire existence is about interacting and dealing with the dead.
Geist: The Sin-Eaters is available at the Flames Rising RPGNow Shop.
Matt also somehow found the time to read Derek Gunn’s new zombie novel, The Estuary between conventions.
I’m a big fan of Derek Gunn’s Vampire Apocalypse books and was looking forward to reading about a different kind of apocalypse. Permuted Press has released a lot of good zombie fiction over the last few years so having them publish a full length novel by Gunn seemed like the perfect fit.
One the best things about Derek’s books is the nearly non-stop action. He manages to blend horror and action really well, mixing up fast paced battle scenes with gripping fear for the characters involved. You never know who is going to make it to the end of the book (or if any of them will) and no one is safe. Often in horror fiction there are a few special protagonists that have a bit of plot immunity and a few “extras” you just know are not going to make it. Gunn likes to keep us guessing and is not afraid of pulling the trigger on a favorite character if it will amp up the dread just a little more.
The Estuary is available at Amazon.com.