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Feminist Killjoy. Badly Behaving Bookliker. Writer and reader of all things speculative. 

Currently reading

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Michelle Hodkin
Diablo III: Storm of Light
Nate Kenyon
Progress: 133/341 pages
William Gibson
A Taste of Blood Wine
Freda Warrington
Progress: 380/501 pages
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
The Enemy (The Enemy #1)
Charlie Higson
The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Ann Aguirre
Xombies: Apocalypse Blues  - Walter Greatshell It seems my relationship with zombie novels is destined to be a bit strained. (Incidentally, I have this issue fairly often -- I write genres that I don't actually get on with that well in terms of reading.) Dos and Don'ts - Writing a Zombie Apocalypse Novel:DON'T Make Your Contagion Based on Gender - Want to know why it's spelled X-O-M-B-I-E-S rather than Z-O-M-B-I-E-S? Brace yourselves.Agent X is airborne (kind of. Sort of. More on that shortly.) and the initial infection only affects women (hence Xombies, yes I know it's painful). Specifically, it only affects menstruating women, which means little girls and women past menopause are immune (kind of. Sort of. again, more on that shortly). Oh yee lordy, Walter Greatshell, why would you do that? Considering the history of female sexuality and the way menstruation has been viewed in the past (and is probably still viewed in some cultures), how could you think this is a good idea?Imagine if we made men the initial virus carriers. But not all men, mind you. Men who are infertile or impotent can't be infected except wait they can huh? more on that shortly. If that sounds skeevy and nonsensical then I probably shouldn't have to explain further. I'm sure in Greatshell's head it sounded new and unique, but it my head all it sounds like is pain.DO Make Your Contagion Make Sense - Agent X is airborne and only affects women. That is, until they breathe on other victims, turning them into zombies Xombies. So men can be turned too, if another Xombie gives them the CPR of Xombie Doom. Right, okay. Got it.Agent X can't infect through the respiratory system. Which is how airborne viruses work. So...it's not airborne? And men are immune unless a Xombie breathes on them. Except all men turn into Xombies when they die, regardless of whether they got the CPR of Xombie Doom, so it...is airborne? Somehow it is airborne but not airborne and it enters the body regardless of gender but only turns women, except for when they breathe on men, or when men kick the bucket. Right, okay. Not getting it anymore.Agent X isn't airborne but it is, but it doesn't enter through the respiratory system, I guess, but how does it get into the men? But anyway, it enters women through the uterus. But they have to be bleeding first. And then it's like, insta-Xombie. But it's not--oh, fuck it. DON'T Mix Science With Your Woo-Woo Zombies - I know there are some people out there who insist that if it's still breathing, it's not a zombie. They should probably play less table top RPGs. The problem is, though, if you want fast zombies with some kind of science (pseudo though it might be), they have to be breathing. Heck, if you want zombies and science together at all, they have to be breathing.It's simple: The body needs oxygen to be able to move. If the body is not getting oxygen, it cannot move unless stirred by magic. Scientifically speaking, the classic form of zombie isn't possible. Got that?Xombies are fast moving, but very dead. They don't breathe, their skin is blue, their bits don't stop moving when you cut them off. They are woo-woo zombies, no matter how much pseudo-science you throw at the problem. That Greatshell tries to insist they absorb enough oxygen through their pores is rather silly. Despite my occasional protestations to the contrary Humans are not plants and we don't photosynthesize for our needs. I don't really see a zombie virus changing that. DO Your Research - Come on, Walter. I spent most of my life in Rhode Island. A submarine factory in Rhode Island that most locals don't even know is there? Don't be ridic--What?........................................Wait, what?...........They do make submarines in Rhode Island? Um, wow. Learn something new every day. And here I thought we preferred yacht racing. (Yes, we are like that in RI. You're talking about a state where 99% of the population is born, lives, and dies in RI. Some of us barely know what's in our own backyards.)DON'T Make Your Black Characters Talk Like This - "Brotha got a right to know what kinda plans they makin' for us. I ain't doin' no more tired-ass refugee-camp bullshit. Give me an island. We livin' in a democracy--I say we vote where we goin', be kickin' back in the Bahamas."The book never actually states that the character is black, but the fact that he's only a few syllables off the most stereotypical Ebonics dialect a white person can write is a pretty good indicator. Also, his name is Tyrell, which is like, what, number 3 on the List of Top Ten Stereotypical Names White People Give Their Black Characters? DON'T Bury All Your POC - I guess maybe this is a spoiler. You'd figure out a lot of who dies if I told you that just about every colored or remotely ethnic character in the book kicks the bucket. A few are still around as Xombies, but those are dead, so it counts.DO Make Your Seventeen-Year-Old Girl Actually Sound Like a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl - The protagonist, Lulu, has a disease that keeps her from menstruating no, not really, she's just malnourished thanks to her neglectful, flaky asshat of a mother and so she doesn't go all Xombie. (She also looks half her age, which makes the amount of lustful gazes and rape attempts sent her direction skeevier than usual.) Lulu is also an Emily Dickinson fan, with a very un-teenage tendency to wax poetic.She also manages to be a walking submarine manual before she ever actually learns anything about submarines. Really, very little about Lulu sounds her age. She's not the worst heroine I've ever read, and she's fairly resilient, but a teenager? I don't know. And I'm really out of patience for the whole "I don't sound like a teenager 'cause I'm mature and stuff, 'cause mom is an idiot and I basically have to take care of both of us" thing. DO Make Your Zombies Scary - They're blue. I know Greatshell was going for some kind of Hindu god imagery (as evidenced by the fact that he kept making the reference, which I admit I found a wee bit offensive) but I didn't picture Krishna or Kali while reading this book. More like giant, psychotic Smurfs with an overwhelming instinct to kiss you and squeeze you 'til you pop. DON'T Make Your Bloody Zombies Superfluous - To be fair, the Xombies aren't completely superfluous. They're still a fairly major threat in the book and are cause for a chase or two.But the entire middle of the book takes place on a Xombie-free submarine. Admittedly, this is the best part of the book. It becomes a sort of Naval intrigue thing. Still, it ran the risk of becoming The Hunt for Red Xomtober there for a while. Walter Greatshell knows a lot about submarines and obviously wanted to write a book about people stuck on a submarine, but I'm not sure the zombies were really necessary for that. DON'T Toss in Rape Attempts Simply Because You Can - Trigger warning for this one, guys.I'm not actually against rape being handled in books that aren't Issue books (but I'm not in the mood for an argument, so I'll leave it at that). But--and this is a very important but--it still needs to be handled right. Speculative fiction has a long and storied history for handling rape with all the gentleness and sensitivity of a rabid cactus. Walter Greatshell is a man and, obviously, one who didn't do much research on what it feels like for a woman when someone rapes or attempts to rape her. The first scene is extremely opaque, oscillating between the sort of language you'd see just before and during an actual rape. I couldn't tell if Lulu was in fact raped for a while (I suspect not, though). The second scene has her basically standing there naked, wondering idly whether her would-be rapist is going to get on with it or not. One could argue that at that point, after what she'd been through, she was too numb to react, but it's not written very well.DO Write an Ending that Makes Sense - I'm Jewish, and one of the traditional dishes I like best is brisket. For those of you who aren't familiar, brisket is what happens when you cook beef in a certain way, causing it to be kind of stringy and fall-apart-y is SO a word, nyah. I like brisket.I do not like it when an ending falls apart like brisket, and Xombies really unravels. It's vague and confusing and rather lolwut. Even if I wanted to add another spoiler, I honestly don't think I can explain the ending to you. It's just too bizarre, and it kind of turned me off to reading the next one. I don't trust Greatshell to give me a satisfying ending.There were things about Xombies that I really enjoyed, but in a lot of ways it's such a hot mess. I also hate the fact that he used the "This happened because evil rich people wanted something to make them immortal" thing. I loathe the only evil people want immortality trope. It's trite, cliche, and preachy. And stupid. Obviously, my track record with zombies is not good at this point. I'm really trying to find a zombie book I love, but I've had no luck.Oh, zombie genre. Why is my relationship with you always in shambles? *rimshot*