Friday, May 15, 2009

Review: "The Zombie Chronicles" Book 1 - Escape by James Melzer

Originally Published at Freshly Ground on May 14th 2009

Here's a podcast you can really get your teeth into.

James Melzer
is one of a new breed of writers who are finding success by eschewing the traditional methods of shopping a manuscript to agents and editors, and are instead puffing out their lungs, warming up their vocal chords, and releasing their works into the wild - in the form of free podcast downloads.

As you know, I've been going on about this for a while now. As anyone who follows me on Twitter will know, I'm pretty much obsessed with podcast novels at the moment.The Zombie Chronicles - Book 1: Escape has continued to feed this addiction. This is storytelling with bite.

I had my reservations, as I greatly fear all the cliches that are associated with zombies. Zombies have gone so far into the laughable in the past twenty-odd years that it's a he!! of a job trying to make them scary again. Somehow, Melzer has written a zombie book that at once encapsulates all those worn-out tropes and injects the zombie genre with a new lease on life.

(Ah, will the puns never end?)

From the first chapter, I was grabbed by the freshness of Melzer's writing, his wry wit and the way he pulls a middle finger at all the stale baggage that zombies bring with them. Despite the title, this is no 28 Days Later. Without wanting to bring any spoilers to the table, I think it's safe to say that Melzer has single-handedly reinvented the zombie genre, while never abandoning everything we love about zombie stories - decaying flesh, the lust for human meat, brains exploding under well-aimed headshots.

TZC brings unexpected twist after twist, none of which have any place in the story you think you're listening to. But Melzer pulls it off with style, wit and lots of disintegrating sinew. I almost panicked when iTunes wouldn't give me the last chapter. Desperate measures were taken to hear the last part of this book, I guarantee you.

If you're into zombies even a little bit, you must listen to this podcast - or buy the book, when it comes out later this year (full disclosure - I get nothing from promoting any of the podcasts I review. I just dig that these guys and girls are so cool about it). If you like a good action story, or anything with a twist, this is also brilliant.

The audio quality is faultless. Melzer pulls off his voices without any problem, and has chosen not to clutter up the soundscape with effects. I think that if a podcaster/audio producer has the means and the ear to do good music and effects, and it doesn't cut drastically into their available timeframes, and that if adding M&E really fleshes out the world, then they ought to do so. But if a writer embarking on the huge task of recording a podcast feels they don't have the means or the skills to do this well, I thank them for not ruining an otherwise good production with a subpar effects track. It's nice to just appreciate the writing and the performance for what they are.

(To those podcasters who do put in the effort and do it well, keep up the good work. I love it all!)

I highly enjoyed this podcast. What it may have lacked in substance, it made up for in plot twists, gunfights, and exploding heads. Having said that, I felt close enough to all the characters to really want to root for them, although I was never really sure if I could trust anyone at all. Fantastic stuff.

TZC gets a solid 4 1/2 Stars out of 5 from me.

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