Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

My reading binge continues apace this month.

This book is my latest find.

I always think of vampires, werewolves and zombies as the 'big three' of Gothic monstrosity. Sure, ghosts and spirits have their place, and mummies can be scary, but there is something visceral about these creatures.

[Lycaon by Hendrik Goltzius. From Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book I. Via]

[Varney the Vampire (1847). Artist Unknown. Via]

I've read more vampire books than I can count, plus a smaller but still respectable number of werewolf tales. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan might be the first zombie story I've ever read. This says more about me than it does about the state of zombie literature. I've realised that I get my zombie fix from films, and have neglected to look for them on the library shelves.

No longer shall this travesty continue. I have seen the light. Or rather, the darkness. Forest is aimed at YA readers, but it's quite exciting and gross enough to entertain anyone. It is resolutely contemporary, featuring a post-apocalyptic setting and a biomedical origin story (zombies are infected with a virus, rather than possessed). The heroine is sometimes irritating, but you have to cut her some slack. She lives in sea of undead, after all:

"I have seen such horror and such grotesqueness that it never occurred to me that I would feel light-headed and weak-kneed when I saw Travis's injury. One couldn't grow up surrounded by the Forest and not see the most dreadful sights - the Unconsecrated with their hollow skin ripped and gaping from the wounds that caused the infection, their fingers cracked and broken from clawing at the fences, limbs attached by nothing more than gristle" (40-41).

I see my favourite word in there.


On a related note: if you are interested in zombies, Gothic monsters, science fiction or this movie you can read my thoughts on all these things in Gothic Science Fiction: 1980-2010, edited by Sara Wasson and Emily Alder. In addition to my zombie chapter, this collection includes a whole bunch of essays looking at the intersection of Gothic and science fiction in film, comics, literature and more. I think the book is coming out later this year, but meanwhile you can admire the lovely cover here.

Shameless plug over...

Sweet dreams.

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