Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rock and Roll Reform School Zombies by Bryan Smith

What do you get when you throw classic '80s metal albums, a well watched copy of Return of the Living Dead, and Bryan Smith's nihilistic, balls-to-the-wall, total fuck-you-with-a-capital-FUCK - writing style into a blender and hit liquify? Fuck yeah, you get this - Smith's latest effort courtesy of Deadite Press.

Sex, Death, and Heavy Metal! If you're a teenage metal head The Southern Illinois Music Reeducation Center is not the place you want to go. The center specializes in "de-metaling" - a treatment to cure teens of their metal loving, devil worshiping ways. A program that subjects its prisoners to sexual abuse, torture, and brain-washing. But tonight things get much worse. Tonight the flesh-eating zombies come . . .

I'm not going to lie, I wanted this one based solely on the title and the lurid cover art. It also helps that Bryan Smith is one of my all time favorite writers - someone who has the flair and style reminiscent of Laymon, but also style so brutal and unforgiving that he's etched out his own standing in the horror genre. What's not to love? Blood is spilled, taboo's are not just broken, but destroyed, and copious amounts of fun are to be had in this latest release. And yes, I'm biased. There isn't a Bryan Smith book out there that I haven't loved. This is obviously no exception.

From the get-go, Smith sets the stage for a rollicking good time. The characters in this novella have been seeminly ripped right out of the 80s metal past, inspired by the awesome slasher flicks of (what is my opinion) the greatest decade in cinema, and thrown with an audible splat, onto the pages of this book. The descriptions are spot on as well. Denim is worn, rock band t-shirts displayed, school girl outfits are vividly described (and removed...). You name it, Smith has recreated it.

I seriously doubt you'll be able to resist headbanging along with the tunes that are name-dropped here, either. As someone who is known to have a very serious love for music, Smith brings that feeling directly into the story. Some of his critical scenes are punctuated with the characters putting tapes in the stereo in their car, and every chapter is a different song title from bands that the author enjoys. I have to say, they're all beautifully well placed as well.

As for the pacing and characters, Smith seems to tighten up his game with every subsequent story published, and after the flawless displays that were Depraved and The Killing Kind, it's incredibly obvious that this kind of a statement is true. From page 1 the story kicks out of the gate like a bat out of hell. Rest assured, the pace really doesn't let up, even after the last page. Hell, even the author bio at the end is hilarious, dispensing with formalities almost completely.

In this book, Smith has brought the reader some very stereotypical, yet much needed characters in order to make the 80s feel become something as authentic as possible. The main characters are badass, nihilistic, anti-authoritarians at heart, and eventually have find themselves in a very sticky situation. Most of the themes that Smith deals with in his novels are of a very extreme nature, forcing his characters to go through some seriously debilitating situations. Things are no different in this novella. The author really slams his characters into the action, and has written some awesomely mean characters to go against the "good guys". Sybil Huffington has to be one of the sexiest, yet most terrifying people I have come across in one of Smith's books. I could read this evil, sadistic, she-bitch over and over again.

Of all of Smith's works, I would say that this ranks highly in my favorites (just under The Freakshow). The writing style is tight, the action non-stop, and the overall theme absolutely refreshing is it's own way. The throw-back to 80s horror is brilliant, and I wish other authors would take note and stop trying to do something new. Essentially, Smith has taken the old, and done nothing with it but make you remember how fucking awesome it was to begin with.

Check this book out at Deadite Press, and buy it on Amazon (as well as several other online retailers). Check out Smith's homepage, and follow him on Twitter.

Keep an eye out in the very near future for The Dark Ones, Smith's new novel to be released by Leisure books in eBook format in January '11, and Limited Edition Hardcover by Delirium Books in March '11.

PBH.

7 comments:

  1. Up the irons! This one says like a face-melter for sure. I'm a product of the 80s and there is never enough good send ups to the great decade of horror. Great review!

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  2. It IS a face melter. Absolutely fucking brilliant. I'd go get a copy if I were you. Hell, grab all of Smith's work. Amazing stuff.

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  3. Really need to pick this one up. Smith is definitely coming into his own now. And I knew I liked you; THE FREAKSHOW is my favorite Smith novel I've read. :D

    -Neal

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  4. Neal, that's because apparently we're both freaks with a yearn to be shocked! The Freakshow is extreme, uncompromising, and relentless. I have to go back and re-read that one. Love it!

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  5. Sounds fantastic! I'm looking for it on Amazon right now.

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  6. Finally got to read your review since I finished mine. This book is absolutely fantastic :)

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