Guest Post: Zombies & New Worlds & Violence, Oh My! by J.A. Belfield

Yes, I’m talking about all the titles that have been slowly flooding the book markets over the past few years.

To be honest, I’d seen all the hype for zombie fiction & dystopia/post-apocalyptic novels. To begin I viewed them with scorn.

Yes, I did.

And I apologise profusely.

Because I was ignorant.

I wondered how something like zombies could possibly make a decent novel when it’s often the horrific visuals of a zombie film that grab us the most.

I wondered how on earth anyone could be enamoured by a story with a cover that depicts the world as broken and dreary as heck, and nowhere anyone in their right mind would want to live—again, I guess, something that would have great impact in a film.

Then I listened—to other readers—instead of being so opinionated.

Before I knew it, I’d let them sway me into picking up these books I’d struggled to figure out (without having read them …. Yeah, I know, I know, don’t say it).

Now?

I pretty much can’t get enough of them.

Granted, I’m not so keen on the zombie novels—unless you count Amy Plum’s romanticised version of zombies in Die For Me.

But I picked up Hunger Games convinced I would hate it.

O_o

So happens, I went out and bought Catching Fire as soon as I could and even had someone send me Mockingjay so I didn’t have to wait to read on to the end.

Yeah, I pretty much began devouring books from this genre I’d not even given a chance.

Since then, I’ve read Divergent, too—as well as finished up with Insurgent mere hours before writing this post.

Then there are the ones that combine genres: vampire dystopias seem to be the latest craze. Andrew Fukuda’s The Hunt or Julie Kagawa’s Immortal Rules, for example. I’ve read both of those. Admittedly, they haven’t wowed me quite as much as straight dystopia has, but they were still decent reads, neither of them alike, and both had highly intriguing concepts.

So what is it about these genres that seem to be spreading like wildfire? The characters, their conflicts, the action which often horrifies due to the violence involving youths, the love story (because there almost always seems to be at least the potential for one) … or the fact that we just don’t know what the future holds for our earth and to get even a fictional glimpse of that is simply too fascinating to pass up?

How about you? Have you tried these types of novels? What do you think it is about them that’s setting the reading population on fire?

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Novels/Stories by J.A. Belfield

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8 responses to “Guest Post: Zombies & New Worlds & Violence, Oh My! by J.A. Belfield

  1. I had the same exact feeling about The Hunger Games: I figured that, since everyone was speaking in such glowing terms about it, it was bound to suck. I started reading, and I could not put the book down, then had to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay, then I couldn’t get enough, read Divergent and am ready to start Insurgent. I have no explanation for why; I just really enjoyed them, and they are not the kind of books that I thought I would like.

    Now, vampires–forget it. I was force-fed a lot of vampire fiction, a lot of it very poorly written, on a collaborative-fiction mailing list that I ran for ten years. I suffered through a week of watching the first two seasons of True Blood on DVD, because I love my wife and she wanted to see them. I simply cannot understand what the attraction is. I feel the same about zombies. I simply cannot fathom the attraction.

    • You’re right, there is a LOT of very badly written vampire literature out there. But I’ve also read some awesome takes, too. I think the problem with vampires/werewolves/whatnot is too many of the stories read like a cookie cutout of the same story just with different characters, so it gets boring after you’ve read a few. And you MUST read on with Insurgent. I spent most of the book infuriated–but that’s not always a bad thing because I’m usually more impressed if the author’s heated my emotions. 🙂

  2. I’ve always loved dystopian novels. They were my favorites to read in school, and I hope to write my own one day. I already have one in process, though it needs a lot of work.

    I have to admit, though, that I’ve been reluctant to try the zombie/vampire/werewolf books. I’ve just never really cared about that type of book. Maybe one day I’ll give those books a chance, but right now there are so many other books I have to read. I absolutely loved the Hunger Games trilogy, and I’m looking forward to reading Divergent soon.

    • I loved The Hunger Games, those are what got me into the genre to begin. And I’ve read Divergent and Insurgent. I’ve heard a lot of folk compare them to THG, but really I don’t see that the similarities are close enough to make the comparison. I thought both series’ are unique in their own way and loved the first 2 Divergent books as much as I did THG. 🙂

  3. Have you read Warm Bodies? That’s a great zombie love story and not too gory. I never really liked zombie books either until I read Mira Grant’s Feed. Now I love to read all the different takes author’s have on the subject. I’m not sure why they are all the rage now, but every genre seems to go through fits and starts. Maybe it’s just whatever happens to reflect an immediate possiblility in our world; just recently there have been stories about people acting like zombies and even -yuck- chewing faces.

    • I haven’t read Warm Bodies. Haven’t read Feed either, actually, but I’ve heard great stuff about it. I think maybe I’ve just been looking at the wrong zombie novels so far. :\

  4. I think you make a good point, actually, about pointing out the flaws.
    And no, I’m not a huge fan of rotted zombies in my books, which is probably why the only one I’ve truly enjoyed has been the one that’s fluffed up with hearts and flowers. 🙂
    Oh, and I’m one of the few who didn’t mind the ending of Mockingjay and didn’t walk away from the trilogy disappointed. 🙂

  5. Jeremy Cook

    I personally have never understood the fascination with zombies. Of all the monsters out there, why focus on ambulatory rotting corpses? Just gross. But then I’m not a big horror fan so what can I say. As for dystopias, well we’ve always had a fascination with those. Utopia literature always comes off as unrealistic because…its still made up of people and humanistic philosophy aside, no-one really believes we can be perfect. It’s easier and probably more educational to point out possible flaws and weaknesses. Instead of patting ourselves on the back and telling eachother how good we can be, we point out how bad we can be so we can avoid those possible future routes. They are warning letters instead of laudatory letters. Since no-one can be sure which way is the right way, we can at least point out the wrong ways.
    Prepare yourself for disappointment at the end of Mockingjay though 