Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dollar Bin Horror Spotlight - Tooth and Nail

As a new plague related to the rabies virus infects millions, America recalls its military forces from around the world to safeguard hospitals and other vital buildings. Many of the victims become rabid and violent but are easily controlled—that is, until so many are infected that they begin to run amok, spreading slaughter and disease. Lieutenant Todd Bowman got his unit through the horrors of combat in Iraq. Now he must lead his men across New York through a storm of violence to secure a research facility that may hold a cure. To succeed in this mission to help save what’s left, the men of Second Platoon will face a terrifying battle of survival against the very people they have sworn to protect—people turned into a fearless, endless horde armed solely with tooth and nail.

This book takes a heartfelt, military look at the zombie apocalypse. The detail the author goes into to describe the war-like conditions is incredible and makes you feel like you were in the middle of the action. Even the details, like radio calls and weaponry names, were spot on. The story is fast paced and exciting with action at every turn, yet it takes great care to humanize the soldiers and really gets you emotionally attached to each of their characters. Every up and down in the character's struggle to survive, you feel as if you were a part of it. Most of the soldiers in this book are just young men trying to comprehend the chaos and terror that is happening all around them, like many war time stories you've heard about from your grandparents and veterans. They are fighting to protect the country from the undead, but have doubts if there is still a country to protect and why they are fighting this war. He combines elements of this fictional war with the tragedy of the war in Iraq for an even more realistic feel. The zombie action is intense and described in great detail. There is gore, blood, and everything else you come to expect in a zombie novel, with just a little extra emotion thrown into the mix. It's a great novel and I highly recomend the read!

Craig DiLouie took a few moments to sit down and talk about the book.

Q: What made you want to write about zombies?

A: I like any story that realistically and dramatically conveys how people would cope with the end of the world. Zombies just happen to be my favorite brand of apocalypse. They combine the horrors of plague with the more tangible threat of mobs trying to kill, infect and/or eat you. It’s easy to add themes of dystopia, science fiction and war/action/escape. The “zombies” can be fast or slow, undead or living, supernatural or virus caused-I love it all, as long as the world is ending and the story is well told. The “zombies” in Tooth and Nail, for example, are fast (they can run), living and infected with a virus that makes them basically rabid.

Q: With all the other indie novels out today pertaining to zombies, what do you think makes yours so different?

A: Zombie novels are very popular but if you go to the horror section in your local bookstore it’s filled with vampire books. As a result, many people are turning to smaller publishers and buying stories online. This is a great situation for authors like me, as the genre is much more democratic than other genres saturated by major publishers, with more opportunities to get read and build up a fan base. But there are so many zombie novels now that some people are already wondering if the genre has played itself out. That question is so strange I don’t even understand it. Many authors are playing along and so we have increasingly outlandish variations on the basic zombie story. Some people like that and that’s great. Me, I’d rather read the same story over and over-zombies are here in some form, world is ending, people respond realistically to it and survive (or don’t)-as long as it’s done well. For example, I just read Wayne Simmons’ Flu and I really liked it, but it was your basic zombie story. Joe McKinney’s Dead City is another example. David Moody’s Autumn series is another of the basic story being delivered in a fresh and exciting way.

So while Tooth and Nail similarly tells the basic zombie story, as with these other great authors and their works, there are several things that distinguish it from the pack. Many zombie books and movies tell the story of a band of survivors making their way in a post-apocalyptic world. Reading them, I always wondered what happened during the apocalypse, not after it. I loved the first 15-20 minutes of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead because it so perfectly captured the confusion, the breakdown, the despair, the brutality of a zombie apocalypse. (Or the first five minutes of the remake.) To me, that would be so much more of a richer, more complex story to tell, so I decided to tell it in Tooth and Nail. Next, I always wondered how this small band of survivors escaped the apocalypse emotionally unharmed. I mean, these people have just seen everybody they know and love die or become a zombie, they have killed more people than a serial killer to survive, their lives are in constant danger, and their future prospects are dim, and here they are joking and bickering over trivial things. Most people I know in that situation would be shivering on the floor in a fetal ball. 28 Days Later and the first 15 minutes of 28 Weeks Later portrayed realistic human reactions to the horror of the apocalypse very well, as did Moody’s Hater and Autumn series. So I wanted to tell a story of the zombie apocalypse that would be as realistic as possible and be as respectful as possible to the characters, the story itself, and the reader. Finally, Tooth and Nail is distinguished because it tells the point of the view from soldiers fighting to save their dying nation. One reviewer interestingly called the Army the main character of the story, with its rules, traditions, tools, language, etc. With this book, I didn’t want the reader seeing the author taking easy shortcuts and shaking his or her head because something highly improbable or convenient happens. I wanted the reader to feel like they were actually in the story and believing every word. Hopefully, I’ve accomplished that.

Q: The book has a very strong war-like feel to it and you combine bits and pieces of the current war in Iraq into the story, what inspired you to go this route with the story?

A: I decided to write about a zombie apocalypse scenario from an exclusive military point of view because I thought the idea was an original take on the genre, raised fascinating plot questions and promised a lot of action. As I said, many zombie novels I’ve read focus on a small band of survivors. Here they are, shooting their way through a world overrun by zombies. I always wondered how they could survive while the world’s best-trained and equipped military couldn’t. I wanted to tell a story where the reader felt like they were actually there with the soldiers during the apocalypse and sharing their worries, hopes, fears, triumphs. Instead of nameless, faceless, cannon fodder, we see real people coping with numerous issues. For example, many soldiers come home from war with post-traumatic stress reactions from killing a single person: How would soldiers cope with slaughtering hundreds, even thousands, of their fellow citizens? Would they want to stay in the Army or continue following orders, or would they try to get home to their families? What would commanders do if cut off from the chain of command? How would they handle the stress? Would they continue to be willing to die for a country that may no longer exist? With their experience and weapons, how could they be defeated by a foe armed only with tooth and nail? There were so many terrific ideas to explore, and Tooth and Nail delves into every one I could think of. Hopefully, the reader will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Q: What's next for you and where can we learn more about all your projects?

A: I’ve written a psychological thriller, speculative fiction, science fiction and now apocalyptic fiction, not to mention several non-fiction books on engineering subjects. I like the post-apocalyptic genre so much I’m going to stay, at least for a few more books. Currently, I’m about halfway through another zombie apocalypse novel that might best be described as The Road meets 28 Days Later. It’s much more character-driven and psychologically terrifying. I’m working on an author page and a new website. For now, to learn more about Tooth and Nail and my other works, your readers can visit

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