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Tomes of the Dead: Empire of Salt Paperback – 7 Jan 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: ABADDON; 1 edition (7 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906735328
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906735326
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 2.3 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 874,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Weston Ochse (pronounced 'Oaks) (1965 - Present) lives in Southern Arizona with his wife, and fellow author, Yvonne Navarro, and Great Danes, Pester Ghost Palm Eater and Goblin Monster Dog. For entertainment he races tarantula wasps, wrestles rattlesnakes, and bakes in the noonday sun. His work has won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for short fiction. His work has also appeared in anthologies, magazines and professional writing guides. He thinks it's damn cool that he's had stories in comic books.

Weston holds Bachelor's Degrees in American Literature and Chinese Studies from Excelsior College. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from National University. Weston is a retired U.S. Army intelligence officer. He has been to more than fifty countries and speaks Chinese with questionable authority. Weston is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a purple belt in Ryu Kempo Jujitsu and a green belt in the Hawaiian martial art of Kuai Lua.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 17 Jun 2010
Format: Paperback
Just when I was about to give up on zombies, Weston Ochse has resurrected the trend. Empire of Salt isn't a good zombie book - it is a good horror book. Brilliant writing doesn't follow trends, it stands (or shambles) on its own two feet.

Empire of Salt takes place in Bombay Beach, a moribund Californian town perched precariously on a massive saltwater lake. The town, never booming, has been declining for decades, but has truly hit its nadir at the start of the book. The population is almost entirely misfits and outcasts: an ex-revolutionary Elvis impersonator, an assortment of ex-criminals, a couple salt miners (the only "industry" in town), a nudist preacher, some drunks and a mad scientist.

Well, to be fair, there are also a few thousand zombies.

It seems that, across the lake, a government "energy plant" is actually doing some work on the space race: breeding astronauts that don't need to eat, drink or breathe. You can see where this is going, right?

The story's protagonists are a pair of newcomers - the Oliver kids. They're initially excited about the change of scenery ("California!" "Beach!"), but quickly realize that Bombay Beach is possibly the most miserable place on earth. Did I mention that it stinks of dead fish and has regular earthquakes? It does. While their father tries to drink himself to death, the kids are left on their own to see what the town has to offer. (Zombies, mostly.)

Ochse has the Stephen King knack of creating a small town, populating it with empathetic pen-portraits, and then killing everyone off in increasingly horrific ways. While the Oliver kids guide the reader through the main story, the reader is treated to countless vignettes of heroism, despair and treachery on the side.
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Format: Paperback
Weston Ochse is a friend of mine which is, really, why I first read his books. I'm not into horror, really, and never have been, but I like Wes, and so I started checking out his writing a number of years ago, when he was published in "Scary Rednecks and Other Inbred Horrors," and I had met him at conventions once or twice.

I've been reading them since, and no longer just because he's a cool guy and a good friend. I still read them because he's a good writer, who LOVES writing and reading. I mean, if you ever get to meet him, try to get him to tell you about something from one of his books; the sheer JOY he exhibits as he describes things is like watching a kid talk about the Saturday matinee show... and I think that joy is why his books are so great.

EMPIRE OF SALT is no different. Several reviews have already broken down the plot for you, so I won't go into details. I will say only that we finally--as the genre grows stale--have something NEW in zombies; I've always wondered why does no one ever offers a good reason for creating zombies? Well, Wes does. These are ZOMBIES OF SCIENCE, and they exist for a sound--if somewhat psychotic--reason.

The characters are believable and developed, and I could picture not only how they did things, but WHY they did them. I LIKED those characters. This being horror, of course, getting to like characters is asking for heartbreak. Nothing ever comes out well in horror, so if you're a romantic like me, well, just think of the characters you like as having an expiration date built-in, and you'll be better off, trust me.

A great, fun book, and it's sort of asking for a sequel, though I've no idea if Wes plans on one. I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes their zombies hungry and their government conspiracies, uh... conspiratorial? Yeah, that works.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 14 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Great horror. Also, zombies. 17 Jun 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Just when I was about to give up on zombies, Weston Ochse has resurrected the trend. Empire of Salt isn't a good zombie book - it is a good horror book. Brilliant writing doesn't follow trends, it stands (or shambles) on its own two feet.

Empire of Salt takes place in Bombay Beach, a moribund Californian town perched precariously on a massive saltwater lake. The town, never booming, has been declining for decades, but has truly hit its nadir at the start of the book. The population is almost entirely misfits and outcasts: an ex-revolutionary Elvis impersonator, an assortment of ex-criminals, a couple salt miners (the only "industry" in town), a nudist preacher, some drunks and a mad scientist.

Well, to be fair, there are also a few thousand zombies.

It seems that, across the lake, a government "energy plant" is actually doing some work on the space race: breeding astronauts that don't need to eat, drink or breathe. You can see where this is going, right?

The story's protagonists are a pair of newcomers - the Oliver kids. They're initially excited about the change of scenery ("California!" "Beach!"), but quickly realize that Bombay Beach is possibly the most miserable place on earth. Did I mention that it stinks of dead fish and has regular earthquakes? It does. While their father tries to drink himself to death, the kids are left on their own to see what the town has to offer. (Zombies, mostly.)

Ochse has the Stephen King knack of creating a small town, populating it with empathetic pen-portraits, and then killing everyone off in increasingly horrific ways. While the Oliver kids guide the reader through the main story, the reader is treated to countless vignettes of heroism, despair and treachery on the side. Perhaps the most compelling is a lonely woman who is trapped by a zombie intruder. She slowly starves to death while the zombie relentlessly scrabbles on the bedroom door... Yeeks.

Like all good horror, the monster is actually irrelevant. The damningly catchy part of Empire of Salt is the well-developed atmosphere of terror. When the full-on zombie invasion comes, it is a release of tension. Fleeing from the zombie hordes isn't exactly relaxing, but it comes almost as a relief. At least people believe the kids now!

In fact, the only slow part of Empire of Salt is the slightly-ponderous explanation of the backstory. A mad scientist explains, somewhat clinically, absolutely everything about the super-secret government program. (Not sure why his teenage audience would sit still for that long.) The backstory is clever - I like the astronaut zombies - but to a certain degree, I don't care. We don't need world-building in good horror, and Empire of Salt is good horror. If Weston Ochse wants there to be zombies, I'm with him all the way.

This book restored my faith in zombies. There's no higher praise than that.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
SALT makes 'em SCARIER 8 Jun 2010
By Nick Cato - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After falling on hard times, the Oliver family drives cross country from Philadelphia to California to relocate at Bombay Beach, a former resort community on the edge of the Salton Sea that now looks more like a desert wasteland. The oliver kids befriend an ex-gang banger who shows them around. One night they witness a bus load of military soldiers about to enter a private section of their community when green-skinned creatures rise from the sea and attack; only one soldier escapes (Metzger, a former drug addict) and befriends our protagonists who then go on to find out what's happening. The town is full of some interesting characters, including a woman pastor who used to head a nudist church (!) and a loner nick-named the Mad Scientist who eventually sheds some light on what's going on.

Ochse employs a nifty idea for his zombies: they've been spawned by a failed top-secret project to create a race of astronauts who don't need to breathe to survive. The government (then when funds were cut, the military) began training this elite group under the Salton Sea until things got out of hand (even Ronald Reagan is given part of the blame here!).

Since the zombies only number in the hundreds--and because they're man-made--EMPIRE OF SALT doesn't fall into the tired post-apocalyptic category, and by keeping the creatures in a small area, there's plenty of claustophobic scares that go down within the local trailer park as well as several suspense-filled aquatic scenes.

With its underlying message of doing what's right in the face of unusually difficult circumstances, EMPIRE OF SALT manages to keep a positive message even in-between the countless chunk-blowing head shots and disembowelments. If you're a zombie fan, you're in for a good time
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Not Your Typical Zombie Horror Book 14 Jun 2010
By Jen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This definitely isn't your usual 'Night of the Living Dead' type of story. Weston Ochse knows how to play with the reader's imagination and expertly describes the horrors inflicted upon this small town rotting away in the remote California desert. It's the perfect place to hide a top secret government experiment spanning numerous presidencies. The only predictable aspect of the story is that the government is unable to control what it has created.

Cheer all you want for the heroes, but reader be warned, there are many twists and turns that will leave you laughing, crying, screaming in rage, and hoping against hope that someone comes out of this alive. You won't put it down until it's over.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Some Zombie Fun 10 Sep 2010
By Shroud Magazine's Book Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Empire of Salt is Weston Ochse's latest novel, and as good an introduction to the man's work as one is likely to find. The story finds eighteen year-old Natasha Oliver, her brother Derrick and their father moving into their new neighborhood. Bombay Beach is on the coast of the Salton Sea, a fairly creepy place in real life, let alone once Ochse gets done with it.

Not only is the Salton Sea a large, stagnant saltwater lake, Bombay Beach is populated by the sort of people one might imagine would be left if everyone with common sense and means just up and left. Not only is Bombay Beach populated by a reformed crackhead with too many kids, a Romanian Elvis-impersonating ex-soldier, and a naked preacher, there's also a secret, gated installation. And zombies. Don't forget the zombies.

As Natasha, Derrick and their friend Veronica discover that some of the kooky stories might not be all myth, they rescue a soldier from a group of zombies and, with the help of a few of Bombay Beach's more colorful characters, attempt to end the clandestine military project behind the zombie outbreak and escape the Salton Sea once and for all.

Empire of Salt's greatest strength is its engaging cast of supporting characters (a few of the others include the Olivers' dead grandfather's two girlfriends an old man with hooks for hands and a thirty-four year old mentally disabled man chained up in his family's back yard) and retired soldier Ochse's attention to detail (it's always nice when authors get Army lingo right). Another refreshing change of pace is that the book isn't about a massive, worldwide zombie apocalypse, but a small outbreak that the characters actually have a chance of nipping in the bud. Finally, the Salton Sea is a great setting for a horror story; Google it and see for yourself.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Built better than your average Zombie adventure 19 July 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Start to finish this is a zombie novel honed nearly to perfection. It sports a sound story line, strong characters, believable and utterly scary, tension filled moments of I can't believe that just happened. This is not your survivors locked up in a warehouse and picking on each other while the undead moan at the gates usual trash that is being pushed at us. This is smart, original, scary, and memorable.

So what happens? In a nutshell, the Army is up to their usual tricks and are trying to adopt human beings into being able to work longer and more efficeintly in space. They set up shop in a barren, rotting little nowhere town and every once in a while one of the experiments gets loose. Our main characters show up to take over a family diner and quickly become involved in surviving not just the zombies, but the governemnt thugs trying to keep a lid on the project. This is NOT dominated by the science of making the zombies, that would be boring, but rather in the havoc they wreck when they get loose. One tries to crawl through a doggie door to get at one resident. Who lives and gets eaten, and a lot of them get eaten, I will not let out of the bag. It is action packed but surprisingly and wonderfully, character driven. The odd cast of characters living in the town range from old hippies, war veterans, drunks, religious zealots, crack whores, Elvis impersonators who were formally hard core eastern Europeon mercenaries, mentally challenged adults, and government spies. And their are ordinary people too.

I hung on every situation and word. I have read many many zombie novels that were trash and unprofessional and paid twice as much as they are asking for this book. Give it a try. It's got crunchy zombie goodness inside.
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