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4.1 out of 5 stars
14
Double Dead (Tomes of the Dead)
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on 8 June 2012
I found myself Double Dead: a 2011 vampire/ zombie novel from self-described "freelance penmonkey", Chuck Wendig.

Double Dead draws from different genres to create an engaging tale of action-horror that feels something like Mad Max with a vampire in the titular role, dealing with all sorts of problems that the Road Warrior would never have dreamt of having to encounter.

Speaking of dreams, Wendig must have some pretty twisted ones judging by the imagery he conjures up within this novel, which is at times nightmarish and bleak; at others, downright vivid and disturbing. I feel no shame in admitting that during one particular description of a zombie's phsyical condition, I felt a little queasy... and I'm not exactly new to the genre!

Wendig's antihero of the story: Coburn, is the most enjoyable character I have come across in fiction for quite some time. A sardonic vampire who spits out pop culture references and who makes for quite the refreshing change to the sparkly angsty vamps that seem to be so popular of late. Coburn feeds off of a lot of unsavoury characters, paedophiles and the like. I feel that this was a bit of an effort on the part of Wendig to make his anti-hero a bit more likeable but was maybe a bit blunt for me. One particular element of the story (which I will not reveal) felt a little twee to me and in Wendig's world overrun with zombies, cannibals, religious zealots, paedophiles and drug addicts, it didn't quite sit right for me initially.

Reading Double Dead was by no stretch of the imagination a chore to read. Wendig's work is well-crafted, enjoyable, compelling and (I mean this as a compliment) a good pulpy adventure! I couldn't help but think that this would transfer very well into graphic novel format and beautifully to the big screen.
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on 28 April 2012
How does a vampire survive after his prey have been turned into zombies? Wendig kicks off his riproaring novel with this great premise. Coburn, a vampire for fifty years and trapped underground for the last two or so, 'awakes' into a NYC overrun by marauding 'rotters'. Seeking fresh human blood, he joins a rag-tag bunch of human survivors, lured by the promise of a steady supply of sustenance in a world gone to hell.

The style is smart, sardonic, and utterly hilarious. Coburn is a terrific creation, a nasty, self-absorbed bloodsucker who manages to be as cool as any Tarantino character even after he's been burned to a crisp by the morning sun. The action is relentless, horrifying, utterly mesmerising.

Best of all, though - and the acid test of every novel - is the story. Wendig tells a tale that grips from start to finish, with no digressions, no pointless meanderings, no wasted words. The last chapter had me almost in tears, big horror-loving softie that I am.

Chuck Wendig is a storyteller of the highest order, precisely because he's grasped that telling a story is the most important thing a writer can aspire to do.

Buy this. Read it. Then - oh my god - buy Blackbirds.
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on 13 January 2012
A vampire wakes up after the end of the world, to battle zombies, cannibals, and religious lunatics...oh, and stoners.
A great story, with a suitably cynical anti-hero. I don't really know why the other reviewers don't like this book. What do you expect from a novel where the main character is a vampire, and most of the world's population is either dead, or zombies?
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on 23 August 2012
Another solid horse from the Wendig stable. Double Dead charts the voyage of Coburn (a recently revived vampire) and his food supply (a small band of human survivors) as they travel through the ravaged wasteland of post-zombie-apocalypse America.

There were a few things that stood out for me in this novel:

1. The concept of a vampire having a severely limited food supply (he can't suck zombie blood) and thus needs to effectively manage his human herd to maintain a steady supply.

2. The vampire being limited physically by the amount of blood he's drunk. Blood is a sort of "nitro injection" for him; he can store it in his body and use it on-demand to move fast and hit hard - but it's not unlimited and he can be surprised. In essence, he is a lot more vulnerable than vampires are in most other fiction.

3. The protagonist is essentially a vicious b@stard. Really, he's not very nice, and most readers will probably hate his guts - cheering at every arse-kicking that comes his way.

The plot is nothing outrageous for the genre: survivors have to get from here to there (no spoilers as to why!), battle zombies on the way, zombies are bad - but look at what the humans are now doing to each other blah blah blah. All good fun. The human characters are what you'd expect - a rag-tag mix of personalities just trying to get by. There's plenty of gore, plenty of violence and the usual word-filth you'd expect from the mind of Chuck W.

Loved it from page 1.
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on 25 July 2015
I can't say too much about the plot without introducing spoilers. Given the book's blurb you can see it takes a different approach. How different you will never guess!
A totally new twist, the hero is a really nasty piece of work.
The fact that he's a vampire didn't stop me liking him from word one. There's a good bit of twisted humour and a lot of gore. My kind of novel!
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VINE VOICEon 5 February 2012
I've never been much taken with the zombie apocalypse genre. There just doesn't really seem like there's very much one can actually do with it that hasn't been done in film, fiction and comics many time before. Then along comes Double Dead, proving that the zombie apocalypse genre has plenty of life left in it. Wendig makes genre tropes his own, as well as adding a great, original twist. After all, in a world populated predominantly by zombies, what does a vampire have to do to get a meal?

Double Dead strips away any and all of the romanticism of vampires. Coburn is a player, only a dead one who's after your blood rather than your virtue. He's unsympathetic to human plight, he's not altruistic, he doesn't sparkle in the light. He's selfish, aggressive, and most of all he's hungry. The unfortunate band of survivors he stumbles across are easy prey. But then the mysterious daughter makes Coburn an offer that is very difficult to refuse: become their shepherd, protect them and they'll show him where to get food - picking on the worst elements of the leftovers of humanity; the cannibals and other scum who prey on the desperate few survivors.

Wendig gleefully plays around with a number of classic zombie-apocalypse tropes, and many readers will also be able to detect a hint of The Walking Dead in here. Nevertheless, the author manages to make it feel very fresh and original and wholly his own. And it's not only because he introduced a vampire to the setting (which really made the novel for me), although this does mean that seemingly familiar scenes or plot devices are turned rather nicely on their heads. Double Dead is a novel that fits comfortably in the sub-genre, but offers something more for readers to make this stand out.

Double Dead is slightly absurdist at times, with a somewhat gonzo-feel to the prose: visceral, it pulls back the curtain on all that is negative about humanity - greed, cowardice and selfishness. It's cynical, sarcastic, brutally honest. "Fear & Loathing in Zombieland" would be one way of describing certain chapters in the novel. Some scenes and passages have the feel of a young and angry Hunter S. Thompson collaborating with George Romero to write a zombie-apocalypse novel. While maybe listening to Carcass... It's not perfect, and lacks some subtlety and nuance, but for a debut novel this is very well written and composed. Sometimes the gory bits feel a little relentless, or over-long for my admittedly more-conservative tastes, but it's still a pretty fun romp through a zombie-infested post-societal America.

"I figure the end of the world just ripped off humanity's mask, and now the true face of mankind is out there grinning like a mad skull in the moonlight." (58)

For the most part, Wendig's negative portrayal of human nature works, but there are the occasional passages or scenes that seem just a little too negative. However, because of Wendig's brisk prose style, things move on at a near-breakneck pace, and any minor flaws are quickly forgotten as the motley group of survivalists make their trip to the promised safety in the West.

After a slightly par-for-the-course middle third, things get interesting again in Part 3, as Coburn's flock get into a little (more) trouble, and we discover a bit more of what constitutes politics in this dystopia. Can't give too much away, but I have a feeling Mr Wendig does not like the Insane Clown Posse. Or perhaps does, and offers up a weird, twisted homage to the bizarre rap crew. There's tons of action in the final third of the novel, as almost everything comes to an explosive and bloody conclusion. There's tragedy, there's hope, there's a little bit of redemption, as Coburn's continued exposure to Kayla and her post-apocalypse family leads him to develop feelings of attachment that are utterly alien to and uncomfortable for him.

Double Dead won't be for everyone - it's gruesome and very graphic, especially when it involves cannibals: Ambrosia, a particularly loathsome cannibal Coburn confronts, is the most horrific character in the entire novel (perhaps even the most horrific I've ever read), and events surrounding her almost made my gorge rise. Some scenes were outside my comfort zone - `disgusting' is one word, but it does fit the genre, and I have read worse. It's shocking, but also very well written (which makes it even more gross). This is the only novel in Abaddon Books' Tome of the Dead series that I've read, so I'm not sure if this is the norm, but if you like gribbly horror, then this should suit fine.

One thing is for certain: Chuck Wendig is a very talented writer. His prose style pulled me along throughout - it's fast-paced, cynical and very tightly crafted. It doesn't always work, but he has a real gift. He will undoubtedly become a force in genre fiction, and I can't wait to see what else he comes up with. I will eagerly read anything he puts out there (I've already bought one of his non-fiction works, Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey).

The feel-bad zombie novel of the year, with a hint of redemption? Probably. Go read it.
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on 19 August 2014
Thoroughly enjoyable romp through an apocalyptic world. Humour, gore, social commentary and even a little bit of sentimentality as well. A great idea, brilliantly executed. Recommended.
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on 27 December 2011
Aw I so wanted to love this book, the idea is pure brilliance however the story just didn't cut it for me (to be fair I had huge expectations). Some of it is really good to be honest for example we get to know how the disease started and spread and I love that and find it is usually lacking in zombie books (and movies). All questions that were raised throughout the book is answered which is another huge must for me.

However there was so much I disliked, for this to be a fair and honest review I had to give a two star rating. The vampire is a poor show compared to what we have viewed over the years, he gets his butt handed to him more often than not. His attitude really sucks for the most part (I did start to warm to him near the very end) and some of the dialogue seemed just a bit over the top although some of it was funny. That said the things I didn't like my o/h thought was quite funny (I read it out to him) so I definately think that whilst I thought the book was ok some readers will love it.

The other characters are varied and have some good traits but again there was noone who stood out for me or stayed with me, well maybe creampuff :D The way it ended I think there will be more to the series, will I get it? Yes I think so and hope that Coburn is more endearing and a better vampire than our first meeting. The writing of the book is very easy to follow and barring the swearing (which doesn't bother me but sometimes it just seemed over the top and there for the sake of it) I quite enjoyed the authors style of writing. 2/5 for me this time but I am very picky so if your a zombie and or vampire fan give it a try
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on 17 November 2011
I like the writing of Chuck Wendig. I regularly read his blog and have read all of his writing advice and short stories that I have been able to buy. So I pretty much knew what this book was going to be like. Or at least I thought I did. Some people do not like the amount of profanity contained in Mr Wendig's work and surprisingly for a zombie apocalypse novel where everything goes totally to pot there is a lot less of that kind of language than I'd expected. Don't get me wrong this is no YA fluffy bunny horror and the language is appropriately expressive where needed. I fully intend to try and get my 15yr old to try and read this book so it can't be too obscene.

This novel centres around a Zombie apocalypse and the main character is a Vampire called Coburn. Well that is instantly a couple of ticks on the fun-o-meter straight away. The world is screwed and in some ways the environment reminded me a bit of Mad Max as they made their way across America. Every time I thought things had got pretty bad they got worse until eventually. Well they don't exactly get better, but I wouldn't want to spoil the ending for you so you'll just have to read it instead. If Zombies and Vampires are not enough for you try adding in some Zombie/Vamp hybrids, redneck fanatics and some frat house dope fiends who dress as clowns with access to the whole armoury of an air force base. Yep it gets that messed up.

I am a big fan of main characters that are not exactly nice people and I think it is a good sign when a writer can get me to empathise with a character like this. Coburn is not a lovable rogue he is a right little bugger (that was as polite as I could manage). The plot is gradually trickled through without being overly obvious. The ending leaves some questions and more importantly leaves a great big opening for a follow-up story. I certainly finished this book wanting to know what the new and improved Coburn would be like, although I can foresee some serious emotional issues bleeding through.
This is a great first novel that satisfies a need for a good old supernatural horror and leaves you wanting more. Oh and Coburn has a pet dog called Creampuff that he rescued.
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on 4 February 2012
I enjoyed this a lot. The premise - a cruel, utterly selfish vampire forced by apocalyptic zombie circumstances to fight against his own evil nature and protect his prey - is refreshingly different.

Coburn, the sardonic egotistical vampire, is a fine creation; never likeable but always compelling and, in some dark hypnotic way, even admirable. A streetwise guy with a strong personality, he is witty, devious, and has some fantastic lines. In fact, like all the best vampires, Coburn is pretty cool. But, to his continual irritation, not quite as cool as he'd like to be.

The book is one crazy ride - I'm tempted to say romp - through a survivalist series of disasters involving much zombie mayhem. But Double Dead is far more than a blood and guts fest. Coburn the vampire is plagued with internal conflict and mysterious dreams of his past (or his future?). There are plenty of unexpected twists and revelations as he grows closer to finding his answers.

There are some extraordinary setpieces involving various grotesque and outrageous characters who seem to have escaped from a circus of horrors. Gobbling flesh is a surprisingly popular occupation in Double Dead. Turns out it's not just vampires and zombies who are monsters.

Throughout, the horror is described with a flavoursome gusto which only an author in perfect command of his depraved literary talent could produce. There's a great imagination at work and a lot of humour to enjoy. Great stuff. Wonderfully horrible.
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