Author Toby Venables
Things You Might Like
- Viking zombies!
- Fun dialogue
- Trying to pronounce Hrafn without coughing up phlegm
- The sudden urge to force everyone to refer to you as ‘Troll-Beater’
Things You Might Not Like
- It seems the zombie craze is still going strong
- Abundance of flowery prose
This is a book about Vikings fighting Viking zombies. You want something fun? Read it. You want high literature? Don’t read it.
4 out of 5 Piles of Salt
There are a few times in my life where I’m stricken by a very distinct, and pressing, urge to find something utterly B-movie. This, I believe, started with watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 every week back before The Sci-Fi Channel turned into a movie studio with horrible ideas.
Recently, as I was walking around London with some friends, I went into a store called Forbidden Planet. The place is well-stocked in everything from comics to collectible figurines and statues. They also, and this is the important bit, have a book section.
Naturally, I rushed over there and found myself looking at Tomes of the Dead: Viking Dead, or, as I like to think of it, The Skyrim Book. It’s a novel by Toby Venables, a lecturer of Film Studies at Anglia Ruskin University, and you pretty much know what’s going on by looking at the cover: There’s gonna be Viking zombies up in this bitch.
The novel follows the captain of the Hrafn, Bjolf, as he and his crew of forty vikingr from all over the known world stumble upon a region beset by a curse that makes the dead rise from their graves. Bjolf, and his second-in-command, Gunnar, are, in the words of Danny Glover,
getting too old for this shit but are faced with the fact that their honor will be tarnished if they run.
(Then there’s the fact that they’re probably cursed by wandering into the area. Really, it’s not so much a curse as a sickness.)
So, there you have it. It’s your basic hack-and-slash premise, but with the twist that there are Vikings involved. And, frankly, who doesn’t love Vikings? There’s something fantastically threatening about the guys that makes them great subjects to read about. It might be the Nordic religion, with all its mead and talk of the final war at the end of time. It might be something else, but the fact remains: Them’s good reading material.
So, as to what the hell I thought about this. I’m not going to try and put one over on you, dear reader, I went into this thinking about how godawful the book would be. I mean, come on! The title’s Viking Dead! There couldn’t be any way the writing could be anything other than what a twelve-year-old comes up with the first time he’s handed instructions on how to use a word processor.
Well, turns out I was wrong. Viking Dead won’t win an Orange Prize, mind you, but it’s not bad at all. Venables knows very well what he’s writing about. He’s not out to create high literature, but, as I’ve mentioned before, that doesn’t mean that a book can’t be a good read. ‘Pulp,’ and all the synonyms thereof, exists to be an entertaining diversion, and Venables does a good job of it.
The characters aren’t exactly works of art, but they fill their roles as one would expect. The dialogue – always a tricky thing to nail down – is pretty damn good… although, to be honest, there are a few groan-inducing lines that have been said one too many times in action movies.
And one thing – one, major thing – that got to me at certain parts was the way the book was written. I mean, sentence-wise. (Plot, as I’ll say below, was fine.) There were many times through the book where I just wanted to move on to the next plot point, not to hear George R.R. Martin-esque descriptions of everything going on in the forest and in the feast halls.
It may be a nod to the style of the 1920s – 50s pulp writers, and that’s all well and good, but it’s a bit too much at times. We’re an impatient world, now, and what would have passed for brevity sixty years ago is now mind-meltingly slow. But still, jolly good show!
The plot, as I mentioned above, is about what you’d expect. There is, however, a twist at the end. I did not like the twist. I didn’t throw the book at the wall or anything like that, but I was left going,
Beh? One of those things where you think to yourself,
That may have been better left to the imagination.
So, in all, a fun read. Got some downtime and have a hankering for a form of zombies that you probably haven’t seen before (unless you play Skyrim)? Go pick up Viking Dead.
Buy, Rent, or Pirate? Buy this book from Amazon now! (NOTE: Bullet Reviews does not condone piracy. If you pirate media, you’ll probably be ripped apart by draugr.)