Hey, did you hear? Chuck Wendig, author of Shotgun Gravy, Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey, and Dinocalypse Now and keeper of Terribleminds landed a deal with Amazon Children’s Publishing for a new young adult trilogy! From his website:
I’m pleased to announce that my Heartland young adult “cornpunk” trilogy — starting with the book known presently as POPCORN — will be published by Amazon Children’s Publishing. […] I’m very excited, totally over the moon, dizzy with disbelief.
Check out the post for more info on Popcorn.
In honor of this announcement, I’m reposting my reviews of two of my favorite Wendig yarns: Double Dead and Shotgun Gravy.
Double Dead is a glorious expletive-laden romp in the humorously grotesque. It’s equal parts disgusting, heart-wrenching, and funny.
Coburn, a vampire who used New York City as his private buffet, wakes up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. The millions of city-dwellers he relies on to pump his veins full of the fresh red stuff, are now shambling, mindless rotters. The one thing he needs to survive is virtually extinct.
I loved this story. It’s Grade-A gross in all the best ways, full of rotting flesh, cracking bones, and cannibalism. On the surface, it’s the B-movie you catch on cable late at night with a bowl of popcorn and your sweetie snuggled up next to you.
But below that? Scratch the surface even a little bit and you see it is so much more. It’s a story of redemption, survival, sacrifice, and yes, love. It’s a vampire story. It’s a zombie story. More importantly, it’s a human story.
It will (maybe) make you think about what kind of person you would be if your world went to shit. Would that little black spot you try so hard to hide finally surface? Would you be the hero or the monster?
My opinion hasn’t changed much since I wrote that. The characters have stayed with me and pop up in my thoughts when I least expect it. I am moderately ashamed I used the word ‘romp’, however.
“Atlanta Burns. Teenage girl with a shotgun. Standing up for the used and abused, the bullied and the beaten. A little bit Veronica Mars. A touch of Raylan Givens. Add a dash of Charles Bronson in Death Wish.” – Chuck Wendig
Atlanta Burns is much more than just a girl with a shotgun. She is a girl who is pushed to the ragged edge of the cliff and pushes back. A pint-sized vigilante with questionable habits and teenage morals. A girl who gets shit done by serving up short-term justice at the end of a gun barrel.
I understand why she does the things she does, the way she does them. I’m not sure if I completely empathize with her, but I certainly sympathize with her. She is damaged, broken, clinging to whatever shards of sanity and humanity she can find. When the fragile remaining tenants of human decency are threatened (a classmate being bullied) she acts with little hesitation and little thought to the consequences.
I give Shotgun Gravy 4 shotgun shells out of 5. Some of the characterization was too clichéd, too stereotypical. I wasn’t sure how I should feel about certain characters and at certain plot points, though it was clearer the second time I read it. That said, I enjoyed this story quite a lot. I want to see more of Atlanta Burns, not because I enjoy vigilante justice but because I want to see her fight her way from that cliff. I want to see her get better, overcome the trauma and the pain. I want to see who Atlanta Burns becomes and how she gets there. I’m rooting for this character to not only survive but to grow. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
I’m happy to say my opinion of Shotgun Gravy has improved over time. It occurs to me that the stereotypes I took issue with are reasonable stereotypes. Kids in high school (like these characters) mold themselves into stereotypes until they figure out who they really are because it’s easier. Like the pieces of a hand-made puzzle, they might not be a perfect match, but they fit.
I think it’s telling that it takes someone else’s trauma to pull Atlanta from her self-induced isolation. She has withdrawn mentally and as physically as you can while in high school, but she still can’t stand by and watch another person suffer. This says more about her character than all the misguided choices she makes.