Posts Tagged ‘Wayne Simmons’

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Author interview – Wayne Simmons

January 6, 2013

In the third Dawn of the Lead author interview, Wayne Simmons, the author of Flu and Fever, is put on the spot. Enjoy, and go check out his homepage!

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DotL: The important question: Why zombies?

WS: Because I’ve loved zombie stories since the first time I watched George Romero’s Dead series. Night of the Living Dead is my favourite because, in a way, it’s the most character-focused: the zombies themselves are only a plot device. The main horror comes from what the people in that movie do to each other, how an event like the zombie apocalypse, and the pressure it brings, can make even people with the best of intentions turn on each other, often with terrible consequences.

I write zombie stories because I love the human stories they evoke. And, of course, who doesn’t like a good ol’ gory headshot?

DotL: Any personal zombie favourites – for example books, movies or games – you wish to share with the readers?

WS: Definitely Night of the Living Dead, the original ‘68 version, of course (which I reviewed recently). I also rave about a lesser known French z-flick entitled Mutants. It’s an absolute winner. You should look it up, if you haven’t done so already.

DotL: Especially in Flu there seems to be a very strong anti-establishment sentiment, care to shed some light?

WS: I rarely talk politics, apart from with friends. Politics, like religion, is a hugely divisive topic and can leave otherwise perfectly balanced individuals at each other’s throats. But, without going too deep, I consider myself a left-leaning Libertarian and view all political parties and governments, whether to the left or right, with suspicion. I don’t on any conscious level try to hammer this, or any other message, into my writing: my primary concern is to entertain and engage readers. That said, these books are a product of me and a great deal of my experience, whether it be the characters or the world within which each story is set, can be found there. There’s an anti-establishment sentiment because I’m an anti-establishment kind of guy. Simple as.

DotL: On a related note, how did you feel about tackling The Troubles in your books? I assume it’s still a touchy subject for many. Have you received feedback regarding the subject?

WS: I think it’s a much less touchy subject these days than it might have been, say twenty or thirty years ago.

Again, because I consider myself apolitical so to speak, I don’t feel my writing sways one way or the other. The story is always told from the perspective of its characters, all of whom have a very different angle on The Troubles. You have Pat Flynn in Flu and Mairead Burns in Drop Dead Gorgeous, both of whom are ex-IRA yet feel very differently about their actions of the past. Then you have the two cops in Flu, who think another way entirely. Or soldier Roy Beggs in DDG.

Like I said before, the z-poc brings a lot of these human emotions to the fore. I like to think we see some very interesting drama unfold within my writing because of that.

Either way, I think us Northern Irish folks don’t take ourselves too seriously. Sure, there’s The Troubles and, while it is a very serious topic and I, like many others in Ireland and beyond, have lost family to the conflict, it’s also proved a great source of parody. Local comedians are forever taking the piss. As a novelist, Colin Bateman has been writing about The Troubles for a lot longer than I have, and isn’t shy of sending the whole thing up. And that’s cool.

DotL: Flu and Fever depict some of the most disgusting zombies I’ve ever seen described. Did you ever gross yourself out writing them?

WS: Ha! Not really.

As a lifelong horror geek, I’ve a pretty strong stomach. I’m an old-school gorehound. Love all the messiness of horror, and they don’t come any more messy than zombies!

It was fun going to town with the body horror of it all.

DotL: Fever was in my opinion a lot more bleak than Flu. Was this intentional, or did it just creep in there?

WS: It was bleak, for sure, but I like to think there’s plenty of dark humour within my writing to offset that. Whether the humour comes across, or not, is another thing. Some people mention the humour, and seem to enjoy it, others don’t seem to get it at all.

It’s no big deal either way: each reader’s experience will be different and that’s cool.

With zombie horror, it’s hard not to be bleak. It’s the most brutal survival horror genre out there. Richard Matheson set the precedence with his 1954 classic I Am Legend, the story of the last man to survive a vampire apocalypse (although the vamps behaved more like zombies).

There is no way out. Everyone is most likely going to die.

DotL: What’s next? Are we going to see a third book in the Flu series?

WS: Absolutely. The third will probably be the final book in the Flu series, although I plan to return to that world on a regular basis with short stories and the like. I hope to have it written some time in 2013.

Before that, I have a cyberpunk book to get out there, as well as two crime books, a vampire book and a fun homage to 80s slasher horror (co-written with fellow genre hack, Andre Duza).

I’m very busy, but, as a lifelong fanboy, very happy to be working in this industry.

DotL: Let’s say an actual zombie apocalypse happens. How do you rate your chances for survival?

Pish-poor.

Everyone has a plan and here’s mine: get to the safest and most secure spot I can find. Grab some food and water, and a good book or two, and lockdown. Then try and enjoy the little time I have left.

DotL: Wayne Simmons, thanks very much for the interview. Any last words for the readers?

WS: Just a big thanks to you, Mikko, for your time. Thanks for the reviews and taking the time to talk with me. And a HUGE thanks to all my readers and potential readers. Means the world to me that people take an interest in what I do.

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Fever – a review

November 3, 2012

Earlier this year I reviewed Flu by Wayne Simmons. Fever is a sequel to the book – or rather a prequel and a parallel story. Fever exposes the origins of the virus and takes a look at the entire epidemic through the eyes of various different players. I was originally supposed to review Fever right after its publication, but never received the review copy and proceeded to forget about the whole thing until recently. Better late than never, right?

The book follows different characters and their storylines. As is typical of a structure like this, the storylines are somewhat interwoven. What made me happy were the references to Flu, seamlessly tying the two books together. Many of the things I wanted to see more of in Flu were present in Fever, for example the military aspects that felt a little detached in the first book.

There are many similarities between the two books and many of the same comments still apply. Simmons keeps his writing compact and efficient, and there’s a lot crammed into the 290 pages. At times this borders on excess, with a lot of different storylines and characters getting introduced, but it gets easier as the book progresses. The style is still very brutal and carnal, and I think Simmons still holds the title of “Author with the most disgusting zombies”, with the flu-ridden corpses (and soon-to-be ones) spewing bloody mucus from every orifice and so on.

With their similarities, we’re still talking about two different books. While Flu had a strong political vibe, with a large part of the conflicts rising from an establishment/anti-establishment setup, Fever draws more from the pool of social conflict. This is helped along by a cast of characters different from your usual zombie fiction fare, through which themes such as sexual minorities and disabilities both physical and mental are explored. This results in a book that feels refreshingly different while retaining a solid genre feel. While not as prominent as in Flu, the anti-establishment sentiment is still present, and you definitely get the feeling that the government isn’t doing a very good job at reacting the problem to say the least.

On a related note a word of possible warning: Fever is bleak – very bleak. While not quite reaching excessive, David Moody -like proportions, this book definitely isn’t a happy read. Personally, I liked it, but I understand it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. A large part of the dark humour present in the previous book is missing this time, making Fever pretty depressing at times. This is something of a double-edged sword: humour helps you relate to the characters (Shaun of the Dead being a prime example) but can easily lead to the whole thing getting silly and unbelievable. Luckily, Simmons is a good enough character writer that his characters function even with the humour turned down a bit.

Overall verdict: If you liked Flu, you’re bound to like Fever. It’s a gripping, bleak zombie read, with thoughtfully crafted characters and plenty of interesting storylines and points of view to keep the reader interested. While it probably won’t leave you feeling warm and happy inside, it’s an interesting, harsh example of a worst case zombie outbreak scenario. If you haven’t read Flu, I suggest reading it before Fever.

As usual, I picked up my copy from The Book Depository.

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Flu – a review

January 21, 2012

I’m currently vacationing in sunny Sri Lanka. To while away my time in the sun, I took a fair few zombie books with me. This serves the triple purpose of providing me with both entertainment and something to review and offering you something useful to read. First up is Flu by Wayne Simmons.

The concept behind Flu is very simple. It’s another flu (just like with the avians and the swine) that hits, first provoking the usual panic, jokes and cynical dismissal that these things tend to do. Only it starts to get a lot worse. There are quarantines, deaths and eventually re-animations. You know how it goes from there.

The book’s setting is an interesting one, as it’s set in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The place has a rough history of political division and internal strife making it an interesting backdrop for a story with or without zombies. Wayne Simmons has managed to incorporate strong elements from the setting into the story, and Flu doesn’t feel like yet another foray into the generic US city that frames most zombie novels. There are bitter enmities and deep regrets as well as historical references and the like. The writer manages to write these into the story without being too heavy-handed. When criticism is levelled, it feels done by the characters and not the author. Personally I hate having a political ideology, religion or anything similar crammed down my throat when I’m trying to enjoy some zombie action, so I was happy with the way Simmons handled his subject matter. They serve the story’s purpose and not the other way around. Simmons hails from Northern Ireland, and it’s apparent he knows what he’s writing about.

Another thing I applaud is Simmons’ writing style. He doesn’t waste his pages and there isn’t a lot of empty filler in the book. In roughly 280 pages he manages to tell a good story, introduce the reader to a handful of characters and include the above mentioned themes into the mix. He drops nice hints here and there about how things went down when the flu struck, and there are some excellent little details there that make it hit a little closer to home.

The characters are a nice collection, too. None of them feel like cardboard cut-outs. The story follows each character’s perspective at some turn, and you get a glimpse or their motivations and inner workings. Nobody’s perfect, nobody’s a complete mess-up. They feel pretty much human, with their good and bad traits. At times it feels like Flu might make a nice movie, probably a Guy Ritchie one. The reason for this is the combination of a tragic situation, some dark humour and imperfect characters. It works wonderfully for me.

There wasn’t much in the book that irked me. A pet peeve of mine raised its head a few times. What is it with zombie book authors and firearms? Seriously. Once I know it’s a Glock 17, it can be referred to as a pistol. Do I even need to know it’s a Glock 17? This isn’t to say that the book is brimming with gun information, thankfully. There’s just a bit too much needless repetition at times. Also, the military strand of the story could’ve been developed a bit more as it felt a bit detached. Apparently this is taken further in the upcoming sequel Fever, which is a welcome piece of news.

Overall verdict: Flu doesn’t really bring that much new to the genre. A lot of the usual tropes are there – the tension between survivors, hidden agendas and friction between the establishment and civilians. Normally I’d view this as a failing on the book’s part. A book with nothing much in the new idea department needs to be pretty good otherwise to float, and luckily writer Simmons pulls it off. Flu is an intense, compact book, and well worth your reading. I ate it up in two days, and am still hungry for more.

I picked up my copy of Flu at the Book Depository.

You can check out Simmons’ homepage here.

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