Tuesday, October 01, 2013


This is the first day of October, which means that Shuffle Function is now all about the Halloween. For a number of years now I have been participating in the Countdown To Halloween blogging, all because I once lost my Halloween loving feelin'. That means at this point I have probably written about 150 holiday themed blog posts (I try really hard not to repeat myself). This year I'd like to add something new to the blog posts, some book reviews. If you listen to Shuffle Function, then you know that Tim and I are both hardcore readers. I would like to turn you on to some of my favorites that will definitely get you in the Halloween mood.

Let's start with a recent book that might've flown under your radar: ZONE ONE by author Colson Whitehead. Technically this falls under the genre of zombies or post-apocalyptic fiction, but it's so much more than that. If you want to scare the bejezus out of me, all you have to do is this: write about a survivor of a pandemic who has lost everyone he knows and is just struggling to adapt in a world that is nothing like the one he/she remembers or knows. Whitehead does all of this and more in ZONE ONE.

Often times those things that scare you the most also fascinate, and so I have read a number of books similar to ZONE ONE. There are books that go into frightening detail on the end times, something like Stephen King's THE STAND and then there are those that are sparse in language and specifics such as Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD. ZONE ONE falls into the later group. We follow a man's life both before and after Last Night, when the zombie shit hit the fan and the world as we know it disappeared. We never learn the man's name. The story is not told in first person, yet the use of words like "He" in reference to the main character sets up an automatic distance between reader and protagonist. That is intentional, because in the new world it is better to be on your own. Later we learn a nickname of Mark Spitz, which usually implies a familiarity, but not in this case.We are told of a number of times in which "he" decides to team up with other survivors and is only rewarded by heartache and loss. The story is told in "his" real time but is peppered with flashbacks to his life before Last Night, during Last Night and life on the run afterwards. When the story starts "he" is part of a government organization that is working on clearing out the island of New York. He works with a team of other survivors that go building to building, room to room and door to door clearing out Skels and Stragglers, which is Whitehead's version of zombies. Skels are fast moving and voracious and Stragglers are zombies literally stuck in the last motion they were infected in. Maybe that means it was standing behind a cash register or maybe it was sitting in a bathtub, but they can still infect survivors. It is a nightmare world come true.

There is a band aid of a government that hopes the island of Manhattan can be cleared of the undead and then re-populated with survivors. The  hope is to start civilization anew. It is not an easy job, and death could be waiting down any dark hallway but "he" makes do. This world is a familiar one, making it all the more frightening, but what really gets me where I live is just how lonely a world it is. As I mentioned previously, the best way to stay alive is to be alone, and yet humans are  social animals. We learn that our main character is a loner by nature and champion introvert. This characteristic is what has managed to keep him alive for as long as he has, and yet the loneliness he feels begins to be undeniable. He lives in a world undulating between reality and nostalgia and it is not a comfortable one. By the time you get to the end of the book it is difficult to know who is better off, those still alive or those who lost their lives on Last Night.

I really recommend this book. It starts slow but before you know it you will not be able to put it down. The more you learn of this new world the scarier the book gets. I found a link that has an excerpt of the books beginning; follow this link and you will get hooked, and then run out to your nearest bookstore and get yourself a copy!

Alright - now I want to really scare the crap out of you. Pictured above is Tune Town Hero Carl. Today he is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Mankato's only surviving Mom and Pop Record shop. So here is where things get scary - imagine a world where Mankato does not have a record store. Pretty frightening right? Head on down to Tune Town this week and congratulate Carl on twenty awesome years. While you are there pick up a new album or two, some used CDs or better yet buy a Tune Town hoodie. Don't forget to let Carl know how much we appreciate him and Tune Town. I am thanking you in advance Radio Heroes!

Okay - see you tomorrow Trick Or Treaters!!


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