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Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

I will admit that zombies are probably my least favourite of the undead. (Sorry Dan!) I’ve watched a handful of movies that were OK, but I’d take angels, vampires or werewolves over zombies any day. And so, I’ve never read much in the way of zombie lit. But these books caught my eye, and I have to say, I much prefer reading about zombies to watching zombies.

The world as it exists in Carrie Ryan’s novels would be a terrifying place. Civilization has pretty much fallen and in it’s place is an expansive forest with a small villages sprinkled inside. There is a fence to separate the forest from the people because in the forest there are zombies. All day, every day, zombies all around. The author does a good job of reminding you that they are there, relentlessly moaning, grabbing, and biting, trying to infect more people.

Against that backdrop, both The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-tossed Waves are really coming-of-age-and-falling-in-love-stories. These are incredibly brave, yet naive characters whose transition into adulthood is punctuated with death and violence in the form of zombie hordes. And it works very well. All the drama and tension of young love, plus terrifying zombie attacks!

Dead-tossed Waves
The Dead-tossed Waves

What I liked best about these books were the main characters. Mary and Gabry are both intelligent and independent without being pretentious. They make mistakes and they learn from them. They are often terrified, yet they press on and fight when they need to to save the people they love most in the world – sometimes they win, and sometimes, they lose someone to the zombies. They are dealing with some pretty heavy stuff in these books! (Oh man, there is an escape sequence from a tree-house village in the first book that is intense. Ditto for the ending of Dead-tossed Wavesintense!)

I’m really hoping for at least a third book – there is definitely more to this story!

TL: So, it would seem that Constantine enjoyed a bigger budget than Dog Soldiers, but I think it may have been ahead of its time in terms of Angel popularity. This kind of pseudo-religious apocalypse at the hands of an angel movie has been done a few times, most famously in The Prophecy and most recently in Legion. Constantine fits right in the middle time-wise, but was, in my opinion, the best of the three.

What did you think of the movie?

KW: I agree. Putting aside all bias toward werewolves, I have to admit this was a stellar movie.

One of the things I usually dislike about film adaptations of graphic novels is often the attempt to capture the look overrides other elements of the movie. The result is usually high art for the sake of high art, celebrities thrown into the mix making the the high production value fall flat for me.

Movies like Sin City, for example, wind up being nothing but a second-rate imitation (from which I frankly wanted to walk out of). Graphic novels have the ability to depict things that are unimaginable in real life and that can entail some horrific scenes. But, nobody wants to see the real Wile E. Coyote actually get smushed by the falling anvil. My measure of success for adaptations of graphic novels is balancing the art with the storyline and acting. Constantine was able to pull it off. And then some.

That said, there were a significant amount of changes from the original source, particularly the character of Constantine. What are your thoughts on filmmakers drastically altering or mixing content in the process of adapting novels for the big screen?

TL: That kind of thing doesn’t bother me that much. What works in a book doesn’t always work on-screen. The Da Vinci Code for example. They were too true. In Angels and Demons, they changed more and the movie benefited from those changes. It’s interesting to see what another mind does with the original story, what compromises they choose to make, what works and what doesn’t.

I haven’t read Constantine, so I can’t compare them, but I also appreciate the fact that the movie isn’t overdone. I found it very appealing visually but I also really enjoyed the story, the humour and the mythology. The final confrontation in this movie is fantastic – the motivations of each character and the role they play is so… cynical? Is that the word I am looking for?

KW: Agreed. The original source can’t be translated literally. I appreciate when a filmmaker can “interpret” the original source so it’s true without being literal. Keanu Reeves, though great to look at at, is not the finest actor but he did a good job. Overall, I enjoyed the acting. The cinematography and special effects were especially cool. As for cynical perspective of the characters: maybe. I think there had to be an aspect of hope to pull the protagonists out of the frightening prospects that lay ahead of them though. Don’t you think?

TL: Hope is there. But Constantine hopes that if he commits suicide (again), that he can save the girl. Lucifer hopes that if he saves Constantine’s life, that he will mess up again and go straight to Hell next time. Gabriel hopes that Hell on Earth will make humanity worthy of God. It’s a pretty grim set of hopes.

KW: Yeah, but hope is hope, grim or not. The darkest hour is before the dawn and all that. I actually like the bleakness of it in a way because despite the cool special effects, the overarching premise of the movie wasn’t heavy-handed in the way that a lot of big budget Hollywood films are with an obvious pulling at heartstrings or morality.

TL: I will tell you a secret: I Love Keanu. He picks movies that work with his Ted vs the Matrix legacy. They are always burnt out a little, they speak slowly, but they have an inner stregnth that I think he actually works quite well. So maybe he didn’t quite pull off being Buddha. He is apparently a reaally intelligent person and voracious reader.

And the young Shia Lebeouf! I had forgotten about his role in this movie. He does a great job at annoying sidekick.

What did you think of Gabriel being played by a woman?

KW: Since we’re admitting to secrets, I too will admit that I love Keanu. He’s not likely to win any Oscars but you can’t fault him for knowing his limitations and picking characters that he’s able to portray honestly. I feel that critics who find his acting wooden or reminiscent of some of his earlier roles, are biased in their reviews and pan anything in which he appears. As for Shia Lebeouf, I also forgot about him in the film and with reason. He was the biggest cliche in the movie, right up to how things end up for him.

As for my thoughts on Gabriel being played by a woman: fantastic! However, I think it worked only because it was Tilda Swinton. Any other female actor might not have been able to pull it off. She was able to balance the androgyny of this character with playfulness that was more charming than creepy. You?

TL: When I first watched this movie back in the day, it made me a fan of SWINTON. She is fierce and beautifu but androgynous, exactly. She’s perfect – a brilliant choice for this role.

Constantine was the kind of movie I wanted Legion to be – smart, dark, a little bit mystic. I’m going to give it 9/10 – it’s a contender for top of this (hopefully!) burgeoning genre.

KW: Yes, this was an enjoyable movie and one that Hollywood producers should be mindful of when creating the next films of this theme. It had all the right elements of both story line and style without being over-the-top. So, I’m going to agree with you here and give it a 9/10 also in the hopes that we see more films of this calibre in the future.

Alright, unDead nation, I am feeling a little defeated this weekend. Legion, though creeptastic in parts, was a pretty big let down. Let me just say that if you are going to watch an apocolyptic angel movie this weekend, save some money and rent Constantine.

Let’s start with the good. The creep-factor is pretty high for some parts of this movie. That old lady from the trailer is even worse on the big screen. Ditto for the ice cream man. But HOLY CRAP.. wait til you see the kid. “It’s OK. I just want to play with your baby”. *shudder*

I liked Paul Bettany, and I actually kinda liked thier take on Micheal. Michael disobeying God is a new interpretation of his angelic archetype, and I am always a fan of innovation. Michael is a pretty arrogant guy, and could be a little more forth-coming with plot-enhancing explanations, but he comes by his arrogance honestly and he’s right almost all of the time.

Gabriel, on the other hand, was a pretty weak character. And, it’s been done better in Constantine and The Prophecy. He’s somewhat of a minor character in Legion, which is strange since he is the one who leads the army of creepy possesed people. He doesn’t even appear until the last third of the movie.

About the fighting: This is the kind of movie that needs a pretty epic battle; it IS the end of the world, after all. And to his credit, Gabriel tried. He came onto the scene ready to kick-butt and take some names. But there was no ‘battle’, just a couple of scuffles.

But, the biggest problem is that nothing in the plot makes sense.

Consider this your fair warning: The rest of this is spoilers…

Things that were never explained:
Who the hell names thier kid “Jeep”?
Why don’t the angels just possess the people in the diner?
Why THAT baby? He’s just some bastard son of a waitress.
Why does the baby stop the possessed people in thier tracks?
Is this baby made of adimantium? He gets tossed around like a pigskin.
Why does Jeep get covered in angel tattoos, but never gets any angel powers?
Did this happen to the whole world? Or just the South Western US?
Were all the possesed people ok after God changes his mind?

1) They Probably Shed
Think about it – it’s not like they are derived from poodle stock. Big massive wolf-men mean big massive hair balls. Ugh.. imagine the shower drain in your neighbourhood werewolf’s house.. ewwww.

2) Transformations are uncontrolled, and monthly.
The lady-fans can attest that PMS is bad enough; monthly mood swings, cramps, blood. Times than by 100 and I figure you have “The Change”. And I say.. no thank you.

3) Werewolves are cannibals.
That takes care of all of you vegetarians, now doesn’t it? Like zombies and vampires, werewolves are all about the delicacy known as.. You. Your guts in particular, it would seem.

4) Werewolves are S-M-R-T.
I know you dog-people would love to argue, but on the grand scheme of things, I’d rather have a person’s IQ than a wolf’s. Opening a gate was about the most impressive thing arttibuted to wolf intellegence.

5) Werwolves are ugly.
SRSLY.


TL: Who would win in a fight, werewolves or angels?

LK: Having spent hours yesterday writing an insane battle scene for Torment, I’m going to have to put my money on the angels. I’ve never talked smack about a werewolf before, and it makes me a little nervous. But angels, though just as ruthless as their opponents, have this incomparable grace and cunning that gives them a wing up. Plus, no offense to Jacob, they’re just easier on the eye. Very important for us mortal spectators.

TL: Do you think angels are the new vampire?

LK: I think what draws us to angels is probably similar to what draws us to vampires, or werewolves. Most of us grow up with some sort of angel mythology–whether it comes from a religious upbringing, or a cultural context. We have an idea of what they’re supposed to look like (flawless features, fluffy white wings), how they’re supposed to behave (always perfectly benevolent), and what they’re supposed to do (well, I suppose biblically, they’re messengers of God, culturally there’s the idea of a “guardian angel”). For readers, there’s an almost built-in collective conscience about angels–which is great because it’s familiar and therefore accessible. For authors, there is so much room to play off these existing expectations, rewrite old stories, and experiment. So there’s something in it for all of us. Which is good because they seem to be here to stay.

TL: How would you summarize your book in one sentence?

LK: At her new reform school in Georgia, Lucinda Price is torn between two otherworldly hotties, unaware that they are fallen angels who have battled over her for centuries.

TL: Why did you decide to write about the Nephilim/fallen angels?

LK: The idea began when I came across a line in Genesis that talked about a group of angels who were kicked out of heaven because they lusted after mortal women. I started thinking about what it would be like to be normal girl–suddenly the object of an angel’s affection. All the excitement and the challenges that would naturally spring from that. As someone who’s been writing love stories my whole life, this angel angle seemed like the perfect way for me to up the ante and tell a really BIG love story, one that brought in questions about trust and betrayal, and preconceived notions about good and evil.

TL: What kind of research did you have to do for Fallen?

LK: Beyond the few biblical references of angels, I looked to the books of Enoch as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are extra-biblical texts. I also loved Omens of the Millennium by Harold Bloom, and A History of Heaven by Jeffrey Burton Russel. I think this is the book where I found the first mention of the Grigoris (which inspired Daniel’s character) and the Nephilim, which you’ll meet in Torment. I refer to The Dictionary of Angels a lot for terms and definitions. To round out my story, I also read some books about the other side including a trilogy by Jeffrey Burton Russel: The Devil, Lucifer, and Mephistopheles. It was so much fun to read up on all of this angelology, at first it was hard to stop researching and start writing!

TL: Is there a chance for Daniel’s redemption?

LK: Definitely not.

Just kidding. Isn’t that what we’re all in this for? Let’s just say there’s a chance for all sorts of unexpected things to happen!

TL: How do you choose your characters’ names?

I’d say about fifty percent of the names I choose for sonorous reasons (i.e. I just like the way the sounds roll off the tongue), and the other half have some meaning relevant to the story. Probably not too far from the methods parents use to name their kids. Daniel Grigori, for example, falls into the latter category. Daniel is the first book in the bible where an angel (who happens to be Michael) makes a choice independent of God, and I thought this first moment of independence suited Daniel’s character. The Grigoris are (allegedly) a group of angels who “fell” because they lusted after mortal women.
Matt King’s name (in The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove) is probably a little bit more self-explanatory—though his first name was originally Mike but I changed it when my editor pointed out that it rhymed with Nat! ‘Matt and Nat’ was a little too cute for Natalie’s story.

TL: Your book has been optioned by Disney. Who would you like to see star in it?

LK: I kinda love Ed Westwick on Gossip Girl and think he’d make an excellent Cam on the big screen. For Luce? I thought Dakota Fanning nailed her two minutes of darkness in New Moon. With the right dye job…I could see it! It’s harder to think about whom to cast for Daniel, though I know Disney has been kicking around some top secret ideas.

TL: Name your top 5 favourite angels from literature or movies.

LK: I get to pick from the fallen ones too, right? Then first, I gotta say that Satan in Paradise Lost is pretty charming. As is Matt Damon in Dogma. I think Wings of Desire is beautiful. And of course, It’s a Wonderful Life. I also always like when devil/angel avatars pop up on cartoon character’s shoulders. Like Tweety Bird and Garfield. Does that count?

I’ll be queuing up to see Legion when it comes out too!

TL: Do you have a guilty pleasure read?

LK: My guilty pleasures are usually magazines—fashion mags like Vogue and InStyle, gossipy ones like US Weekly, and I love cooking/food related magazines. I don’t really think of books as guilty, but for vacation/beach read stuff, I love wry, sassy writers like Maureen Johnson. And I love F. Scott Fitzgerald so much he feels like a guilty pleasure even though his books are all classics and therefore good for you.

Catch the rest of Lauren Kate’s Blog tour:

January 11th: Beatrice/Galleycat.com
January 12th: Through a Glass Darkly
January 13th: A Patchwork of Books
January 14th: The Reading Zone
January 15th: The Children’s Book Review
January 20th: TeenReads.com
January 21st: The Book Butterfly
January 26th: CynthiaLeitichSmith.com

This is a pretty big month for Undeath Match at the box office. Deanna, Katie and I are all pretty excited about the release of Daybreakers, Wolfman and Legion respectively. (But really, were all pretty excited for all three of these movies!) So we just had to know which of these movies you, our Undead Devotees, are most excited for. Check out the trailers below, and vote in our mini-poll.

Daybreakers

Wolf Man

Legion

Unlike Vampires and Werewolves, whose respective traditions are only a few centuries old, Angels go waaaaaaaay back. A few millenia at least. Having been around that long, a few of them have reached a kind of celebrity status, at least among the religious set.

But where can you find them in popular culture? Let’s find out together.

The Metatron

The Metatron is number one among all the angels in Heaven. Now, I could tell you all about his job description, or I could let the wonderful Allan Rickman do it:

He also figures quite prominently in Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass.

The Archangels
There are generally thought to be 7 Archangels. Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel are almost unanimously agreed upon by all Western religious traditions to be part of this group. The other 3 angels’ names vary depending on the source.

Michael
Now, if THIS is what you are thinking of when I say Michael, you might be following the wrong blog.

Michael is the head of God’s Army. When Lucifer rose up in Heaven, it was Michael who led the defending army, and who personally put Satan in his place. In Judaism, it is believed that Michael was the protector of the Jewish people back in the day when other gods still existed in the Middle East. Michael is almost always depicted with either a sword or a spear. He is the warrior angel, no doubt about it.

In the upcoming movie Legion, Michael is the only angel fighting on our side. Michael is mentioned in the Milton’s classic Paradise Lost, and according to wikipedia, The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty was based on the diary of a man named Father Bishop, who performed an exercism on a 13-year old boy. During the ritual, “the boy saw a vision of the Devil and ten of his helpers engaged in a fiery battle with St. Michael. At one point during the dream, the angel smiled at the boy and said “Dominus.” Shortly thereafter, the boy shouted out: “Satan! Satan! I am St. Michael, and I command you, Satan, and the other evil spirits, to leave the body in the name of Dominus, immediately.” Thomas B. Allen also used this diary as a source for Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism.

Raphael
Raphael is God’s Healer. In art, he is generally depicted holding either food or medicine, not a weapon. In Paradise Lost, Raphael is the voice that talks to Adam about the Tree of Knowledge, and also the history of the War in Heaven.

Raphael is known for one battle – his fight with Azazel, whom he bound and cast into a crag.

Gabriel
Gabriel is about to take the spotlight from Michael, IMHO. Traditionally, he has been God’s herald, delivering important messages to humanity on His behalf. He will also be the one blowing the trumpet that will signal the End of Days. Like his buddies Michael and Raphael, Gabriel was also in Paradise Lost, as the chief of the angelic guards placed over Paradise. More recently, Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses has his main character be the modern incarnation of Gabriel.

But it’s on the big screen that we see a darker side of Gabriel, on that shows the angel to be jealous of humans, and rather violent. In The Prophecy series of the 1990s, Gabriel (played by Christopher Walken) wants to destroy humanity because he is sick of the love God shows them. This theme is played out again in the 2005 film Constantine, where Gabriel is played by Tilda Swinton. She plots to release Hell on Earth so that humanity will have to fight and earn God’s love. And of course, Gabriel will reprise this role in Legion, leading the army of God to destroy humanity.

Oh, and did you know that vampire slayer extrodinaire, Van Helsing, is actually the angel Gabriel? True Story.

Uriel
Uriel is the angel with the Firey Sword. He booted Adam and Eve out of Eden, and now stands watch there, barring reentry. He is the angel of repentance and wisdom, who both delivered important figures from harm and taught the prophets divine knowledge.

Uriel’s best known reference might be the book Uriel’s Machine: The Ancient Origins of Science. It is based partially on the tradition that Uriel taught Enoch (a rather holy man who may or may not have become The Metaron) all about the solar system.

And finally, the angel you’ve all be waiting for…

Lucifer
Also known as Sataniel, he was originally an Archangel. In the Latin, Lucifer translates to Bearer of Light. It is said that he was the greatest among the Angels at one time, the most beautiful, and the most dear to God.

However, Lucifer wanted to be as powerful as God, and had to be put down. Michael and Gabriel put him in his place and beat back his armies. They were thrown into the depths of hell, and have since been thought of as demons.

Now, there are literally thousands of references to The Devil and Satan in movies and literature. But, to get a good sense of Lucifer as a fallen angel instead of the father of all evil, I would recommend Paradise Lost, or I, Lucifer.

Since I am new here, maybe you don’t know that I am one of Kelley Armstrong’s biggest fans. (Full disclosure: I also work for her publisher, but that came about 5 years after I discovered her books.) In fact, last month, when Round 2 of Undeath Match was announced, I did a happy dance in my cubicle knowing you were soon to discover the awesomeness that is Bitten. Because Kelley Armstrong is a great writer, and she made werewolves sexy.

But the Otherworld isn’t limited to werewolves – there are witches, vampires, and demons. And yes, there’s an angel in this series too. And because Kelley is Kelley, she’s a bad-ass rebel kind of angel. Yep, Eve Levine is just the kind of woman I’d draft for this team.

Eve spent life as a black witch. We first meet her in Stolen, the second werewolf novel in the series. It was mostly a supporting role, but she definitely got my attention – right up until she died trying to save her daughter. I thought that was it for the feisty witch.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when Eve got her own story in book five, entitled Haunted. (Go on, read a little bit here, I’ll wait.) A romp through the afterlife featuring ghosts, demons and the Fates, Haunted is the story of how Eve “got her wings” (And here’s a spoiler – there are no bells involved.)

It’s been nearly five years since we’ve heard from Eve, and being in the know at Random House Canada, the next few books were not slated to feature angels. But it turns out Kelley was missing Eve too. And so, a novella was born. Brand-spanking new from Subteranean Press, Angelic is Armstrong’s second book featuring Eve and her firey sword. From Kelley’s site:

Angelic CoverAs a half-demon master of the dark arts, Eve Levine isn’t what anyone would call angelic. That’s exactly why the Fates chose her for the job. She’s their secret weapon against the forces of evil.

However after five years, Eve is tired of being the designated rebel of the angel corps, expected to break the rules, then penalized for it. When the leaderless djinn stage an uprising, Eve sees the perfect chance to get herself fired. As she plunges deeper into the demon world, though, she realizes she’s in danger of losing a lot more than her job.

She’s a half-demon… and an ANGEL. That combo right there is why Eve (and Kelley) deserve to be on Team Angel. I can’t wait to read this novella.*

*I am sorry to say that my copy is most likely sitting on my doorstep as I write this, while I am a few hours away visiting family for the holidays. But soon, it will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.

Ok, ok. You might not normally associate Angels with the likes of Vampires, Zombies and Werewolves. I get it – it’s an odd choice. Let’s just say that I was overcome with Holiday Spirit this year, and talked Deanna and Katie into Round 3.

But let’s set the record straight: we’re not talking about delicate Christmas angels or those chubby little cherubs from Katie’s post. No, in this corner of the Undeath Match Arena, you have the Warriors and the Fallen.

Exhibit A:

Gonna be a little bit of awesome, that movie.

So. Angels – not the new Wimpires.

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