As an American working in an American library, I have the 4th of July off, so what nice, productive things have I been doing? So far, I’ve eaten a gigantic breakfast (I usually don’t eat breakfast, so this is atypical); listened to several episodes of the Breaking the Glass Slipper podcast, which is an amazing podcast, by the way (it’s run by 3 ladies who are sci-fi/fantasy/horror fans/writers discussing these genres through a feminist lens), so check it out if you haven’t yet; randomly watched half an episode of this super-dramatic Indian soap opera with my mom, who is obsessed with it; aaaaaaand I’ve sort of worked on this blog.
Feels weird to say that, ’cause for me, blogging usually just means creating a repository for the shit that’s constantly floating around in my head and then dumping said shit in there. It’s messy and unstructured and it’s never really pretty. However, now that I’m done with school and my days are more free than they’ve ever been in recent memory (I’ve spent my entire life in school, pretty much), I find my natural library student instincts taking over and wanting to impose some method of organization on my posts. Let’s see how long this lasts.
All that aside, today I’m going to be talking about this book I finished a couple days ago that’s the first in a set of 6 that I just purchased. The other 5 are sitting in my living room, staring me in the face every time I eat dinner or watch TV.
The featured book: Cavern of the Blood Zombies, by Xu Lei (Book #1 of The Graverobbers’ Chronicles)
Format I read it in: PRINT, because the Kindle version was ridiculously overpriced. By the way, can I just say that I am having so much trouble reading books in print now that I’ve 95% converted to digital? I don’t care what all you die-hard print fans say, it is MUCH easier to curl up with my Kindle than with a print book!
The premise: The narrator (whose name I can’t recall to save my life) is a rare book dealer (the back of the book says he’s a bookseller, but the glimpse we get into his life makes him seem more like the antique book dealers I’ve met) who’s descended from a long line of graverobbers, and when I say graverobbers, I’m not talking about small-scale graverobbers who are paid by ancient medical students to steal cadavers– I am talking legit tomb plunderers who are well-versed in history, tomb architecture, trap-breaking, etc. Anyways, at the beginning of the story, he comes across what looks like a map to a tomb that very likely contains a huge payload. So he hits up his uncle, “Uncle Three” (or Third Uncle, I’m assuming), an experienced tomb raider with a small, pre-assembled team consisting of the cowardly Big Kui, devil-may-care Panzi, and a mysterious newcomer that the narrator nicknames “Pokerface” who seems to know way, way more about supernatural forces than is healthy/normal even for a high-level graverobber. The five of them set out to the rural village near where the tomb sits and that is when ALL THIS SHIT HAPPENS. [SPOILERS] They get sold out by their cave guides, they run into corpse-eating bugs and zombies, they find out that the tomb they’re attempting to rob belongs to an ancient general who reputedly commanded armies of the living and the dead, etc. etc.
My thoughts: I thought this book was a bit campy, kind of like a B-grade adventure/horror film, and it had very serialized feel to it, but hey, it was originally uploaded in parts online, so it all makes sense! Did I enjoy it less because of this? Nope! I sped through it (it is by no means a dense book) and was very entertained throughout. I enjoyed the level of attention paid to details such as shovel styles, differences in tomb construction based on time period, types of traps laid, etc. The banter between the characters wasn’t exactly laugh-out-loud funny (although I did laugh out loud once or twice), but it was amusing and I welcomed it after the darker reading material I’ve been consuming lately.
I did wish they included footnotes/annotation, since this is a translated work, and some things do get lost in translation between eastern/western languages and cultures, no matter how good the translator is. Quick little explanatory notes, like the kind employed by anime fansubbers, would have been perfectly fine, and would’ve really added to the quality of the book. There are lots of fat jokes and the narrator makes a comment about how disgusting it would be to kiss a man in one scene; I realize this is (unfortunately) a normal thing, culturally, and wasn’t bothered by it, but I know some people who would be put off by something like this, so please note!
Overall, would I recommend this? To a particular crowd, yes. If you’re a fan of humorous horror-adventure graphic novels (or some combination thereof) you can spare a couple hours to at least read through this one book to see if you like it or not. I myself will definitely be reading the remaining 5.
And now, I return to the fireworks that have been going off all day and endless patriotic music that won’t stop playing on the radio. Until next time. Cheers.