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Review: Deck Z: The Titanic: Unsinkable. Undead

Deck Z: The Titanic: Unsinkable. Undead
Deck Z: The Titanic: Unsinkable. Undead by Chris Pauls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are only so many things that can be done with the zombie concept as we know it. In Deck Z, you’ll find the typical zombie-plague tropes in play (even though I found the connection to a strain of the Bubonic Plague grounded it a bit better in reality), so if you’re looking for something more original in that department, this story probably isn’t for you. However, if you don’t mind that and you like fast-moving action adventure tales set against a historical backdrop, then pick this one up.

There aren’t many super-gory moments in this novel, but each of those is so cleanly-rendered it’s toe-curling. There is one paragraph in particular to which I vocally reacted. I wish all writers of gore knew how to do it as well.

For Titanic buffs there is good news, as therein is where the novel excels: the details of what we know happened on the ship’s maiden voyage and during the disaster—the first use of S.O.S., Ismay’s cowardly escape, and the musicians playing to the very end among them—are warped to fit this revisionist version seamlessly (we buy, for example, that the real reason the ship was steaming toward New York at excessive speed is because of the zombie threat). This Titanic lover had a ball waiting to see when next history and legend would be expertly manipulated to fit the plot.

If you like atmospheric, enigmatic slower burns, then Deck Z probably won’t meet your expectations. This book is plot-driven, written in the style of those great 1970s action-adventure tales, like The Word, Ghost Boat, The Island, and others. There are thuds at the end of every chapter, and we are given just enough about the characters to get us through the story—only what we need to know. I had reached the end of the ride before I knew it.

This novel didn’t get a five due to poor editing. First, the book is set in past-tense, and yet flashback scenes are not written in the pluperfect. This marred the immersion—I found myself wielding a red pen for most of the read. Second, there were a couple of spots in which both a question mark and an exclamation point were used at the end of dialogue, like this: “done!?” In my experience, double punctuation is a mistake made by the less experienced. Given today’s competitive climate, I was surprised to find these errors in something issued from a large publishing house. In the future, if I come across another Chronicle Book title I’m interested in, I will spend more time thumbing through to check for better grammar before I buy it.

Still, I’d recommend Deck Z if you’re looking for a light, fun read, you enjoy action-adventure and zombies, and/or you’re a Titanic aficionado. I liked it enough that it’ll go on my “books I’d buy for gifts” list. I just might have to fix all the grammar errors with my red pen first.

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Review of Titanic: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Greatest Shipwreck—fanatics will learn something new; curious will get thorough overview

Dr. Michael S. Sweeney’s Titanic: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Greatest Shipwreck was advertised in the April 2012 issue of National Geographic, which of course I had to own since it had been well publicized that it would contain new photos of Titanic’s wreck. Although I’ve read more books on the disaster than I can recall, this one looked appealing, and since I had my Kindle on me and could order it and be reading it in under a minute (can we say “impulse buy,” anyone?) I decided to pick it up.

I first visited the NG website so procure my copy, but there it was only available for devices I didn’t own. A few people on that website had noted they found it “disappointing” and felt they had been “ripped off” because of its length, but deciding (like I usually do) that I was going to make up my own  mind, I went to Amazon and found it – for a few cents cheaper – on Kindle.

In response to those people who found it disappointing and felt they were ripped off due to its length, I have only to say that if they’d bothered to pay attention, the line of books from which this comes is National Geographic Shorts: Quick Takes on Hot Topics. So right off the bat, I’m rendering those complaints invalid. If they’d wanted a longer work, they shouldn’t have purchased something that very clearly states “SHORTS” on its cover.

That said, I found this little work – which took me only an hour to read – engrossing. In three fact-filled, entertainingly-rendered chapters, the book provides overview of that fateful night, an introduction to a few of its passengers in all three classes, a down-and-dirty explanation of the prevailing theories over the years and where those theories stand now, and a history of even the earliest searches (right after she sank – bet you didn’t know that, right?) for the wreck right up until today.

What makes this book different and a must-own for anyone interested (obsessively or mildly) in the wreck is the section which reveals the contents of some passengers’ recovered suitcases, shedding light on their stories before sharing their fates. I found this portion alone worth my $3.82.

Those who are intimate with the wreck in its stories will undoubtedly learn something new; those who don’t or just want a surface knowledge should find this the only book they need.

You can purchase National Geographic’s Titanic: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Greatest Shipwreck for Kindle here:; it’s also available for Nook and Sony and the other formats where you normally purchase your e-books for those formats.

And if you want to have some REAL fun, play the Titanic Adventure Game over at the National Geographic site here:

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