I recently read a book I’d been aware of for a long time but never picked up: “The Dead,” the zombie apocalypse/Rapture novel by Mark E. Rogers. I loved Rogers’ writing and illustrations in the “Samurai Cat” series, which were a big influence on me as a teenager (the writing more than the art, I could never draw as well as him), although by the time he got to the 3rd or 4th book his real-world conservative politics started to get more noticeable and the inclusion of a howling, simpering, stereotypically gay Michael Jackson parody in “The Sword of Samurai Cat” finally tipped me off that Rogers was more than a little right-wing.

Still, that guy can WRITE. “The Dead”, basically “Left Behind” with zombies — although it’s an insult to Rogers to compare his book to that illiterate, inept series — more than lived up to my expectations of vicious, flesh-eating rotting corpses mixed with theological fire-and-brimstone. Basically, this is the book that Brian Keene’s “The Rising” series should have been, if Keene had been a better writer (for instance, if Keene had actually used foreshadowing and tension, instead of starting in media res and basically revealing the entire situation in the first chapter) and willing to explore the actual existential ramifications of his Hell-breaks-loose scenario, rather than just making the characters run from place to place getting picked off until they finally get exhausted and die. Scary, gruesome, memorable, well-thought-out; the only annoying thing about “The Dead” were that, as in all Christian novels of this sort (with the possible exception of Brian Caldwell’s “We All Fall Down”), most of the non-Christian characters were two-dimensional caricatures of unlikeable, mean-spirited atheists and (shudder) liberals. But with a scenario as demented, as creepy and (when appropriate) as blackly funny as Rogers’, I can accept a few cheap shots. Speaking of cheap, but deserved shots, I also liked the part where he made fun of Stephen King’s “It.” Check it out; it’s good.

While taping and addressing poster tubes over the past week I’ve been listening to my usual roll of podcasts: HP Podcraft, The Double Shadow, Yog-Sothoth.com, Nerd Poker, and the M.R. James Podcast (with occasional listening to “Improvised Radio Theatre with Dice”). Lastly, I’ve also started listening to Caustic Soda, a podcast which has been around for a year or two but I’ve only now cottoned onto it. It’s basically a morbid version of Mythbusters combined with talking about a lot of science fiction movies, and one of the hosts is Toren Atkinson, famed as the head dude behind the #1 Lovecraftian punk band, Darkest of the Hillside Thickets. (Their song “20 Minutes of Oxygen” is a keystone in my soundtrack for “The Stiff.”) Highly recommended.