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Play Dead

1 rating: 4.0
A Book written by Ryan Brown

From Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Two cultural obsessions collide head-on in this fast-paced, thrilling, and terribly funny debut by former actor Brown. In the sleepy town of Killington, Tex., the local high school's football team is having … see full wiki

1 review about Play Dead

3 ½ Stars: "Varsity Blues" Collides With "Night of the Living Dead" and "Pumpkinhead'!

  • Jul 2, 2010
I’ve often said that I am rather tired of the same old stapling of zombie movies about a tired virus and recent movies do focus on “zomedies” (such as “Zombieland”) than actually trying to create a legitimate zombie twist. Even George Romero’s “Survival of the Dead” received mixed reviews from the viewing public and so now out of desperation, I seek out tales of the zombie genre in comic books and in novels. Well, writer Ryan Brown tries to do something different; Zombies and Football--with an odd mix of sports drama and humor with Horror thriller elements. Well, “Play Dead” isn’t Robert Kirkham’s “The WALKING DEAD” but it proved to be an entertaining read. It is a good attempt at something original after all.

The Killington High School Football team, the Jackrabbits is one win away from playing in the District Championship where they will face their most fierce rivals, the Elmwood Heights Badgers. This is a first in town history so folks are real excited about this sign of hope. However on the day that they were about to play the final qualifying game, the Jackrabbit’s star QB, Cole Logan is brutally attacked and severely injured by three guys in ski-masks. Excused from the game because of his injuries, the team departs but they never make it to the game as the bus carrying them plunges into the river and it kills every player save for Cole. Now, angry for revenge, Logan enlists the aid of a fan; a woman who knows witchcraft to get some payback for those who did the team wrong. His teammates are resurrected and unless they win the game against the Badgers, their souls will be damned forever with the townsfolk their meal…it is win or lose to either be saved or be condemned to eternal hell.

Think about this: “Varsity Blues” collides with “Night of the Living Dead”, stir in some “Fido” and then mix it up with “Pumpkinhead” and you’ll have an idea as to what you are in for with “Play Dead”. It would be a mistake to take the book seriously as a horror chiller because I could tell with the writing that the author’s intentions were to become “darkly humorous” and to allow his characters to unveil the story. The characters in the book aren’t exactly that inventive as they carry the staples of other ones who are supposed to be in a hick town obsessed with football. It has long been established that small towns love their High School football and the author makes this his main motivation for the characters and the plot elements. Get over it, there are indeed folks who live, breathe football; so the characters are possible.


There’s the QB and the coach who has demons in their past; and then there’s the hot (yet mildly reserved) school paper reporter bent on telling this story. The town sheriff who tries to voice of reason and Black Mona, the one fan who may be able to make a difference. Their backgrounds aren’t exactly that inventive and they feel derivative of other stories but I guess this may be the writer’s intention to pay homage to the horror genre. The dialogue may not be superbly executed; I am not a professional writer but I saw some things that weren’t exactly polished. Some readers may ask: “Who talks like that?” well, these characters do on occasion and it is all part of the novel’s charm.

Despite some weaknesses in the dialogue (but I thought they were funny), the descriptions of the surroundings made up for it; I was amused as I tried to visualize them that I saw the charm of a B-movie fare. I think it would be safe to assume that the author is a horror fan; since no one could come up with something of this quality. There are some hints of sexuality also throughout the read; the chemistry between Cole and Savannah began as a hate-hate relationship as it turned into a love-hate relationship. Sure it was a staple but it sure was humorous. I did have some issues about some parts of the book and thought they opened a can of plot holes. The parents and their zombie kids were underdeveloped except for one player and his abusive father.

The writing has some good descriptions of blood and gore; the violence isn’t that unnerving (at least for me) but the football game is far more fleshed out. The descriptions of the gore seem to be one written by a gorehound which I liked. The zombies in the novel aren’t your usual ones who are totally “braindead” whose condition is brought about by a virus or some other unknown element. Here the zombies have a timetable, their condition was brought about by witchcraft and they have two things they do as per instinct: play football and to feed. It does require some suspension of disbelief that they can follow the coach’s orders as well as play a game--but remember: it is sorcery and witchcraft that brought these zombies to life. No, headshots cannot put them down. They play football and feed because of magic--magic can be defined by an author to suit his needs. I was however, disappointed with the story’s climax as I thought it became too obligatory and offered little surprises.

As I said, I am a football fan and I am a zombie fan--I am most definitely a horror fan. Ryan Brown’s story may not be perfect, it is rough around the edges at times and uses elements that are derivative; but I had fun with this novel. It does fill up my pleasure for ‘zombie-reading material’ and I think this may do well as a movie. It does have a charm to it despite the flaws. “Play Dead” isn’t stellar nor excellent but for a first time published author,  it is very entertaining because of the right timing in horror and humor.

Only Zombie and Football fans need apply.
Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
3 ½ Stars: 3 ½ Stars:

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July 14, 2010
What about zombie fans who HATE football?
July 15, 2010
umm...the question is do you love zombies, gore and blood enough to ignore the element you hate? ;-)

This is about 94% zombie horror and the rest is about football.
July 15, 2010
I guess I could tolerate 6% football...this sounds like it has the potential to make a good movie.
July 15, 2010
I do have to recommend H-wood to make a movie out of this concept. It has great potential.
July 16, 2010
I can see where it has an awful lot of built in potential.
July 16, 2010
I know you would appreaciate an attempt at originality...
July 16, 2010
Do they have zombie cheerleaders too? I don't remember if you mentioned zombie cheerleaders. That could be very funny.
July 16, 2010
No, unfortunately, but there are cheerleaders. These are zombies birhted of magic too--so they are a lot different.
July 16, 2010
I know--but what are football players without cheerleaders?
July 17, 2010
I can just see those cheerleaders with their falling limbs as soon as they jump around.
July 17, 2010
Now you're gettin' it. =)
July 05, 2010
LOL! What a different read...I should have figured it would have zombies in it. I know you're quite the fan! I haven't heard of seen this one in my local bookstore, but you've piqued my curiosity. I'll try to check it out the next time I'm there. Thanks for the wonderful review! Loved your writing and details as well as comparisons to other materials. :D
July 03, 2010
Excellent review man, I have this one as well but have yet to read it. I am sure you know where I got it from.
July 03, 2010
Thanks, Alex...how was your move? Make sure you check out my review on THE LAST AIRBENDER; before you see it. I'd advise you to avoid it....
July 02, 2010
Hmmmm, I hate football with a fiery passion, but I do like a good zombie story. Aaarrgh, it's a toss-up, I can't decide!
July 02, 2010
these are sorcerous zombies too--wanna borrow the book?
July 02, 2010
I don't know, man, I really hate football. LOL!
July 02, 2010
This screams for Frank and Chris' attention though.
July 02, 2010
not to worry, I already posted it in ammie for them to see.
July 02, 2010
what do you hate more waffles or football? if its waffles, then there is hope for you yet! LOL!
July 02, 2010
Football. The whole concept is just too primeval for me. A bunch of guys overloaded with testosterone running around and grunting like apes while tossing and passing a dead pig ball between each other's legs and jumping on each other... BARF!!!
July 02, 2010
ok...and I thought waffles were your # 1 pet peeve. LOL!
July 02, 2010
Nope, that would be bigoted, narrow-minded, egotistical, arrogant, hypocritical, proto-fascist neo-conservatives. I can't stand those dudes! LMAO! Waffles wouldn't even be in the top 20.
July 03, 2010
oi. then you'll have to hate half of America's population LOL!
July 03, 2010
Just America's
; )
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