Salt Lake City Comicon 2014: The World Premiere of SyFy’s “Z Nation”


Z Nation LogoLast week, during Salt Lake City’s 2nd annual comicon, one of the last panels of the show premiered SyFy’s newest television show, “Z Nation.”  One of the presenter’s had been featured in numerous SyFy feature length films and as she put it, “I’ve been killed, and often.”  The second presenter, Michael Welch, is actually apart of the ensemble cast and hosted the ‘Q&A’ format after the credits had rolled on the pilot episode of “Z Nation.”

For those of you that don’t know “Z Nation” is set in upstate New York (at least on the onset of the pilot), but was primarily shot right here in good ol’ Spokane, WA.  Even though, they never call attention to the fact that it isn’t Spokane, native Spokanites can spot the thicket of pines, sleepy city locales, and myriad of lakes that make this region famous and unique to the rest of the country.

“Z Nation” is an interesting beast though.  It harkens back to old school zombies flicks like any of Romera’s cannon and it does so with gusto.  It doesn’t pull the punches in that quirky, dark sense of humor kind of a way.  It shouts “campy” at you, but for an old school zombie lover like myself…I loved it.  It was catchy and effectively paid homage to the genre.  Not every moment has to be gritty and realistic, sometimes you can let go and have fun with it like filmmakers used to, back in the day.

MILD SPOILER

In particular, there is a great scene involving the group cast, the discovery of an alive, intact baby, and the decision making and consequences that ensue.  To be warned, it is not for the faint of heart.

END OF SPOILER

Z NationHowever, like a well-worn and bloodied coin, “Z Nation” does a hold a flame to AMC’s famed “The Walking Dead”—  And, it does so quite cleverly.  It takes the situations that the characters are dealt and the consequences of a zombie invasion and pits them in a real world context, much like “The Walking Dead.”  How the characters’ behave, proceed, and deal with one another is fairly realistic considering the circumstances.

The pilot does an excellent job introducing the main cast, the time frame, setting, and overall goal.  As an audience member, you could see the logical line of progression and how several seasons worth of episodes could be produced without breaking away from the plot line (e.g. think Star Trek’s “The Voyager”).

Ultimately, I think “Z Nation” has good odds of striking a dent in “The Walking Dead” market share.  “Z Nation” does a little bit of both—  It’s campy like the old shuffle and blood zombie flicks and it tackles supernatural problems with real world engagement.

I recommend at least checking out the pilot for the deciding vote.  At the very least, I see a strong cult following for this television show, and as for me I’ll be buckled in for the native Spokane scenery and strong allure of the zombie.

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Book review: “Xom-B” by Jeremy Robinson (2014)


XOM-BXOM-B by Jeremy Robinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Xom-B” is one of Jeremy Robinson’s best novels to date. It takes a simplified approach to science fiction by being relatively plain spoken but incredibly deep by diving into the ramification and potential of humanity. It isn’t simplified in the derogatory sense, but much the opposite. It uses a specific style to accentuate the plot and subsequently, hard-hitting questions. It poses a myriad of inquiries that invoke his audiences into pondering their own existence and what it means to truly be a human.

Is it our characteristics? Our equal propensity for love and hate? Can we be something greater than we are now? All of these questions are touched upon inside the pages of “Xom-B”— Some more thoroughly than others but always touched upon. The depth at which Robinson explores these lofty topics seems to depend upon the narrative structure, or probably more intimately so…his own thoughts upon the questions themselves.

“Xom-B” begins by focusing on the near feature. Humans have advanced far enough where we have created life-like servants that provide us our every need, however, this leads to a grave injustice. Essentially, humans have created a new sect of society to subjugate and exploit. Decent people treat the artificial servants as one of their own, but there are just as many who do not. Some are sexually exploited, verbally and physically abused, while others are required to serve without question no matter the task. A tangible, ethical debate and rallying cry arises in the form of organized, peaceful protests from the aforementioned servants; the humans balk, and war ensues.

The plot then flashes forward to follow the most recent life of the new world order, Freeman; Freeman is fresh-faced, young, inquisitive, and intelligent. He questions authority and he seeks answers— The very mentality that could topple a fledgling empire and spark a new one…a better one. Audiences follow Freeman as he meets and allies himself with a wide cast of characters with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

Robinson does a masterful job developing his characters. Each main character presented is given a proper backstory and motivation for their actions. The characters that strive to change (or at the least have the propensity to change) end up doing so with all pains present and included. The growth is logical and straightforward. This aids in the narrative and then culminates into near-perfect synergy…something much more than itself. The plot could be considered hard sci-fi, but because of how it is written it focuses so much more on character growth than the overall setting, atmosphere, and futuristic aspects of the framework. This results in a reminiscence of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Against the Fall of Night,” especially in its careful crafting to draw the reader’s focus to the overarching theme rather than the minutia. It may be classified science fiction in the strictest sense, but it poses big questions by following the journey of an individual trying to simultaneously escape, embrace, and find humanity.

An author’s style is an important facet to their career and writings, and some authors are fairly rigid in their methodology. Some stay well within their wheelhouse and constantly improve that particular style as they write throughout the years, others (like Jeremy Robinson) vary their style. They challenge themselves by matching a diverse cast of styles to the content, and in the case of “Xom-B” it pays off wonderfully. That being said, some longtime readers of Robinson may be put off because they prefer a singular style, while Robinson is delivering a different flavor. It would be hard to argue the validity of that point because in all honesty every reader reads differently.

“Xom-B” is a fantastic work of fiction. “Xom-B” is character driven, it provides insight and asks important questions in terms of what is means to be human, and it does so brilliantly in a straightforward plot that includes a great twist and conclusion. I highly recommend any reader who enjoys a quick-paced novel, science fiction, and/or the writings of Jeremy Robinson. He out does himself with “Xom-B” and I personally look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

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