(Guest Post) Ty Drago

Today on Cindy’s Love of Books I am honored to have Ty Drago, the author of The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses stop by with a guest post for us.

I asked Ty since he is a big science fiction writer why did he chose to write about zombies and not something else.

Thank you Ty for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this for me and my readers. Without further hesitation take it away Ty.

With a background as a science fiction writer, I’m sometimes asked how I ended up penning a middle grade “zombie” book. When I hear this, I generally sigh a little because THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES isn’t, strictly speaking, a zombie book.

This is the story of twelve-year-old Will Ritter, who walks out of his house one morning to discover that his next door neighbor, his math teacher and his assistant principal have become the walking dead. But not the walking dead in the George Romero tradition. These animated cadavers are intelligent, articulate and clearly organized. Worse, to everyone but Will they seem to be normal-looking men and women. And, if that weren’t bad enough, these whatever-they-are’s are forever on the hunt for rare people who can “See” them for what they really are. And when they find such an unlucky soul, they kill them.

So Will has to run. Forced to abandon his home and family, he falls in with the Undertakers, an underground movement made up entirely of Seers like himself. Together, this rag-tag resistance army does everything it can to upset the “Corpses” plans for conquest — to fight the war that only they know about. And this isn’t easy, as the only people with the “Sight” are kids, which means that the oldest Undertaker is only seventeen!

At one point early in the story, Helene Boettcher (heroine and veteran Undertaker) tells Will, “Don’t call ’em zombies. Zombies are slow and stupid. And these things aren’t. You want to remember that?”

I once asked Jonathan Maberry, the author of PATIENT ZERO and ROT & RUIN, what defined a zombie. His answer didn’t really surprise me. In fiction, be it movies or novels, zombies are reanimated cadavers that, for reasons unknown, seek to devour the living. They’re mindless, or nearly so — devoid of reason, pity, mercy or even malice. He equated them to a force of nature, like a flood or fire: deadly, but impersonal. If you die at their hands, it’s simply because you got in their path.

I completely agree.

The Corpses are different. They aren’t dead people brought back to life, but invaders from another place entirely (World? Dimension? The Undertakers don’t know.) who have come to Earth with the worst of intentions. They’ve infiltrated all levels of society, thousands of them — maybe more. But, as they have no physical bodies of their own, they wrap themselves in cadavers, wearing them like “people suits”, until the bodies literally rot around them, at which time they switch to another.

This is both their strength and weakness. Corpses’ stolen bodies feel neither pain nor extremes of heat or cold. They can, if pressed, push their hosts to the limit, demonstrating terrible speed and strength. They also project a carefully crafted illusion of normalcy around themselves, an illusion that moves with them from body to body. To the world at large, they’re politicians, shop keepers and school teachers, It’s a trick that carries over to photos, videos and even fingerprints.

Only Will and his friends can See the truth.

Like “traditional” zombies, Corpses do often bite their victims, but this is more a cultural predilection than a matter of hunger. These invaders don’t believe in using weapons. Those posing as policemen won’t even draw their guns on fleeing Undertakers. Instead, they attack with their hands — and their teeth.

However, unlike “traditional” zombies, these creatures from another world are intelligent, well-organized and every move they make is deliberate. And their plan is take our world apart, piece by piece.

So, when I get asked that “zombie book” question, I generally reply, “The story’s more science fiction than you think it is!” But that isn’t the whole answer. After all, I could have more or less done the same thing with aliens, or vampires, or who knows what else. What made me pick the walking dead in particular?

The quick answer is that I don’t believe anyone’s done it before, at least not for MG/YA and not like this. But, on a deeper level, I did it because I like the idea of an “intelligent zombie”. Imagine seeing your mailman step out of his little truck, in his shorts and with his heavy letter sack, except that his skin in mottled purple, his eyes are sunken and milky, his hair is falling out in clumps, and bugs and worms are wriggling all over him and gnawing at his putrified flesh.


These creatures hold a certain fascination, no doubt about it. And I guess I wrote THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES in the hopes of exploring that fascination. I wanted to give zombies more power, more presence of mind and — yes — more dignity! I wanted to make them, not merely an indiscriminate force of nature, but true villains in their own right.

I guess the readers will have to tell me whether or not I succeeded!

– Ty Drago
Join The Undertakers

Come back tomorrow for my review of Ty’s book The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses.

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