Tag Archives: Deadlands

Excerpt: Deadlands by Lily Herne

Hey Everyone! 🙂

I’ve got permission from Penguin Books SA to post an excerpt of Deadlands by Lily Herne for you! In case you missed the review which I posted yesterday, read it here. 🙂

Deadlands should be on the shelves in practically every good bookshop across South Africa, and if it isn’t, give ’em a piece of your mind! 😉

Without further a-do, here’s the excerpt:


(This excerpt is from Chapter Eight)

When I arrived home, brain buzzing with the day’s events, Dad was on his way out of the house. It was strange to see him without the Mantis hovering behind him.

‘Lele.’ He nodded at me as if we were just acquaintances instead of father and daughter. ‘School okay?’

I shrugged. ‘Dad, can I ask you a question?’


‘Do you really believe life is better now?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Was life really so bad before the Rotters came?’

He shrugged. ‘There were problems, yes. Violence, of course. HIV. Unemployment. Drugs. Poverty.’

He sounded like one of the crap pamphlets the Resurrectionists handed out at their rallies. ‘So you’re saying that you really believe we’re better off? I mean, even though we can’t leave the enclave, and with the Lottery and everything?’

He plucked at the empty arm of his jacket. ‘In some ways, yes.’

‘But how can you say that after Mom . . . And after what the Guardians did to Jobe!’

He sighed. ‘There is always a price to pay, Lele.’

‘What kind of answer is that?’

‘I have to go,’ he said.

‘Where to?’

‘I’m on fence patrol tonight.’

I shivered. News of the city’s Rotter break-in four years earlier had reached the Agriculturals, and the thought of it had given me nightmares ever since. A pack of Rotters had slipped through a hole in the fence at the far reaches of the city and gone on a killing spree before the Guardians finally showed up and stopped them.

‘Checking to see the Rotters don’t break in?’ I said.

Dad sighed. ‘Don’t let your mother hear you calling them that, Lele.’

‘She’s not my mother.’

He sighed again. ‘I must go. I’m going to be late.’

I watched him walk away, shoulders hunched like a far older man, before heading for my room.

Jobe and Chinwag were already snoozing on my bed, curled up together, Jobe’s hand lightly clasping the kitten’s front paw. Carefully, so as not to wake them, I got down on my hands and knees and rummaged under the bed for Gran’s old leather suitcase. It was filled with the stuff she’d managed to salvage during the War. Unzipping it, I lifted out the dress that was folded on top – the one Mom had worn when she and Dad had gone to their Matric dance a million years earlier. It was made of shiny emerald green material that caught the light and seemed to shimmer like a reflection on water. It was no longer wearable, the fabric had given way to time in places, but it still smelled very faintly of perfume and smoke – my mother’s scent. That was all I had of her. No memories; I couldn’t remember her at all, not even a little bit. I didn’t even have a photograph of her as they’d all been destroyed in the fire that had ravaged the city.

I dug out my old history book, and climbed onto the bed next to Jobe. He muttered something in his sleep, but I couldn’t make out the words clearly. Then he snuggled closer to Chinwag, and his eyelids flickered as if he was dreaming.

I paged through to my favourite section – the first-person anecdotes. The first one was the story of Jacob White, the guy who had worked in the city morgue. He’d been one of the first to discover the reanimated corpses. No one had believed Jacob at first, thought he was on drugs and seeing things, and he’d only managed to get away at the last minute, climbing through the narrow window in the morgue toilets after being trapped in a stall for hours. Next there was the account of a rich businesswoman who’d evaded the dead for two weeks, sealed in the living room of her Camps Bay mansion, living off tins of asparagus and packets of cashew nuts, the reanimated corpses of her chauffeur and housekeeper moaning at her from outside the locked door. Some were too awful to read again, like the eyewitness account of someone who had seen a group of religious fanatics rushing out to greet the dead, convinced that this was the coming of the Rapture, only to be turned into more walking corpses. Or the stories of the mass suicides that had taken place in the wealthy suburbs and the unstoppable fires that had raged through Langa and Gugulethu, destroying the dead and living alike.

I flipped through to my favourite story.

Name: Levi Sole

Occupation: Schoolchild

Age: 14

Nationality: Malawian

NOTE: Levi was questioned three months after he and his father were relocated to the Cape Town city enclave. His story begins after they were rescued from the informal settlement fires that raged through the city two days after the dead started rising.

After the fire started, we escaped to the big soccer stadium. All around us the city burned; even the mountain was on fire. The smoke was so thick in the air that many of us were struggling to breathe. And the air was hot, like it was the middle of summer. But the heavy smoke meant that we did not have to see the horrible things on the roads. I mean, I was trying to be brave. I was too old to be scared, but I was glad for the smoke. Already I had seen my neighbour struck down, her stomach spilling from between her fingers, and then, as she stood up again, her eyes rolled back in her head as if she was mad. And with her guts outside her body, she walked away. Impossible things were happening.

When we arrived at the stadium my father and I spent many hours looking around for my brother, but he had been taken away on one of the other buses, and we could not find him.

We never found him.

There were so many of us! Most, like me, came from Khayelitsha; others from all over Cape Town. There were white people, black people, coloured people, refugees like us from Zimbabwe, the DRC and Malawi, rich tourists who had come out here for the World Cup soccer, old people, children, babies (some without mothers), sick people and the dying. We stayed there for three weeks, fighting off the Dead Ones who managed to break in. Many of us died. But the Dead Ones weren’t our only problem. We had very little food and water, and the smell of the toilets was terrible. It was bad, and many got sick. And then, just when we thought we would starve to death, just when some were saying that they would kill themselves, the first of the Guardians came to us. We didn’t know what to think of them at first. Whether to trust them or not. We knew, in our hearts, that they were not people like us, but they did not try to kill us like the Dead Ones. They wore robes like priests and did not speak to us. But they brought us food. There were many fights at first over the food, but those who caused trouble were taken away quickly. At first people called them the Shepherds, as they would guard us from the Dead Ones, as if we were sheep. But then people started to call them the Guardians.

Then we were moved out of the city, and the stadium was destroyed. Some were taken far away, to the agricultural enclaves, but me and my father, we were brought to what was to become the city enclave. At first we did not recognise where we were. The ground was black and burned, the buildings and many of the trees were gone. Then we realised! We were back in Khayelitsha! The first thing we did was try to find our old house, but nothing was the same.

At first life was like being back in the refugee camps, like the one my father and I came to when we left Malawi for the first time, and where we were sent for a short time in Messina. We all had to camp together in these very large army tents and those who were not injured were sent to work. I was sent to work building the fence – which was small at first, not like it is today. After all this time, I do not know if the fence was created to keep us in, or to keep the dead out. But either way, I was helping to build a prison, of that I am sure.

Some say it is aliens that made the dead wake up. Or maybe it was an angry god or demons. Just like some say that it is God who sent the Guardians to save us. Like I have said, I have seen many terrible things during this time and life will never be as it was. You see –

My door creaked open, and I quickly shoved the book under my pillow.

‘Are you awake, Leletia?’ The Mantis entered the room.

‘Yeah,’ I said.

‘Were you reading something?’ she asked. She never missed a trick.

‘Just history homework,’ I said.

‘I see. And why would you want to hide that?’

Crap. I had to think fast. ‘I thought you’d be angry if you saw I was still awake?’

‘But it’s still early. And you didn’t eat supper.’

‘Not hungry.’

‘Everything okay at school?’


She was looking slightly antsy about something, which wasn’t like her at all. ‘The embassy is showing a film tomorrow evening,’ she said. ‘I thought it would be nice if all of us went together.’

What she meant was that it would look weird if I didn’t show my face – I knew she wanted everyone to think we were some sort of happy family.

‘Okay,’ I said. The thought of seeing a movie again was too much of a temptation to resist.

‘Wonderful!’ she smiled at me. She didn’t look like such a bitch when she smiled.

‘Is that it?’ I asked.

‘Leletia, it would mean so much to your father if we could just get along.’

‘Okay,’ I said, remembering Thabo’s advice from earlier in the day to ‘play their game’. ‘That’s fine by me.’

The look of shocked surprise on her face almost made the lie worth it. But now there was something else on my mind. The thought of Thabo had made my stomach do that swooping thing. I remembered the feel of his breath on my cheek and his cute lopsided grin. And sometimes, I wasn’t absolutely sure, but sometimes I thought I could sense him looking at me.

‘Cleo? Can I ask you a question?’


This was embarrassing. ‘How do you know if someone likes you?’

‘What do you mean, Lele? You mean, like a boy?’

‘Or a girl.’

She started slightly, but her smile didn’t slip. ‘I think the question you should ask yourself is if you like . . . this person,’ she said. She touched the area just below her ribs. ‘You feel it here. Your stomach dances, and if it lasts for more than a week, then you could have something special.’

‘Okaaaay,’ I said. ‘But what if he – or she – likes you. How can you tell?’

‘You can see it in their eyes. They flicker. Like a light going on.’ The Mantis’s voice had become almost dreamy, and for a couple of seconds I thought I could actually see what it was Dad saw in her.

‘Is that how you felt when you met Dad?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ she said simply.

‘Thanks,’ I said, faking a yawn. There was no way we were going to get all pally-pally suddenly. She could forget that idea. ‘I should get some sleep.’

‘Sure,’ she said. ‘Good night, Leletia – Lele.’

She crept out, closing the door softly behind her. As soon as she was gone I pulled the book out from underneath the pillow and turned back to the page I had been reading. One day, I thought, I’d like to meet the guy who wrote this story. Go up to him and say, thanks. Thanks for being honest and not messing with the truth.

Hope you enjoyed that! You can read another excerpt of Deadlands over at Book SA – just follow this link. 🙂

Remember, Deadlands is available right now, so make sure you get your copy ASAP; you can also order your copy from Exclusive Books’ through their website at this link.



Posted by on March 2, 2011 in Excerpt


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Review: Deadlands by Lily Herne (Penguin SA)

Before I tell you what I thought of the novel, I’d like to point out that Deadlands is available as of today, so it should be on the shelves right across South Africa. 🙂

Deadlands is a tale told from the point of view of Lele, a teenager living in the ruins of a world that has barely survived a zombie outbreak.

Now, zombies are either a hit or a miss – you either dig zombie novels or movies or you don’t – some of my friends think that zombies are lame and wayyy past their sell-by date, but I’m not one of them. I’ve always found the idea of them interesting – what they look look (decayed, dirty, shriveled, etc), the fact that they just love the taste of human flesh, the shambling horror aspect of them, their relentlessness and dumb patience, etc. They’re just damned cool, aren’t they?

Well, Deadlands has cool zombies. 🙂 As I read the book I had flashes of practically every zombie movie I had ever seen – Lily manages to emulate these zombies and also brings something new into the mix, something about the zombies that makes them unique; these weren’t just the kinds of zombies we were used to, they were something different, and honestly, I was hoping for this difference, this departure from the expected. I’m sure that Lily would have been able to pull off the expected zombie, too, but what she did was so much better. 🙂

The world building in the novel was also interesting and damned cool – the novel plays out in the environs of Cape Town, but this Cape Town is buggered; no-one is tanning on the beaches, no-one is enjoying a cocktail in Long Street, and there aren’t any more traffic problems. There are various factions that play up against each other, some doing what they consider to be good, some just surviving from day to day, some thinking very rebellious thoughts; these various factions generate plenty of the conflict in the novel, pushing not only the many characters into difficult positions, but also creating an ever-vibrant background for the various plot-threads to spread out against. I haven’t been to the Cape myself (only as far as George), so I can’t actually speak to the descriptions of the various real-world places that the characters visit, but one of the many things that I digged was the fact that none of the juxtapositions -real-world versus Deadlands- seemed forced. At times it was a bit chilling, thinking about friends of mine who’ve been to Ratanga Junction and imagining them standing in front of the ruins, back-lit and bedraggled as moans of hunger rolled through the air around them. I’m pretty sure that plenty of readers will get a kick, and a chill, out of reading Deadlands and having the new, ravaged landscape that was Cape Town and its surrounds spreading out before their ‘eyes’.

Character-wise, Lele was the star – she’s feisty, opinionated, honest and likable; I found myself becoming more and more interested in her as the tale unfolded -the person she was at the beginning of the tale still has echoes in the person she becomes, but the journeys she embarks on (sometimes unwillingly) really showcase her strength and intelligence (and stubbornness!) and make her the perfect heroine for the tale. 🙂 The rest of the characters -Lele’s step-mother, her father, her adorable brother, the other teenagers she meets, and many others, add a great flavour to the novel – these are people from different backgrounds and upbringings who see their world in many different ways, just as we do, and it was great to have so many personalities shine alongside the major players. 🙂

Action-wise the novel was pretty damned cool – there was movement and sound and weight, and I could tell that a lot of thought was given to choreographing the action. When the zombies appear all hell breaks loose, of course!

The pace of the novel was absolutely relentless when it needed to be and slowed down nicely for the deeper, emotional scenes – this balance was great because I felt that I had a real range of experiences while reading the novel, something very important and that some novels fail to achieve.

Bring everything together and mash it up with a surprising and original take on zombies, along with quite stunning revelations about many of the central characters, and I knew here was a novel that I would remember for a good long while. Deadlands is fun, laugh-out-loud funny in some places, flinch-inducing, utterly original and damned good all the way through – it’s the perfect read for someone looking for something fresh, hectic, dramatic, and Proudly South African and also proves that SFF is alive and kicking here. Along with writers such as Lauren Beukes, Louis Greenberg and Sarah Lotz, Lily Herne has proven that South African writers are damned good at what they do, and that South African SFF can stand proud with the rest of the world. 🙂

Lily Herne has arrived! 🙂

9 / 10

To get your copy of Deadlands, get to your closest Exclusive Books or order your copies from them online at this link. You can also read an excerpt of Deadlands over at Book SA at this link, and be back here tomorrow for another excerpt, right here on this blog! 🙂



Posted by on March 1, 2011 in Reviews


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SA Spotlight: The Mall, Deadlands & BFSA Nominations

Hey guys and girls, I thought that I would point your attention to two distinctly South African genre books that’ll be hitting the shelves soon – and in a BIG way! 🙂

I’ve spoken about The Mall before, but since I’ll be diving into it soon (hehehe the perks, you know, of being a reviewer!), and since you’ll be able to pre-order your copies here in SA soon, too, it’s time for another spotlight. It’s written by two South African authors (Louis Greenberg and Sarah Lotz) under the pseudonym S.L. Grey, and will be coming from Corvus Books in June – SA release-date to be announced as soon as I get the info.

Here’s some info about the book, just to, you know, make you pound the desk (or your lap) in excitement and / or dread:

Dan works at a bookstore in a deadly dull shopping mall where nothing ever happens. He’s an angsty emo-kid who sells mid-list books to mid-list people for the minimum wage. He hates his job.

Rhoda has dragged her babysitting charge to the mall so she can meet her dealer and score some coke. Now the kid’s run off, and she has two hours to find him. She hates her life.

Rhoda bullies Dan into helping her search, but as they explore the neon-lit corridors behind the mall, disturbing text messages lure them into the bowels of the building, where old mannequins are stored in grave-like piles and raw sewage drips off the ceiling. The only escape is down, and before long Dan and Rhoda are trapped in a service lift listening to head-splitting musak. Worst of all, the lift’s not stopping at the bottom floor.

Plummeting into the earth, Dan and Rhoda enter a sinister underworld that mirrors their worst fears. Forced to complete a series of twisted tasks to find their way out, they finally emerge into the brightly lit food court, sick with relief at the banal sight of people shopping and eating. But something feels different. Why are the shoppers all pumped full of silicone? Why are the shop assistants chained to their counters? And why is McDonald’s selling lumps of bleeding meat?

Just when they think they’ve made it back to the mall, they realise their nightmare has only just begun…

Sounds utterly creepy and cool, and the descriptions of the environments put me in mind of the incredible stuff that Clive Barker comes up with – really looking forward to being grossed out, creeped out and shocked to hell with this book! 🙂

You can pre-order your copies here (Amazon UK), and as soon as it’s listed at Exclusive Books I’ll let you know. (If you don’t want to wait -and who the hell would- you can get your Kindle-edition right now!)

Next up, a zombie-apocalypse tale for YA fans set in Cape Town – yep, after you read this book you’ll probably never see the Mother City in the same way again! I present to you – Deadlands:

I’ve already been to a cool as hell and incredibly cutting-edge Cape Town in Lauren Beukes’ Moxyland, so I’m really looking forward to getting my paws on this one – zombies South African style? Hell yes! 🙂 (And that’s not all…!)

Deadlands is written by Lily Herne and will be coming to us from Penguin Books SA on the 1st of March; here’s another small blurb to whet your appetite even more:

Ten years after Cape Town was destroyed in the War with the living dead, zombies ramble free in Cape Town’s suburbs (known as the Deadlands), and the remaining living are either in fenced in on farms or in urban shantytowns.

The living are watched over by the mysteriously robed Guardians, a race of humanoid figures who appeared at the end of the War and who keep the living dead at bay, albeit for a steep price. Every year the Guardians stage a human Lottery and select five aspiring teenagers to be whisked out of the enclave for a secret purpose. To be one of the chosen five is a highly sought after and prestigious accolade.

No one (yet) knows why it is that the Guardians prize teenage bodies so highly, how they control the zombies or what they look like under the robes that cover their bodies…

Two very cool books on the way! 🙂

Finally, and this is the coolest news I’ve heard in a *very* long time, Lauren Beukes‘ Zoo City has been nominated (twice) for a BFSA award! For those who don’t know, the BFSA is the British Science Fiction Association, a highly respected organization that trumpets what they consider to be the best.

Zoo City was nominated for the Best Novel and the guy who did (and does) Lauren’s SA & UK covers, Joey HiFi, was nominated as Best Artist. 🙂 Awesome news! I’m really damned happy that a homegrown, completely South African novel has hit this level – not only is it a massive compliment for Lauren and Joey, but it’s also a WAKE UP CALL to all the writers out here: write your books already! 🙂

Here’s that crazy-cool (yet chilling) artwork:

Congrats to both Lauren and Joey – let’s bend our thoughts on them winning those awards! 🙂



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Posted by on January 25, 2011 in Announcements


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