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Z
Cover of Z
Z
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The First Rule of Torching: Cleanse with fire.

Josh is by far the best zombie Torcher around—at least, he is in his virtual-reality zombie-hunting game. Josh has quickly risen through the player ranks, relying on the skill, cunning, and agility of a real Torcher.

The Second Rule of Torching: Save all humans.

But luckily for Josh, zombies exist only in the virtual world. The real zombie war is now more than fifteen years in the past, and the battle to defeat the deadly epidemic that devastated his family—and millions of others—is the stuff of history lessons.

The Third Rule of Torching: You can't bring them back.

Charlie is the top-ranked player in the game. Since all the players are shrouded in anonymity, Josh never expects Charlie to be a girl—and he never expects the offer she makes him: to join the underground gaming league that takes the virtual-reality game off the screen and into the streets. Josh is thrilled. But the more involved he gets, the more he realizes that not everything is what it seems. Real blood is spilling, members of the team are disappearing, and the zombies in the game are acting strange. And then there's the matter of a mysterious drug called Z. . . .

The First Rule of Torching: Cleanse with fire.

Josh is by far the best zombie Torcher around—at least, he is in his virtual-reality zombie-hunting game. Josh has quickly risen through the player ranks, relying on the skill, cunning, and agility of a real Torcher.

The Second Rule of Torching: Save all humans.

But luckily for Josh, zombies exist only in the virtual world. The real zombie war is now more than fifteen years in the past, and the battle to defeat the deadly epidemic that devastated his family—and millions of others—is the stuff of history lessons.

The Third Rule of Torching: You can't bring them back.

Charlie is the top-ranked player in the game. Since all the players are shrouded in anonymity, Josh never expects Charlie to be a girl—and he never expects the offer she makes him: to join the underground gaming league that takes the virtual-reality game off the screen and into the streets. Josh is thrilled. But the more involved he gets, the more he realizes that not everything is what it seems. Real blood is spilling, members of the team are disappearing, and the zombies in the game are acting strange. And then there's the matter of a mysterious drug called Z. . . .

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  • OverDrive Listen
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Copies-
  • Available:
    2
  • Library copies:
    2
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    4.4
  • Lexile:
    640
  • Interest Level:
    MG+
  • Text Difficulty:
    2 - 3

Recommended for you

About the Author-
  • Michael Thomas Ford is the author of the teen novels Suicide Notes and Love & Other Curses. His numerous other works for both adults and teens include some of the earliest books about the HIV/AIDS crisis and several books about the LGBTQ community. His novel Lily was a Tiptree Award long list title and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. He also authors a series of novellas starring some of the most popular contestants from RuPaul's Drag Race, including Sharon Needles, Manila Luzon, and Jinkx Monsoon. He has a lot of tattoos and dogs and a beard.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 22, 2010
    It's not all fun and games when make-believe zombie-hunting turns violent in this fast-paced futuristic thriller. Fifteen years after a vaccine was developed against the zombie flu, the hungry undead are a thing of the past, relegated to bad memories and virtual games, such as the one Josh and his friend Firecracker play, despite their parents' disapproval. A rising star online, Josh is thrilled when Charlie, another skilled player, invites him to join an underground group of live-action zombie-killer role-players. Even as Josh bonds with Charlie and her team, he begins to suspect something's not right with Clatter, the enigmatic brains behind the operation. Worse still, the game itself is proving more dangerous than he expected, leading to a desperate struggle for survival when things inevitably turn sour. Ford (Suicide Notes) artfully constructs a credible concept against the backdrop of a darkly atmospheric post-post-apocalyptic world. Several secondary characters remain underdeveloped, and readers might wish that the ending unfolded more gradually, but the partnering of virtual gaming with the brutality of "real" zombie warfare achieves an effect that is equal parts chilling and fun. Ages 12–up.

  • School Library Journal

    November 1, 2010

    Gr 7 Up-It is the year 2032 and Josh and his buddy Firecracker spend every spare minute playing their favorite computer video game fighting zombies. Josh's parents disapprove of the game; his aunt had been one of the unfortunates in the last generation who caught a terrible virus that actually turned people into real zombies. That tragedy seems a distant reality to Josh and his friend, and when one of the cyber-game players contacts him to see if he wants to play a reality-based version, he jumps at the chance. Charlie turns out to be an avant-garde girl who introduces him to the zombie game that at first seems something akin to today's paintball wars. However, the "kills" seem very real. Josh is a good player, and when Charlie introduces him to the drug "Z" that makes it all so much cooler, Josh starts ditching his friend and his responsibilities to play the game with Charlie and the other worrisome players like Scrawl and Clatter. As the games progress in various parts of the underbelly of the town and Josh takes more and more of the drug, things start ebooking out of control and the game gets more dangerous and a little too real. This book is a thriller, and the clever plot and characters will have readers hoping for more.-Jake Pettit, Thompson Valley High School, Loveland, CO

    Copyright 2010 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2010
    Fifteen years after the zombie plague destroyed families and threatened the world, the ravenous creatures are once again confined to the video-game realm. Recruited by a shadowy live-action gaming group to battle against animatronic zombies, Josh is thrilled to show off his gaming prowess. But as his friends vanish and the gore increases, he realizes that the game may be more real than he knows. Ford leaps in with flamethrowers blazing and burns through pages at a rapid pace. There's very little character development, but readers who want zombies with personality have Daniel Waters's Generation Dead (2008) to turn to for that--the point here is nonstop movement. An ominous feeling shadows Josh's world, and its tension is nicely reflected in the blend of action and horror. The horrific revelation, the generic cast, the cliffhanger ending—these are all standard zombie fare, but the author manages to make the expected exciting again. For a quick escape, this is a sure-fire way to burn time. (Horror. 12 & up)

    (COPYRIGHT (2010) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Booklist

    November 15, 2010
    Grades 8-11 Josh is addicted to a virtual-reality zombie-killing game, and his skills get him noticed by people who take the game to a whole new and very real level. He finds himself enmeshed in an enterprise involved in everything from creating fresh zombies to manufacturing illegal drugs. When friends begin to appear as zombie targets, things unravel quickly, and Josh must choose his allies wisely to get out alive. Ford expertly builds the tension in this long, escalating thrill ride. Subplots about friendship and first love are woven lightly but deftly through the action in a way that keeps the focus on the game. There are blatant parallels between the virus that creates zombies (from humans) and HIV, giving this book some potential as a conversational door-opener for a weighty topic. The frenetic action and near-future gadgetry make this a good choice to hand to graduates of Anthony Horowitzs Alex Rider books or perhaps fans of Vivian Vande Veldes Heir Apparent (2002) or Neal Shustermans Full Tilt (2003).(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2010, American Library Association.)

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    HarperTeen
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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