Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Zombie Apocalypse

created by Stephen Jones


Perhaps we have Simon Pegg and Sam Raimi to thank for the whiff of pantomime that surrounds many of the shambling undead these days. Zombie Apocalypse doesn't escape this. It's all about a zombie plague that breaks out in London and quickly spreads, reanimating the dead and giving them an insatiable hunger for human flesh.

The story is told in a series of eyewitness accounts from a lot of different points of view, in the form of emails, letters, diaries, texts, transcripts, and so on. These voices were created by a number of authors. It's almost a themed anthology as much as a single narrative, except the accounts all fit together to form one big picture of a world fallen to the plague of zombie mayhem.

It begins with a man's haunting emails to his mother. Even before the plague breaks out there's a sense that the country is going to the dogs, and that those in power are sleepwalking into disaster. When building contractors decide to dig up an old plague pit to prepare new facilities for the great white elephant project that is the New Festival of Britain the writing is on the wall. But the voices of protest and reason are drowned out by the drive for political face-saving and the need for something to distract the electorate from what is really going on.

The plague itself is a peculiar mixture of necrosis, fleas, and blank-eyed reanimation, spread by the hungry zombies who will bite any non-infected flesh they can get their teeth into. Even a tiny scratch will fester and convert the victim into one of the living dead. It's unstoppable, virulent, and pretty much unavoidable. People are too busy running and screaming to work on a cure. It's more of an excuse for some gory brain-munching and splattery violence than a credible disaster that might really happen to us, especially when you factor in the reanimation of old corpses.

One of the most poignant parts is Sarah Pinborough's diary of the 13-year-old Maddy Wood. She's a normal, excitable teenager with a crush on an older boy who doesn't notice her much, when the plague hits. She has to grow up really fast to deal with the confinement, the need to hide away, and with loss. But perhaps the hardest lesson of all for her is her realisation that grown-ups aren't even close to having it all worked out.

The tone varies quite a bit, from the calm and then increasingly frantic emails of the British Media Corporation to the insane ranting of Pastor Pat. Kim Newman contributes the hilarious minutes of the Extreme Contingencies Planning Group.

People try anything to delay the inevitable, and those who try to carry on in spite of overwhelming evidence that humanity has had its chips bring a touch of the ludicrous to the stories. There's even one character who plans to make a mint out of a new zombie screenplay.

Zombie Apocalypse starts off intense and thoughtful, and it becomes frenetic and a bit silly as it progresses. In spite of featuring lots and lots of different characters it's always compelling, and the new characters who come along are interesting and human enough to keep the pages turning. Some contributors have made their pieces political, others have focused more on the human response to almost certain death, and still others have poked fun. But it all comes slickly together to form a relentlessly entertaining and action-packed apocalypse. Aargh...

5th January 2011

Book Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Books

  Not For The Squeamish  

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Stephen Jones

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