So, now that The Walking Dead has been unleashed onto our screens in what looks like a pretty perfect adaption, I thought I’d turn my attention to two very different zombie related books.
First off, the more traditional of the two…
I’ve never understood why when bad things happened, they nearly always happened in London or New York or Los Angeles.
There are, of course, some notable exceptions.
Stephen King sets most of his books around the state of Maine (and lately in Florida where, coincidentally, he has a house) and Iain Banks’ novels have a tremendous sense of the geography of Scotland. And yes, I know, before you all start shouting at the screen, there are others too- Phil Rickman is another who springs to mind.
So it was refreshing to read a novel set in Belfast and written by a Northern Irish writer. It was doubly refreshing to find that this wasn’t some turgid cliché ridden tramp through ‘The Troubles’ either (although they do get a mention, and to be fair, it’s hard to write about NI without at least giving them a passing nod).
Nope, this is a straight up apocalyptical zombie book- although the author, Wayne Simmons, steadfastly refuses to use that word.
So briefly- six weeks after a particularly deadly flu virus mutates (well, I assume that’s what has happened) and starts to turn dead bodies into not so dead bodies.
We follow the exploits of a few groups of survivors as they fight to survive in the zombie (see? I’m using the word!) infested street of Belfast.
Simmons has a nice ear for dialogue, and the characters are well written. Very few, if any of them, are particularly likeable individuals, so the fact that I still wanted to see what happened to them must be down to the skill of the writer.
The author is also commendably unattached to his characters as you’ll quickly discover, as he gleefully dispatches them in some pretty gory scenes. Action scenes too are written with considerable pace and the sense of threat from the zombies is well communicated.
I had a couple of problems with the book however.
One is that a few plot points hang on a number of coincidences that had me thinking ‘What are the chances..?’
The other one is a personal one, and that is I don’t find zombies to be all that scary. They are brilliant as a metaphor (as used by George Romero) but I’m just too rationally minded and cynical to be scared by them- or at least by the idea of an animated corpse, although that does not stop action scenes involving them being exciting, or horror being horrible… if that makes sense. That said, Simmons provides a nice bit of social comment in the book, particularly in the one potential ray of hope that may or may not be running through the novel.
Simmons is currently writing a follow-up to this, and it will be most welcome.
Flu is available from Snowbooks.
And so to Zombo.
Now, I’m going to write a description of the storyline, but nothing I say can do justice to the sheer inventiveness, the fun and utter lunacy within.
A space ship crash lands on a Death Planet, and the survivors begin to get picked off. I was going to say one by one, but this is not the case. They get killed in great bloody and lovingly illustrated swathes. The artist, the sublime Henry Flint takes great relish in letting us see exactly how bloody the deaths are.
Zombo, let’s not call him the hero, himself is a sublime creation. He certainly is the most polite flesh eating ultra violent undead killer you will ever encounter. And he is, it seems, the only hope for survival for the folks who lived through the ship crash.
As I said, I really can’t do Zombo, the character, enough justice in this review. You really need to experience him for yourself.
As well as the eponymous story on the Death Planet, we also get a short Christmas tale, ‘Merry Christmas Mr Zombo’, which serves to bridge the gap between the first longer story and the second, by way of some astoundingly hilarious dialogue. For example, upon being attacked by a killer Christmas tree: ‘Baubles! Eating my face!
This is followed by the even more OTT ‘Zombo’s Eleven’, in which Zombo enters a television talent contest. Yes, that’s what I said. The results are both hilarious and gory, featuring as they do thinly disguised versiosn of Susan Boyle, Frank Sinatra, Simon Cowell and a swarm of sentient undead bees.
Yes, you did read that right too.
In addition to this very polite and action packed goodness, you also get an exclusive one page strip and and interview with the creators of Zombo, Al Ewing and the aforementioned Henry Flint.
In fact, if you’re hankering for more walking corpse action after this, you could do a lot worse than track down Ewing’s fearsomely original novel ‘I, Zombie.’