Monday, January 03, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse!

'Created' by Stephen Jones

It is not often that I mention books that I am reading never mind review them. Thats mostly because not everyone is as absorbed with Napoleonic military fiction as I am, mind you! However, sometimes I am moved to mention something and this is one of those times. I picked up 'Zombie Apocalypse!' on a whim last week and I read it in under 24 hours. Thats always a sign of a good book in my eyes. The tome tells the tale of ... well, a zombie apocalypse, through transcripts of modern media - emails, tweets, blogs etc. as well as more traditional means with diaries, police reports etc.

Sound familiar? Well yes, I thought so too, as it in theory treads the same ground as World War Z by Max Brooks right? Well, yes and no. Technically yes, but the scope and tone of this is different. If WWZ was presented as a hollywood blockbuster, then ZA! is a BBC2 mini-series. It has a very British tone and indeed, in my opinion, the book begins to loose some of its lustre when 'the Death' spreads around the world.

Another interesting aspect of the book for me is that it is quite possibly the first piece of post-coalition fiction I have seen! The backdrop of a broken Britain being distracted from an increasingly oppressive state by the bread and circuses of a New Festival of Britain has to have some mirrors in the real world difficulties of the country, the discussions of mainland water cannons in response to student protests and the imminent media maelstrom over the 2012 Olympics?

The book is an anthology and as such, there are some differing levels of quality within the writing. Some of it is spine-chillingly good. The 'Diary of Anne Frank' style memoirs of a 13-year old girl and the typed memories of a woman trapped in the tower block are excellent, for example. On the other hand there are some that are filled with rather clumsy exposition - especially the police report of the first outbreak, which cannot work out whether it is fiction or report. I have read some criticism about the likelihood that people really would text someone as they are being besieged by zombies ... but I think they might well, in a world so obsessed with instant information channels.

If there is a real downside to the book, it is when it tackles other areas of the world. This only happens in the last third of the book but here, some of the stuff didn't have much traction with me - except for the stuff in Mexico, which was very good indeed. The American stuff however? Yawn. Another thing I would say is that I really REALLY did not like the end of the book. I won't spoil it but if you want to have a decent ending, just miss out the last two pieces - an address from the President of the USA and the Queen.

This is not a happy book. I cannot remember one truly happy ending to any of the pieces. It achieves something for me which WWZ did not. It took me out of that arrogant 'roleplayers 1-0 zombies' mode and made me think what it would actually be like to have to deal with say, children, during a zombie attack. It made me consider some of the practicalities in a wholly different way and it made me realise that whilst we all like to think we would be able to put our theoretical knowledge into practice, we would all almost certainly fail. Thats a kind of bleak mental horror that does it for me more than any amount of gore.

Not a great work of literature, but a great read and currently available at Waterstones as part of their '3 for 2' deal, so a good pick up to make up your numbers there.

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