Monday, 27 June 2011

Zombie Apocalypse - Stephen Jones

Vampires stand aside, as it seems to be the year of the Zombie both in literature and on the small screen.  After hiding behind my hands during much of 'The Walking Dead' (I don't do gore very well - that poor horse!), I was surprised at how many Zombie books now inhabited the horror shelves at the book shop. So I made my choice, paid my money and took home Zombie Apocalypse by Stephen Jones.

Well, actually it is not by Stephen Jones, but was written by a collaboration of different writers and in the unusual format of being a series of letters, emails, reports, memos and even tweets describing the unfolding horror show and tragedy.

Zombie Apocalypse is set ever so slightly in the future and kicks off in London, where the economy is even crumblier than it is now and personal freedoms have been curtailed to a great degree. To throw the citizenry some 'beer and circuses' and raise the mood of the nation, the governments decides to splurge a lot of money on a New Festival of Britain.

The idea of the Festival goes down like a lead balloon with most people, but the authorities plough on creating new venues and transport links.  For some reason, they decide to do some construction on the site of an old plague burial ground in South London, that has had a sinister reputation for centuries.

As the bodies of the plague victims start to be removed, corners are cut, regulations are not followed, and strange things start to happen. A scientist who was investigating the possible public health risks disappears, and strange figures start to be reported wandering around in the vicinity of the old church.

One dark night it all starts to go to hell in a handcart and several police officers are attacked by strange, shambling figures who seem to have a preternatural strength. Anyone who is bitten, chewed, or even scratched by one of these creatures rapidly shows massive signs of infection in the wounds, develops a high temperature, and eventually appears to die. Except......they don't!

They rise again as the living dead - zombies who have an insatiable hunger for human flesh.  The rapid collapse of society, the pitiful response of the government, and the blind panic and incomprehension of ordinary people are all played out via such mediums as a teenage girl's diary, desperate texts, police reports and blog posts (strangely there always seems to be mobile phone reception and access to the internet - usually the first things to go down in my experience - but hey they needed a book!)

As Britain fails when trying out a final solution to halt the Zombie plague in its tracks, the contagion inevitably finds its way over into the rest of the world, with the US, Mexico and Australia all being infected.

Enough gore to satisfy the horror fans and enough of a story for the rest of us, it makes an intriguing, if disturbing, read.  Is the state of our economy and sense of hopelessness that many people feel behind this explosion of zombie literature? Do people really feel that we are somehow in the 'end days'?

My only criticism of the book is in its ending, which I found a little absurd. Yes I know that on one level the whole idea of zombies is absurd, but I didn't like the ending which I don't want to give away.  Suffice to say that it brings a whole new meaning to 'you are what you eat'!

One to read trembling under the duvet with a double vodka and coke and an extra large bag of Maltesers!

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