Author: Darren Shan
Format: Hardcover, 192 pages
Publisher: September 27th 2012 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Publisher, via BEA
Series: Book 1 in the Zom-B series
Zom-B is a radical new series about a zombie apocalypse, told in the first person by one of its victims. The series combines classic Shan action with a fiendishly twisting plot and hard-hitting and thought-provoking moral questions dealing with racism, abuse of power and more. This is challenging material, which will captivate existing Shan fans and bring in many new ones. As Darren says, “It’s a big, sprawling, vicious tale…a grisly piece of escapism, and a barbed look at the world in which we live. Each book in the series is short, fast-paced and bloody. A high body-count is guaranteed!
Holy unexpected plot twists, Batman! I read an ARC of Zom-B, and the first page of the book is a note from Darren Shan, encouraging reviewers to be very careful not to spoil any surprises when reviewing the book. So, this review probably won’t be as “complete” as others I would write, for that reason. I won’t spoil anything, because that would ruin the entire reading experience.
The main character, B, is tough-as-nails and not afraid to pick a fight to save face. B has to be tough, growing up with an abusive racist for a dad and a mom who takes the abuse without complaint. B tries hard to shield her from the violence, but that usually ends up with them both being beaten. The whole town think it’s a huge joke when the news starts reporting zombie outbreaks in nearby towns, and nobody takes it seriously. All of the students are shocked when the threat turns out not only to be real, but actually shows up at their school.
It took a while for the actual zombie action to start (aside from a little bit in the beginning). There was a lot of backstory about B’s family and friends. We learned how B met them all, how they got their nicknames, how they all get along… It got to be a bit too much for me. I kept thinking, “Let’s get on with the action already!” But once it did, it was fast paced and exciting. The book is short and really zipped along; I read it in only a few hours. There was a lot of chasing and hiding, gore and ickiness and bravery and cowardice.
And now, on to the plot twists: there were 3 that I consider major. The first surprise showed up in the beginning, right when I’d gotten into the groove of the book and thought I knew what to expect. The second was a shocker and made me stop to consider everything I’d read so far in a new light. And the ending-I did not see that coming! Every time I got comfortable, Darren Shan surprised me. That’s a great thing to be able to say, especially in a genre that sometimes feels like it’s run its course.
The cover is okay and sufficiently creepy; there’s no mistaking it for anything other than a zombie story. I actually prefer the old monotone cover, though. It’s simplicity is a perfect cover for all of the chaos inside the novel itself.
Campy, gory and unexpected, this is a fun new take on the zombie genre.