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Zombie Apocalypse! edited by Stephen Jones

Welcome to Zombie Appreciation Month. Throughout October The Eloquent Page will take a look at different interpretations of zombies in modern literature. To begin with I’ve decided to start with a classic theme. I give you The End of the World.

Will humanity triumph over the worldwide zombie plague, or will the walking dead inherit the earth?

It seems only fair that the first book that I’m looking at is the one that gave me the idea in the first place. There were a number of book launches at this year’s FantasyCon in Nottingham, and this book immediately caught my eye. With a few notable exceptions, I’m not a huge fan of anthologies. As a rule, I prefer to read novels written by one author, but in an effort to broaden my horizons I decided to take a chance.

Zombie Apocalypse! chronicles the worldwide spread of ‘The Death’. Starting in London, and then rapidly spreading across the globe the reader is given the opportunity to delve into the lives of those affected. In this case I think having multiple authors was entirely the right decision. There is one world, and one event, but each author has the opportunity to have his or her character tell a bit of the story from their point of view. This technique works well, and the reader really gets the feeling that all these disparate voices have been pulled together to create the story.

Different chapters have their protagonist use different forms of social media to tell their tale. For example, there is a chapter written as a blog, one as a twitter conversation, and one is solely SMS.  There is even one compiled of television interviews. I think this book contains the first story I have read written in tweets.

There were a number of real standout stories in the book. My particular favourite was Sarah Pinborough’s contributions Diary Entry #1, #2 and #3. Written from the perspective of a thirteen year old girl. Maddy is thrilled to be very nearly an adult, but as the outbreak occurs and then worsens, she loses her family and is forced into hiding. An early teen forced to grow up quickly against the backdrop of such horror was very compelling

They’re Coming to Get You by Lisa Morton is darkly funny. It follows a zombie obsessed blogger while he  consoles himself after a break up, gets drunk and watches his favourite movies.

The Longest Distance Between Two Places by Will Halloway by Peter Crowther reminded me of early Stephen King.  The world is falling apart but a teenage boy has only two concerns, his writing and the girl next door.

Another comic turn is The Show Must Go On by Peter Atkins. Two media types discuss, via e-mail, how to best take advantage of the zombie outbreak. The script for the zombie movie is quite spectacular.

It was fantastic to see the stories shift from country to country, rather than just focusing on ground zero in London. One criticism I often have of apocalyptic fiction is that I want to know what is going on elsewhere. Not the case here. There were chapters set in the UK, USA, Australia and Mexico. I think this helped to set the scope of the piece as a global apocalypse.

It seems likely that some will compare this anthology with World War Z by Max Brooks. I’ve read both, and I think that they are distinctly different. Zombie Apocalypse ends on what I think many would consider a very downbeat note. It struck me that there aren’t really any happy endings. The authors have successfully captured the claustrophobia and impending disaster that I have always associated with zombies. There is an inevitability about them that I have always considered creepy. You can run but eventually they will wear you down.

Zombie Apocalypse shuffles into the light, searching for brains, on 14th October

Zombie Apocalypse!

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