Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback edited by Stephen Jones
There is nothing to fear but fear itself… and zombies!
Following the outbreak of Human Reanimation Virus – more commonly known as ‘The Death’ – from a hidden crypt beneath a south London church, the centuries-old plague quickly spreads throughout the world, turning victims into flesh-eating zombies.
As we learn more about the mysterious Thomas Moreby – ‘Patient Zero’ – the surviving members of the human race begin their fightback against the legions of walking dead, and the Infected themselves begin mutating into something… different.
Told through interconnected eyewitness accounts – emails, text messages, reports , diaries, found video footage and graphic adaptations – the remnants of humanity battle to survive in a world gone mad.
This month The Eloquent Page will feature, along with regular reviews, a number of posts discussing my favourite genre subject – The Apocalypse. Pull up a seat for the End of the World…
First up everyone’s favourite undead shufflers – zombies. Yes, I know that there is an awful lot of zombie fiction out there, but there are some books that really do stand out. Back in 2010 I reviewed Zombie Apocalypse and was pleased to discover a polished anthology that contained some first class fiction. This year, the second book of the series was launched at Fantasycon.
As with the first collection there are many differing accounts of the fall of humanity and the rise of the zombie. Overall the collection is pretty solid and there are a few tales that I thought really stood out.
Paris When it Sizzles by Anne Billson - High fashion and flesh-eaters? Who wouldn’t want to know how zombies fair on the streets the French capital city. The undead hordes versus Gallic indifference is a sight to behold. One of the things I enjoyed about this novel’s predecessor was that the action took place all across the globe. I’m not always a fan of apocalyptic fiction that sticks to a small canvas, I want events to feel truly global. Stories like this maintain the international scope of the events that are unfolding.
Pages from a British Field Manual by Guy Adams - Interspersed between the pages of the manual for dealing with the zombie situation, a man writes a final letter to his son. He tries to explain his reasons for deciding to join the fight against the undead. This story illustrates very effectively that zombie stories don’t always have to about gore or body horror. It’s nice when fiction catches you by surprise and takes you in completely the opposite direction from where you expected to go. This ends on a bittersweet note that tugged at the old heartstrings.
Peace Land Blood by Sarah Pinborough – The basis of this story is a series of increasingly desperate telegrams sent from the British Ambassador in Russia, back to the UK. This is another example of fiction that very effectively captures the collapse of society on a foreign shore. The Russian response to the zombie problem is totally in keeping with their turbulent political history. Nice to see familiar faces from the Communist old guard make an appearance as well.
Fright Club by Brian Hodge - I can sum up everything that you need to know about this particular story in three words – zombie cage fighting. This story really appealed to me. I’ll freely admit that I own a t-shirt that proudly proclaims “Zombie Cage Fighter” so I can only hope when the inevitable zombie apocalypse does occur that this will become a real sport.
The Play’s the Thing by Robert Shearman - A playwright is forced to write a new work for the zombie hordes. Who knew they were such a cultured bunch? The good news is that he’ll have the assistance of a few famous literary faces.
The stories that I’ve mentioned just scratch the surface. There are many more gruesome delights to discover, including what I can only describe as the nastiest sounding menu I have ever heard of. We learn the history of the zombie condition, and discover the details of the plagues initial source. Each author has provided a unique interpretation of the holocaust but where this anthology really succeeds is that the overall story arc flows seamlessly through each of the individual tales. There is a sense that events are building to a climax and each episode moves things forward.
I can appreciate that efforts have been made to keep this collection feeling as authentic/in-character as possible but I have to admit, it would have been nice to have page numbers and possibly the names of each story at the beginning of the book rather than just a list at the end. Sometimes it wasn’t immediately obvious where one ended and the next began. That said, this is only a technical gripe. The stories themselves are all very well presented.
I may be wrong but I think I spotted the suggestion that we’re not quite done yet. Is the endgame still to come? I do hope so.
Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback is published by Constable & Robinson and is available now.