Hello Internet. Welcome back for Review #3. And for this review, we switch to something that I didn’t like.
So I’ve recently been devouring zombie horror books like they’re brains from the sweetest post-apocalyptic idiot, and I must say that despite some real terrifying-yet-awesomely-interesting flesh snacks (*cough* anything by Max Brooks *cough*) nothing has really caught me by the sleeve and pulled me in for the kill. I suppose it’s because of the ridiculously easy option of copying any stereotypical zombie plot line (zombies wipe out everything except a certain age group; the world gets infected and the survivors constantly spat about the last tin of baked beans; one survivor hides from the salivating hordes in a survival-horror fashion; etc. etc.). Undead, however, drew me in with the shameful tactic of a title in bold and a picture of the bottom half of a teenage girl in what appears to be a miniature cheerleading outfit and white snowshoes with pompoms holding a huge psycho-ax-murderer ax on the front cover. Oh the lies book covers tell.
Firstly, none of the characters really do wear a teensy cheerleading outfit (not even the male ones), and as far as I have gotten none of the characters have EVER had a massively oversized ax! Not one! And I’m not even going to begin talking about the plot. Maybe it’s because I sort of went off zombie novels after the Charlie Higson binge of ’14, but he still manages to make the plot fresh and the characters seem new again. Possibly because they keep ruddy dying all the time. But Undead has not delivered in the same sense of plot development, with no major character deaths or plot twists. The gore is good though, but if the Resident Evil series of videogames has taught us anything it’s that adding more gore does not make the overall experience better (however more gore can’t possibly make it worse, unless at the expense of storytelling).
So the characters are not really cardboard cut-outs in the development sense, but they are true caricatures of the usual bunch of post-apocalyptic delinquents. There’s the nerdy, antisocial asthmatic, the stuck-up “popular” princess, the seemingly witty bad-boy with a taste for innuendos and the welsh softie with a whiny toddler brother who turns from her teenage angst the minute a Zach shows up… well, OK, three of the main roles are ordinary. And as for the lead? Well, she’s a pom who moved to America when she was three, and came back when her well-off-and-pompous-but-not-rich parents found a job back in the UK. Because they apparently don’t give a flying… uh… two cents… about their daughter they shipped her off to a boring school trip. This character might be based on the author’s own experiences, but her reactions to the scenarios only just serve to prove that a few new ideas doesn’t remake the wheel. Honestly the entire novel just shows how far overworked the zombie theme really can become, and if someone doesn’t fix this, we might need an undead rethinking for our resurrected corpse friends.
Undead was published in 2011 by Chicken House. It can be found on Amazon here.
Yours: J.M. Pear