Darren Shan,
(Little Brown, 2012)

Saying I'm a fan of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels is an understatement if there ever was one, and seeing Zom-B in the store excited me. I haven't read a good zombie novel in a year or so as they are very hard to come by.

The most common afflictions of a zombie novel is it falls into a rhythm of action and little else which leaves the book empty and the reader feeling dull having read it. Another affliction is that most of the characters are written about as well as the zombies. While this book does a better job than most zombie books at being intelligent, it's still a book about brain-dead monsters -- and it is hard to make a book about that anything more than a guilty pleasure.

This novel is about B, a teenager who is abused by his father and slowly becomes absorbed into the racism his father spouts. While there are zombies in this novel, it is for the most part a character study of B, and in this regard it is pretty strong. B is influenced by his father, as is any person who has one, and although he hates his father's abusive and racist ways, they slowly begin to permeate B's life. B is a bully and throughout the book has outbursts of racist rage. While it is easy to hate B, it is worth more to analyze him, understanding that a teenager raised in a racist home will have a hard time breaking out of that cycle. We see B throughout the book both despise and defend his father's beliefs, and that stood out to me -- any writer can write one way or another, but Darren Shan makes the monologues more realistic and relative to the character.

Now zombies. Throughout the story we hear background reports of zombies in Ireland, although nobody believes it. The characters believe in an assortment of theories, including Muslim terrorists, government experiments and movie advertisements. The reactions to these zombie attacks are well handled -- some believe and fear future attacks while others think it's all a hoax. The zombies are slightly original, but how much can you really do to a monster that hasn't been done in the thousands of novels, movies and comics already?

Most of the characters are unoriginal cliches, but I like what the author did with B; he made him confused and scared about his father and his beliefs. Other than the majority of characters being practically cut-outs of plastic, some of the weaknesses include the atmosphere of the book. This may just be a personal preference but it left a sort of empty feeling when I finished; I wasn't excited or annoyed, just content. The only reason I will read the second book of the series is because of the two great twists near the end of the book.

This book works well as a zombie novel, but as a book it feels empty, and sometimes dull. The only theme is one of anti-racism; however, it is left behind once the zombies show up, and the book would work better if it was integrated with the action.

I would recommend this book to zombie fans and that's about it. Few others would enjoy it, and even some zombie fans will be left feeling disappointed, as I was.

book review by
Vlady Kozubnyak

13 September 2014

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