Tuesday, 6 December 2011

‘Zombo: Can I eat you please?’ – Al Ewing and Henry Flint (Rebellion)

It was a couple of weeks ago now that I had a little bit of a moan about zombie fiction and that’s not something that you see very often around these parts is it? I mean, you’re looking at the guy who loves nothing more than to pick up a book full of the shambling (and rotting) dead; I can’t get enough of it. The thing is though... Well, you’re essentially reading the same story over and over again aren’t you? The dead rise, people get eaten and any survivors try to make a life for themselves amongst the ruins (whilst either shooting a loved one, who has been bitten, or having the crazy member of their team shows the zombies where they are...) How the author treats their characters is where the differences lie but, at the end of the day, it’s the same plot propping each book up.

If you’re after something a little different though (that still has zombies) then there are books out there will take care of business for you. A couple of weeks ago it was ‘Double Dead’, this time round it’s Al Ewing’s ‘Zombo’. As it happens, Ewing does have previous form for tweaking bits of the zombie sub-genre and turning it into something fresh. His ‘I, Zombie’ remains a book quite unlike any zombie book I’ve ever read as well as being one of the few zombie books that has made me feel physically sick. Great stuff :o)
So when I was given the chance to read ‘Zombo’ I pretty much jumped at the chance. After all, I’d never read a book with a zombie main character that was desperate to enter ‘X-Factor’, until now...

When Flight 303 crashes on the lethal death world known as Chronos things really don’t look good for the surviving passengers, not good at all. There are death worlds out there that are far more dangerous than Chronos but there is plenty here to make life for our stranded survivors pretty damn grim... and very short.
Luckily for the passengers though, Flight 303 was also carrying a top secret government experiment designed specially to combat environs such as Chronos. Enter Zombo! Part zombie, part human ghoul; he might end up eating you but you can rest assured that he will ask nicely first before taking a bite...

I don’t think I’ve ever read a zombie book that manages to be irreverent and frightening all at the same time. ‘Zombo’ manages to combine both approaches with some considerable aplomb and, as a result, was a book that I couldn’t help but chuckle at (even while I was reading certain pages with my eyes half open).

Having read Al Ewing’s work previously, I thought I had some idea of what to expect from ‘Zombo’ but, as is the norm, Ewing still managed to pull the rug out from underneath me by ramping things up to another level entirely. A bodyguard duo who are really one person, inbred hillbillies who play ‘Twister’ whilst snacking on our rapidly depleting group of survivors, a zombie entering X-Factor... Yep, I still can’t quite get my head round that last one and that’s the beauty of Ewing’s writing. Ewing may go a little too far over the top, every now and then, but you can always rely on him to come up with something that will stick in your head for days afterwards.

Al Ewing really doesn’t like Russell Brand and I could take a pretty good stab at guessing his feelings on Robbie Williams as well...  As amusing as what happened to them was, these were the moments that things went a little too far over the top and I felt that I wasn’t reading a story, more like an opportunity for Ewing to take a little revenge on people he doesn’t like. I don’t blame Ewing for this but couldn’t help but wish he’d done it elsewhere and just let the story run on its own. It’s a great story just on it’s own. I’ve mentioned the irreverence already but there is also plenty here to scare as well; whether it’s a jungle planet picking off people one by one (the bit where one woman just disappeared, leaving a pair of shoes behind, was particularly effective) or fleeing zombies through the bowels of a space station. Everything runs at a madcap pace and Henry Flint’s vivid artwork does its bit to keep your eyes on the page. Here’s an artist with a surplus of red ink and he’s not afraid to use it...

‘Zombo’ does suffer when Ewing decides to take out minor celebrities (for no reason that actually advances the plot) but on the whole is a lot of fun and another reminder that there’s a lot more that can be done with zombie fiction than you would think. I’m hoping for more to come from Zombo but if Ewing wants to write more zombie fiction then I’d pick it up whether Zombo makes an appearance or not.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

1 comment:

Carmen said...

Hey, if you're going to have a zombie rampage why not stick a few annoying celebs in their path :D This sounds really fun as does I, Zombie. More for the list!