Book Review: Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback by Stephen Jones (et al)

Here is book two of the now planned “Zombie Apocalypse!” trilogy. If you’ve read the first one, you’ll know what to expect from the tone and format of the first. If you haven’t read it, you’ll need to because firstly the format will come as a surprise to you and much of this book will not make sense anyway. Like the first, the story does not progress in a conventional narrative format but through collections of documents, emails, official reports, letters, tweets etc.

Only this time, the earlier part of the book focuses almost entirely on the man who was responsible for the zombie outbreak, the “Zombie King” Thomas Moreby who in the 18th century built the church and the crypt beneath that housed the fleas that carry the disease. Who was he? What was he like? How was he responsible for the zombie apocalypse hundreds of years after his life? More importantly, who is this man in the modern day now claiming to be him? Did he really come back from the dead?

We also have a scene setting exercise where more history of All Hallow’s Church at Hobbs Lane where the outbreak occurred is revealed. Medievel chroniclers discuss horned creatures, 1950s fighter pilots reveal images of demons in clouds and modern archaeologists explain that bones of bizarre ape-like creatures were dug up on the site with the expansion of the tube. Locals over the course of the 20th century report a “dwarf man” in the vicinity of Hobbs Lane scuttling away when spotted. All very bizarre and intriguing so far. Tales of missing children and even a few celebrity commenters are included (H.G. Wells discusses writing a story about the church and its strange occurences).

We also go back to the start of the outbreak for reports and records from different angles. I found this all a bit unncessary, personally. It was achieved rather perfectly in the first book and to include it in the second book feels like overkill. The new developments about the archaeology and the older reports are intriguing though and we do take it in a new direction to Paris and Moscow and see how those countries are dealing with the outbreak. Early on, it does feel like more of the same though, even though we are moving toward the titular fightback before we get halfway through but by this point, we see no hope of humanity winning.

The blurb promises a mutation – a sea change in the reanimated. I won’t reveal what that is though to avoid spoiling the plot for anyone who is intrigued enough to read the series. What I will say is that it is hinted at toward the end of the first book and left it on what for many seemed to have been a bizarre and unexplained cliffhanger. I’ll say no more except read it, and if you haven’t already then read the first one!

My only complaint is the fuzzy line between science and supernatural which dithers and doesn’t quite work for me. The collection of writers who set down a clear and careful science to the zombie virus (because that is how it is spread) use what for me was a terrible supernatural mcguffin. It would have been better to have gone one way or another. Still, this has become intriguing for its quirky and unusual approach. I will say that I didn’t think it was quite as good as the first, partly because of we’ve now lost the impact of the surprising style of writing and partly because of how we know the zombie infestation develops makes them slightly less scary.

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