Review: ZOM-B by Darren Shan

 

Title: ZOM-B

Author: Darren Shan

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When news reports start appearing of a zombie outbreak in Ireland, B’s racist father thinks it’s a joke– but even if it isn’t, he figures, it’s ok to lose a few Irish.

B doesn’t fully buy into Dad’s racism, but figures it’s easier to go along with it than to risk the fights and abuse that will surely follow sticking up for Muslims, blacks, or immigrants. And when dodging his fists doesn’t work, B doesn’t hesitate to take the piss out of kids at school with a few slaps or cruel remarks.

That is, until zombies attack the school. B is forced on a mad dash through the serpentine corridors of high school, making allegiances with anyone with enough gall to fight off their pursuers.


Review:

Spoiler free!

This is the first Darren Shan novel that I have read (I have read some graphic novel adaptations previously), and despite some reservations, I enjoyed it very much.  ZOM-B kept me happily entertained on a flight to OKC; it’s a fast read, with blistering action and compulsively readable prose.  I gobbled this up in just a few hours, and was disappointed when I reached the last page, because this one comes to a painful, screeching halt.  It has no ending, just one of those annoying To Be Continued on the last page.  While I now feel invested in the series and will be on board for the next volume, I worry that the next book won’t work for me as well.  This one hit at the right time; with Halloween looming, I was in the mood for something scary, and being trapped on a plane for was few hours, I needed something to occupy my time and keep me from wallowing in boredom.  ZOM-B did that; in spades.  I don’t know if I will feel the same way, or have the right circumstances, when ZOM-B Underground hits stores February of next year.

B is a high school student, and after hearing reports of a zombie invasion in an Irish town, B’s father laughs the news off as a hoax.  When B’s mother voices her concern, her husband reacts violently, silencing her fears.  B isn’t sure what’s going on, but if the videos and the pictures of rotting dead people viciously attacking and eating helpless people is true, B doesn’t know what to do.  When the zombies show up at school, chaos erupts.  Only those brave enough, and willing to do anything to survive, will live through the massacre.  Will B make it out of school alive?

B is a hard character to like.  After years of trying to fend off his father’s abusive attacks, both on B and on B’s mother, B is exhausted.  Playing along with his father’s racially biased views in order to avoid beatings, B comes across as just as bigoted and narrow-minded as his dad.  While he tries to deny his prejudice, because, hey, he has a black friend, it’s hard to ignore the things B says and does.  The intolerance towards other cultures is a strong theme in the book, but it is so heavy-handed that at times it didn’t work for me.  It grated on my nerves.  Yes, B’s dad is a bully and a jerk, but I didn’t need to be reminded of that every other page. 

B has a lot to deal with at home as his father’s temper often flares out of control.  When news of a zombie plague hits the news, everyone laughs it off as an elaborate joke.  When B’s worst nightmare comes true and the zombies overrun  school, it seems as though the world is ending.  Only quick thinking and brutal reactions keep B and a small handful of students alive.  The zombies are relentless, and B’s little group is shrinking fast.  One after another is picked off and eaten by the ravenous zombies.  Soon, it’s everyone for themselves.  While the small group is forced to work together, it is painfully obvious that the peace will only hold as long as it is mutually beneficial.  If tossing a student or two to the zombie mob will buy the more ruthless survivors a reprieve from a painful death, so be it.  The group dynamics  were always shifting, which made the read even more suspenseful, because you never knew when someone would be sacrificed or eaten by the zombies. 

This is a fun, fast, gory read, right up until that dreaded, hated, To Be Continued.  I like a little more closure to my books, but as this is the first in a projected 12 book series, I guess I need to get used to running into a lot of brick walls.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher