________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 20 . . . . January 25, 2013



Darren Shan.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Canada, 2012.
217 pp., hardcover, $16.99.
ISBN 978-1-44341-508-8.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Kalina Lafreniere.

***½ /4



It was the darkest, most wretched hour of the night when the dead came back to life and spread like a plague of monstrous locusts through the village of Pallaskenry. The luckier victims were slaughtered in their sleep, their skulls ripped open, their brains devoured. The others suffered a far more terrible fate.

The living and the undead shared the village for a short, frantic time, but it was a balance made in hell and it could not last. One side would surely wipe out the other. As the demented, demonic beasts tore into their unsuspecting prey, killing or infecting, it soon became apparent that this was a war the living had never been destined to win.

Zom-B is not for the fainthearted; there are numerous depictions of skulls being cracked open and brains being devoured by ravenous zombies, and a smattering of black and white comic book style illustrations to depict the gore. However, if that's your thing, then Zom-B is a quick read that is fast-paced and highly entertaining, with a few twists along the way.

      The novel opens with the above excerpt and segues into a brief, seven-page narrative about what is presumably one of the first zombie attacks that later spread to other regions of Ireland and Britain. Two characters are introduced, but, by the end of the narrative, one is clearly inconsequential, and the other is too mysterious to not make an appearance later in the book.

      Next, the reader begins the first chapter which is a first-person account from main character B Smith; the remainder of the book is told from B's perspective. B, a teenager residing in England, dismisses the footage of the Irish zombie attack that is all over YouTube as a hoax or an elaborate publicity stunt for some new movie. The zombie attacks so far have no impact on B's life, and things carry on as usual. The reader now gets a glimpse into B's daily life, and it is far from pleasant.

      B seems to have a wide circle of friends that get along well with one another, even if they all seem a bit rough around the edges and enjoy bullying other kids and picking fights. It's B's home life that is particularly unpleasant. In the first paragraph of chapter one, readers learn that B's father, Todd, has a serious drinking problem which often results in verbal and physical abuse towards B's mother, and sometimes towards B as well.

      Readers also learn that Todd is a white supremacist, racist towards anyone who isn't white or born and bred in Britain, and he is active in community groups that push racist agendas. Despite all of this, B still looks up to Todd, oftentimes going along with or mimicking what Todd says and does, but sometimes inwardly questioning whether it's the wrong thing to do.

      At close to the halfway point through this book, the mysterious character from the opening excerpt makes a reappearance as an acquaintance of Todd's. The nature of their relationship is unknown, but he has a sobering effect on both B and Todd. Alarmingly, this character seems to know things about B that no one else knows, adding to the mystery of this creepy character.

      Eventually, people realize that the YouTube videos weren't just a hoax as the zombie attacks start happening in England. The novel cumulates in an all-out zombie war at B's school, and B has to work together with friends and foes alike to try to stay alive. Eventually, a group of adults, including B's father, arrive at school to try to save some of the kids; at this point, with only twenty pages left, a revelation is made to the readers that might cause them to pause and reconsider everything they've read up to this point.

      The story ends dramatically, but with such a cliff-hanger that a sequel must be in the works. Sure enough, Amazon.ca promises that two more volumes of Zom-B will be published in early 2013, and the author's website states that this will be a 12-book series.

      The author, Darren Shan, is a successful and widely-published author with over twenty-five million copies of his books sold worldwide. Most of his books are geared towards young adults and feature other supernatural beings like demons and vampires. Darren has proven his talent in this genre and doesn't disappoint with Zom-B.

Highly Recommended.

Kalina Lafreniere is a Library Technician at Lakehead University in Orillia, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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