As most of you know, I am a massive Darren Shan fan. His number one fan, in fact. He was hugely inspirational in starting me writing, and I now consider us friends, which is so awesome. And yes, I’m trying not to sound too much like Annie Wilkes when I say that…
I bought a copy of his brand new series Zom-B last year, but have had so much on (including reading and loving his new book for adults, Lady of the Shades, which I will review very soon) that I only found time to sit down and start it last night.
Start it and finish it, I should say. I couldn’t put it down! It’s a fantastic read. Quick, gripping, thrilling, vicious, and challenging too. More challenging than his previous work, I think, in a good way. Although it starts off in a very familiar fashion: poor Brian wakes up in the middle of the night to the sounds of a zombie apocalypse, and witnesses much limb-ripping, skull-splitting, brain-devouring nastiness – as well as a mysterious man with large eyes who seems to be immune to the walking dead. It’s a gory, intriguing prologue that reminded me of the start of Lord Loss, but from the end of this chapter the book takes a different route.
The main story follows B, a teenager with anger management problems and a severe disregard for authority. Worst of all, B is a racist. It’s easy to see why, because B has just about the most despicable, fascist thug of a father you could ever imagine, a brutish bully of a man who beats up his wife and child and who would gladly leave a baby to die if it wasn’t white and English. B is locked in a constant moral war between the need to please this nightmare of a dad and the need to do the right thing – a war that B is in danger of losing.
It is such a compelling story. So compelling, in fact, that I could quite happily have read a whole series about the relationship between these two characters without the added horror of zombies. (And that’s really saying something, because I love zombies!) It was a tricky thing for Darren to do, because there’s always the risk of creating something that reads like a school RE textbook on the danger of racism. But B is such a well thought out, realistic character that this never happens. B leaps from the page, brilliantly real because at times you love this character and at times you hate them. It’s been a while since I’ve had such a complex reaction to somebody in a book. The real horror in Zom-B isn’t the living dead, it’s just the living, and they can be so much worse.
But of course this is Darren Shan, so it doesn’t take long for the genre horror to find B’s world! And wow, Darren doesn’t pull any punches. The last part of the book is a non-stop ride on the gore train, and so much fun (in a horrific way)! I won’t say much, only that I always think there’s an easy way to differentiate between the various levels of horror out there: screams and spasms. Most scary books have screams in them, but you know the author is really going for the jugular when people spasm as their lives are being ripped away. And there is lots of spasming in this book! He also does for zombies what he has already done for vampires and demons – presents us with something at once familiar and brilliantly unique. These zombies are nasty!
It’s a fantastic read, and better still it’s the first instalment in a 12-book series so there’s much more to come. And when you finish this one you’ll be desperate for the next because there is not just one but two massive plot twists that will leave you reeling. Zom-B is a must for any horror fan, but more than this it’s a challenging book with some important questions, the most important of which, I think, is how much of our nature is determined by our parents and how much do we use this as an excuse for our actions? From what I hear about the books to come, it’s the first of many moral issues that will really force readers to challenge their own perception of the world, and of themselves.
So, in short, read this book!!!