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I bought this book in Waterstones last week while I was shopping with a friend of mine who was looking for a decent fantasy novel, I was browsing the shelves myself as well when I came across this book. I've never read a zombie book before, although I have seen plenty of zombie films so this held some appeal for me.
The front cover could be described as a bit tacky, but that said it immediately shows the theme of the book ie. zombies in London. As a Londoner myself, this grabbed my attention (can't exactly say it appealed to me as I don't really desire to see zombies in London) and I thought I may be able to identify with the story better, being very familiar with the main setting.
The book is starts off with discussion on a 'festival of Britain' to try and restore some patriotism in the general population, however this involves digging up a graveyard, in which it turns out there is a plague pit. The bodies of these long dead victims, once released into the fresh air, allow the plague to mutate thus giving rise to 'zombies'.
At first no one believes there are such a thing as real zombies - the authorities won't give out any details and even the police aren't informed of what's happening. The population is left to realise for itself what's going on, and this of course facilitates a fast spread through the population, when the truth comes out it's too late to stop it and culminates in a zombie apocalypse.
When I bought this book, I did so off the strength of the blurb. It was only when I got home that I relalised it wasn't written in a traditional novel format and instead of being disappointed, I was intrigued. The book is written as a series of exerpts from diaries, letters, emails, the news, texts, twitter etc and follows in a chronological order. I did worry that this would mean I wouldn't be able to identify with any of the characters and would feel too detached from the situation, but this wasn't an issue in the end and I found myself thinking things like 'no their zombies, don't touch them!' because in the beginning the reader knows more than the characters.
I did find the premise of the plague mutating to result in zombies, a little unbelieveable to say the least as it didn't seem at all scientifically plausible, although I suppose it wasn't written with scientific accuracy in mind and it didn't overly detract from my enjoyment of the book.
Whilst the book does concentrate on England and London, where the initial outbreak occurs, it does touch in places on the spread to other countries and how it has done this (infected people on planes and boats etc.) I particularly liked this aspect of the book as were a zombie outbreak to occur in real life, it would be impossible to stop the spread around the world, unless it was dealt with immediately at source, as infected people would flee to different countries before displaying the signs of infection.
Like the other reviewer of this book on here, I did feel that the ending didn't live up to the rest of the book - without wanting to spoil the plot, I will just say that it felt a bit weak and almost like a cop out.
That said I would still recommend this book if you enjoy zombie movies/books or are interested in reading something a bit different. Since finishing it, it has stuck with me to the point that when I'm walking down an empty street I keep expecting a zombie to appear (especially as it was published in 2010 so as a contemporary book the fantasy of zombies, marges quite well with the reality of today) - ok so I probably have an over active imagination, but to me that is the mark of a good book if I'm still thinking about it for some time after I've finished reading it.
The RRP on this book is £7.99 and it isn't on any offers currently at Waterstones (although I used my points card to get a bit of money off mine). It's available on amazon for £4.55
It is the near future and Britain is now virtually a Police State. The Olympics were a disaster that never actually came to pass and morale is at an all-time low following violence that broke out at a peaceful demonstration in Trafalger Square.
In a bid to restore a sense of Britishness to its down-trodden people, the new goverment coalition declare a forthcoming Festival of New Britain to commence once important structural work has been undergone in London's Blackheath area. Unfortunately one of the sites chosen to host this new Festival just happens to be close to an old church whose graveyard was once used to bury plague victims during time of The Black Death. Officials decide to ignore warnings from Health Advisors to their own detriment because what is buried at the site of the old church is not just dormant plague bacteria but something far worse that has been hushed up over the centuries that have passed!
Soon a new plague begins sweeping the local area but it is one not seen before! This pandemic sees the dead being brought back to some semblence of life by parasitic fleas that reanimate dead flesh. Before long, much of the U.K is under threat of becoming infected but that is okay, right? Because the Goverment will have protocols in place to deal with such a calamity and stop it spreading won't they? Won't they?
What we get here is an account of the infection as it spreads gathered from a variety of Texts, E-Mails and Tweets all sent or broadcast at the time of the event. With its several different viewpoints, readers could be forgiven for comparing this with World War Z. But where WWZ at times often felt like the work of just one voice and thus often lacked credubility, here author Stephen Jones has instead collaberated with other writers making it thus feel much more genuine and believable!
Some of the authors featured here that readers may recognize include Michael Marshall Smith, Tanith Lee and Kim Newman but there are plenty of other contributers too ~ some of which I had never heard of but bear watching out for. Highlights for me include Tweets from a plane that soon comes under attack when one of the passengers is revealed as being infected and minutes of a goverment meeting where it is discovered that the Defence advice sent out to all Goverment Emergency Services was first devised after a boozy lunch where none of the contributers were able to take the possible threat of an undead outbreak seriously and just decided to fudge their advice!
It is a sign of this books success that there is as much thinly veined humour present here as there is horror! At times, this novel or collaboration almost becomes a parody of the undead genre itself and the only time whe I felt this book started to fail was in its final segments where things all start getting a bit hinky and felt a little bit unresolved. Still, overall this is an impressive read and the ending should not put off fans of Zombie fiction!
I love the way the whole thing just reads so believable from the initial set-up of a near-future version of Britain that may lie just around our corner to the ways in which individuals deal with the outbreak. Like I have mentioned, the use of other authors to give different styles and voices to the characters really works in the books favour and I would love to see either a sequel or companion piece to this or failing that, something else written in a similar style!
If you think the whole Zombie genre has nothing new to offer....think again! This is a whole new and believable take that is nearly perfect and only slips a little in its absolute final pages!