Wednesday, 5 December 2007
'Monster Island' - David Wellington (Snow Books)
Every so often I get a hankering to sit down and scare myself stupid with a book about zombies… There's something about these walking corpses (and the bleak apocalyptic world that they inhabit) that works for me on a level those mere vampires and werewolves will never reach. I'd heard a lot of good things about 'Monster Island' but had been put off by the price on copies from the US. All that changed however when I saw a cheap copy in the charity shop round the corner from my work. It was paid for and in my bag faster than, er… one of those fast moving zombies from the new(er) 'Dawn of the Dead' remake! But then I kept picking it up, reading a few pages and then putting it down again. It wasn't quite working for me and there were loads more cool books that were. I picked it up again, a couple of days ago, and this time something changed. I really got into it this time and will be searching out the other two books in the series, ‘Monster Nation’ and ‘Monster Planet’.
As is usual in a book of this kind, the dead have risen and eaten their way through the larger part of the planet. Countries of the developed world have fallen quickly but it’s in the warzones of countries like Somalia where the daily fight for survival has equipped people to deal with the new threat. However, supplies are running low and an army of schoolgirls (yes, really) led by a former UN weapons inspector must travel by boat to New York to find the medicine they need. This does actually make sense when you read it. They’re about to throw themselves into a city teeming with the undead and there’s something far more dangerous that’s also waiting for them. One of the zombies can think…
‘Monster Island’ took a while to get going but when it did I found it was worth carrying on for. It was actually like a horror film where the viewer is lulled into a false sense of security and then hit with something big and scary. This tactic almost backfired though as I found (at first) that the book was easy to put down for other reads. What you eventually get though is an unrelenting attack on that little gland in your body that makes you want to look nervously over your shoulder. Noises downstairs actually made me jump. Come to think of it, what were those noises anyway…? I found the characters engaging as well and it’s clear that Wellington has spent a great deal of time thinking about the aftermath of a zombie infestation with the situations that he puts people through and how they feel about it. I really liked the introduction of the riot police zombies who were wearing bulletproof helmets and couldn’t be shot.
These days zombies are getting loads of ‘upgrades’ in order to be more interesting and ‘Monster Island’ is no exception. I liked the idea behind Gary retaining his faculties, even when he was dead, and I also liked the way that the origins of the epidemic borrowed heavily from the ‘Zombieworld’ series (Dark Horse Comics) without actually confirming that this was the reason certain things were happening. Without giving too much away, Wellington comes up with many ways of keeping things fresh and new throughout the whole book.
If you fancy reading a zombie book then ‘Monster Island’ is a pretty good place to start. However, be prepared to give the book a chance to warm up a little before it really gets going. It’s worth it.
Eight out of Ten