Tuesday, 29 July 2008
‘I, Zombie’ – Al Ewing (Abaddon Books)
The nature of my job is such that I can afford to spend a large part of the day pondering, well… all sorts of stuff really. For example, is Superman left or right handed? Think about it… (And saying that he is ambidextrous is just a cop out!) The other thing I’ve been thinking about recently is just how leeway a zombie should have in terms of what it can do. I’m not too happy with them being able to run but when I watch the 2004 remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ I can let that one go. One thing I’m not having any of though is zombies being able to scamper across ceilings, what the hell is all that about? (I’m looking at you ‘Day of the Dead’ remake…)
However, having just finished reading ‘I, Zombie’ I may have to rethink all of this. You see, our ‘hero’ is a zombie who can do a lot of this as well as so much more…
John Doe looks just like you and me but that’s where the similarity ends. The thing is that John has been dead for the last ten years but still manages to perform his duties as a private detective, assassin and burglar. John can slow down his perception of time (just like in ‘The Matrix’) and has a detachable hand that performs independently of the rest of his body, useful skills to have when you’re facing down large looking men with guns!
John is pretty special but has no idea of just how special he actually is. He’s about to find out though in a series of events that will see him usher in the end of the world and then have to save it…
I stayed up until two in the morning reading ‘I, Zombie’. I didn’t have any choice in the matter as I had to finish it before I went to bed, I couldn’t wait until the morning to find out what happened. Right from the bullet soaked opening, up until the downbeat ending, Ewing keeps things moving so fast that I literally couldn’t stop and get off, there was no time. ‘I, Zombie’ is only two hundred and eighty nine pages long but every one of those pages has something going on. You want to read about a zombie’s quest for humanity? Keep reading, it’s all in there and is strangely touching. You want a top secret military organisation where packs of werewolves are controlled by a mutant from the Victorian age? There’s plenty of that as well. You want to see London taken apart by an invasion of insects from another dimension…?
Everything ties together very neatly with flashes of humour both in the situations and the writing itself. I laughed out loud when I realised that the Earth had been invaded purely on the basis of the wrong brain being eaten!
Some of John’s asides are good for a chuckle as well…
Here’s a lesson for you – it’s okay to commit a massive act of cannibalism if you’re saving the world. That said, that wasn’t really cannibalism and I did actually end the world first, but try not to point that out. Let me feel good about myself for a minute or two, hey?
As is the case with all Abaddon books (the ‘Tomes of the Dead’ series in particular), Ewing goes straight for the jugular in portraying just exactly what it means to see your home city torn down, around you, by flesh eating insects. There are no punches pulled and Ewing makes it all the more tragic and hard hitting by introducing characters in great detail and then pulling the rug right out from underneath them. If you’re a fan of the series then you’ll know what to expect but if you’re squeamish at all then you may want to think twice before picking this one up. Some of what happens is pretty near the knuckle and does tread a fine line between adding to the atmosphere of the book and simply being there for shock value.
I’m not too bothered about swearing in books, no matter how much there is. So long as there’s a point to it being there then that’s fine by me. It’s worth pointing out though that ‘I, Zombie’ has a particularly high ‘swear word’ count including some particularly nasty words that make reading the book out loud, in public, an awkward task. If that’s not your thing then you may want to give ‘I, Zombie’ a miss!
If I were you though I wouldn’t let these two points put you off as ‘I, Zombie’ is a very entertaining read that tears along at a fair old rate, all in the best traditions of Abaddon Books. It’s not one to discuss at your book club but it’s definitely one for a quick train ride to work and would definitely go well with a couple of beers while you’re in the garden…
Eight and Three Quarters out of Ten