Book Review: Zom-B by Darren Shan
I was thrilled when I heard one of the masters of YA horror, Darren Shan, was planning on taking on zombies (maybe my favorite paranormal beastie) in a brand new series. Zom-B, the first book in a TWELVE book series (yes that’s right), was certainly an interesting and horror-filled ride, but not in the way I expected. There is a pretty big reveal toward the end of the book that Shan asked ARC readers specifically not to spoil, (and I’ll keep mum about it) and it makes talking about the rest of the story rather difficult, but here goes!
The beginning of the book zooms in on the horrifying zombie attack that befalls a small Irish town. We see wives eating their husbands’ brains, children running from their transformed parents, and gobs of blood and guts flying. Right about then I was thinking 1) “yup! this about what I expect from Darren Shan,” and 2) “um, do I really have the stomach to read Darren Shan?”
This intro at the epicenter of a zombie breakout left me expecting a Walking Dead-ish sort of story where we follow the survivors in a breathless evasion of zombie hordes through a gory post-apocalypse. That is not this book. At all.
We leave this macabre scene and we meet B, who has just heard about the Ireland zombie incident. Then we spend a hundred or so pages following B’s life in inner city London, which contains its own special brand of horror—a horribly abusive and racist father, B’s secondhand outward racism and bullying at school, and some creepy run-ins with strange and dangerous guys in hoodies. The news about the zombie attacks unsettles B’s mother, and B to some extent, but mostly the kids at school just joke about it. It doesn’t really feel real to them, and some actually think it’s a publicity stunt.
Only at the very end of the book do we return to the promise of the prologue, and by then, you are SO ready for B and everyone else you’ve been following to get their brains chomped on. I absolutely hated B, but I believe I was meant to; and meant to see the spread of xenophobia and hatred through families and friends and communities as a destructive outbreak that is as mindless and damaging to society as the more physical zombie outbreak.
The book ends on a MAJOR cliffhanger. I will say that despite the somewhat misleading (and b-dubbs, totally badass) prologue not really matching the tone of the rest of the novel, I was still horrified overall, and am willing to give the series a chance. The zombies in Shan’s world are ruthless, fast, bloodthirsty, and there is a major conspiracy plot to be unraveled behind this outbreak. I’m definitely interested, but not in love (yet).
For those of you new to the YA zombie lit, I would probably start with better fare, like Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth, or Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin, but if you’ve hit up your zombie faves and are looking for more, Zom-B is a short, entertaining start to what could be a good series.