October 19, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Zombie Apocalypse! Fight Back" edited by Stephen Jones

Zombie Apocalypse! Fight Back
edited/created by Stephen Jones
480 pages
Running Press (2012)
ISBN 076244598X

Go into a bookstore and throw a rock. If you don't strike an employee--or a James Patterson novel--chances are pretty good you'll hit a book with zombies in it (triple score if you hit an employee holding James Patterson's new zombie novel). All right, put down the rock. I'm just saying there are a lot of books about zombies, but I highly doubt you'll find one quite like Stephen Jones' Zombie Apocalypse! Fight Back. Well, I think this is a sequel of sorts, actually--but that's it.

Presented as a compendium of written accounts from various sources, Fight Back depicts a zombie outbreak that ravages Great Britain and eventually the world. Personally, I'm not a fan of journal-entry style storytelling. Granted, I love Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but that's a rare exception. Most often I find those kinds of stories wearisome. Fight Back goes well beyond a collection of scribblings by people who inexplicably have time to write while trying to avoid having their brain eaten. This pseudo-anthology using a myriad of characters and conveyances to tell a captivating and cohesive narrative.

Entries span from the 1700s and move in chronological order, for the most part, highlighting the previous outbreak, its inception, and its renewal. There are letters written in the early 19th century by a young woman betrothed to a Thomas Moreby, whom she reviles and eventually discovers his cult-like followers, a secret lair, and evidence he may be much older than humanly possible. When it comes to concocting a half-reasonable explanation for zombies, this backstory concerning Moreby is not only unique, but a tad genius in its execution.

The mosaic presented is where the real genius lies, however, as the outbreak and resistance come through in a patchwork pattern of shared e-mails between scientists, tabloid clippings, plus a harrowing transcript of law enforcement units encountering what is ostensibly ground zero for the outbreak. There are even quirky or off-beat pieces like a comic book illustrator's downfall recorded one panel at a time, plus a series of e-mails from a fashion reporter in Paris overwhelmed by the outbreak.

There is so much layered throughout this book that a person could get lost in the minutiae that gives it its verisimilitude. While I found some passages a bit of a chore to read through, particularly the Twitter account of a graffiti artist, which just exemplified the banality of that medium to an excruciating degree, the book as a whole is a stunningly ambitious piece of work. It's definitely something every zombie fan should check out. Plus, the book itself is so visually rich in its presentation, I doubt very much a standard e-book could match the robustness displayed in the physical book. 

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