Monday, January 10, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse created by Stephen Jones

Wanting something a little different over Christmas, Stephen Jones' Zombie Apocalypse had caught my eye. It is a mosaic novel ie 'a novel where individual chapters are written by different authors with the aim of telling linear story from beginning to end' (Wikipedia). There are twenty co-authors of this book each responsible for a particular voice or narrative within the whole. The different sections range from diary entries, transcripts of radio broadcasts and audio files, Internet pages, police transmissions, medical reports etc. The experience of reading the novel (and I use that term loosely) is like picking up a file full of different data and forming an overall impression of a series of events.

Set in an increasingly authoritarian UK, where the current coalition government have decided to hold a new Festival of Britain 'To put the Great back into Britain'. Excavation has begun at a church and graveyard in London which is to be the site of a new train station for the festival. Concerns are raised that the graveyard contains a plague pit which if excavated could release Bubonic Plague - the rest as they say is history.

I have to say that this is the first zombie novel I have read and for me the zombies were not the point of the book. What the book does well is to look at the progression of a disease event (the zombies are irrelevant to this save as a transmission mechanism) through a western society, both from an individual perspective (think in cinema terms 'Cloverfield' and 'Blair Witch Project') to the often extreme and useless measures taken by government to combat the problem (together with bureaucratic inefficiency). One of my favourite contributions was 'Minutes of Meeting' by Kim Newman which as the title states are the minutes of a meeting of the Parliamentary Select Committee Supervising the Extreme Contingencies Planning Group during which the Minister with responsibility quizzes the Junior Assistant Planner on the circumstances leading to the formation of 'Contingency Twenty-Four: In the Event of the Zombie Apocalypse' which leads to official government advice being 'Run Away Screaming.'

Due to the fragmented nature of the various contributions, and when the novelty wore off, I found myself bored with my inability to connect with anyone in the book as almost inevitably things end badly and prematurely for everyone, I began skipping ahead. The book does convey a good sense of panic and fear (together with the global spread of the disease) but I felt the ending (which I won't give away) let down what had gone before it. Am I taking this to seriously? Possibly, but as one reviewer I spotted said 'personally I found it a little unrealistic'!

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