Title: Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback
Author: Stephen Jones
Published: Out now
Following the outbreak of Human Reanimation Virus – more commonly known as “The Death” – from a hidden crypt beneath a South London church, the centuries-old plague quickly spreads throughout the world, turning its victims into flesh-eating zombies.
As we learn more about the mysterious Thomas Moreby – “Patient Zero” – the surviving members of the human race begin their fightback against the legions of the walking dead, and the Infected themselves begin mutating into something…different.
Told through interconnected eyewitness accounts – emails, text messages, reports, diaries, found video footage and graphic adaptations – the remnants of humanity battle to survive in a world gone mad.
I’m a big fan of 2010’s Zombie Apocalypse! So when I heard there was going to be a sequel, I was really excited. However, I found it rather disappointing and frustrating in comparison.
First of all, it’s not really a sequel. In fact, a significant chunk of the beginning is spent fleshing out (sorry!) Thomas Moreby’s history; how he came to be known as the Zombie King and additional information about the history of the area of London in which he was buried, told through newspaper articles and interviews. The book then picks up just before the 2012 Olympics, exactly like the original. And again like the original, it then charts the zombie uprising beginning in London and spreading across the world. That being the case, there’s very little in the way of a fight back, making the title something of a misnomer.
There isn’t really much new here, and much of what is new is unnecessary and distracting. At the very beginning for example there are a number of letters from Moreby’s wife to her cousin, which reads a bit like a serious version of Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. Here it feels as out of place as finding Lizzie Bennett in a Romero movie. It doesn’t add anything to the story, and will probably frustrate readers eager for brain chewing action.
There is a Met Police transcript which was used very effectively in Zombie Apocalypse! However, here it is just very confusing. There are several different points of view which we switch between without any warning; it’s fairly heavy on police jargon; without having much of an idea of the geography of the area some of the urgency is lost; and again it all goes on for too long.
However, there are some aspects of Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback which I really enjoyed. Zombie Apocalypse! raised a few questions around there being different ways in which the plague was spread, different types of zombie, and the evolution of the zombie. Here we do get some answers.
There are several parts of the book, such as the Met Police transcript, which connect with stories and sometimes include characters and fill in missing information from Zombie Apocalypse! which is a nice nod to fans of the first book.
There are some great stories here, too. Anne Billson has clearly put a lot of thought into how the plague might reach France and how it might be dealt with in Paris When it Sizzles, told from the point of view of a fashion blogger; Guy Adams tells a very sweet story in Pages from a British Army Field Manual in which a volunteer recruit keeps a diary for his unborn son of his experience signing up to fight the undead. In a really nice touch, it’s written in the manual itself so we can see the propaganda which is being fed to the public by a government which has already lost control; Peace Land Blood by Saran Pinborough gives a really international feel to the swiftly escalating crisis through messages from the British Embassy in Russia to England; Fright Club by Brian Hodge is reminiscent of Land of the Dead in which zombies are used for entertainment; and in Day of the Dead by Lisa Morton, a zombie eventually betrays his own kind to stand with the living.
Overall, though, Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback often has the feel of B-stories which didn’t quite make the editorial cut for the successful first book being pulled together for a director’s bloated cut. Zombie horror is a pretty saturated market right now, and there are superior alternatives out there for fans to get their teeth into.