Undead by Kirsty McKay.

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Book One in the Undead series.

294 pages

Published September 1st 2011 by Chicken House

Bobby and Smitty are on a Scottish school ski trip. On the way home, the group stops at the Cheery Chomper cafe for some lunch, but they stay on the bus – Bobby because she is new and wants to be left alone and Smitty because he’s a Bad Boy. After a short while, popular girl Alice comes running out of the cafe, clearly distressed. When she gets onto the bus, she tells Bobby and Smitty that everyone is dead, including their teacher – even though he was trying to bite her. Soon, the students start shuffling out of the cafe, hungry for flesh.

After catching up with one other surviving classmate, Pete, the four teens start to wonder just how many people have been infected – is it worldwide? or just close by? They just need to survive until someone comes to rescue them … that is, if there’s anyone left out there.

If you like reading about teens stuck in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, then this is definitely for you. There’s the popular girl who screams  a lot and is kind of useless. The smart guy who has an answer for everything and a paranoid edge. The class clown/bad boy and the new girl loner who rise to the occasion   time and time again (that would be Smitty and Bobby – they are both so brave and just get things done, no complaints).

Even though it isn’t heavy on gore, there are still moments that made me cringe. It’s funny and clever sometimes.  I liked how Bobby explains some horror movie stereotypes, like when people go to a place where there is obviously going to be danger (the basement, the woods, across a darkened threshold) – they do it because you just have to keep moving. Or when people throw out all those macho comments, it’s because it helps distract from the severity of the situation and makes you feel braver.

I also enjoyed the fact that this was just a good old fashioned zombie survival story. It covers just a few days, and there’s none of that supernatural stuff going on. Not that I mind the supernatural stuff, but it’s nice to not have it, too.

I think the best thing about zombie books (and probably movies – I can’t watch them because they give me terror-induced insomnia!) is the creative zom-situations that the author can come up with. Like, ‘where can I put these animated corpses that will have my reader terrified/in stitches/going ‘ah!’ with the cleverness of it all?’ One situation in this book had zombies in a loch, trapped under the frozen surface and banging on the ice to try and break through. So cool.

Undead does end with a cliffhanger, but it’s a good one. There were enough answers and enough of a conclusion to leave the reader satisfied and very much looking forward to book two.

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The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell.

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First published August 3rd 2010

Older than her years and completely alone, Temple is just trying to live one day at a time in a post-apocalyptic world, where the undead roam endlessly, and the remnant of mankind who have survived, at times, seem to retain little humanity themselves…Her journey takes her to far flung places, to people struggling to maintain some semblance of civilisation – and to those who have created a new world order for themselves. When she comes across the helpless Maury, she attempts to set one thing right: if she can just get him back to his family then maybe it will bring forgiveness for some of the terrible things that she has done in her past. Because Temple has had to fight to survive; along the road she’s made enemies – and one vengeful man is determined that, in a world gone mad, killing her is the only thing that makes sense…

The Reapers are the Angels is quite different. It’s a zombie journey (road) novel, which is a very common type of zombie book, but it features this incredible girl (I think that she is fifteen) named Temple who has never known the world to be any different. She’s totally alone and only stays somewhere until it is no longer safe, then she just looks for somewhere else to go.

Temple’s got a certain kind of faith in God. She believes that you don’t miss out on nothing you’re supposed to witness first hand. This faith is kind of a recurring theme.

Her companion, Maury, is much older and totally helpless. When she first meets him, he is carrying his deceased grandmother – who was his carer – along a road with a string of meatskins (zombies) behind him. He’s got a note that his gran wrote, asking anyone who finds him to please take him back home to the west if they can.

Also, there is a man after her. He wants to kill her in order to settle a blood debt.

It’s quite beautifully written, but in that unflinching way that you’d expect of a zombie book. Temple is a strong character who’s just looking for some redemption.

While the zombies are significant, they’re not the horrific kind that you may be hoping for. If you like the blood and guts kind of zombie, then look elsewhere. But if you enjoy reading about the ‘what it means to be human’ kind of zombie, then this is for you.

Tomorrow Land by Mari Mancusi.

ImageeBook, 281 pages

Published March 8th, 2012 by NLA Digital (originally published as Razor Girl)

Tomorrow Land chronicles the adventures of Peyton and Chris through two timelines. The first is four years ago, when the world was just starting to show signs of the apocalypse. Peyton’s father has been predicting and preparing for the end times for years. He has built a shelter in their house and planned to meet up with other scientists at a predetermined location, to work together and create a new, better world.

The second timeline is now, as Peyton leaves the shelter for the first time. Armed with body enhancements that her father gave her – ocular implants with GPS, razors that retract into her fingers (Wolverine style) and nanos to make her stronger – and the experience that many many hours of martial arts training has given her, Peyton is on a mission to get to her father in Florida. But when she meets up with Chris – her old flame – things get more complicated.

Their are also two points of view – Peyton’s and Chris’. I dare say that Peyton takes charge most of the time. The two POV thing works well with the romance side of things – you are privy to both parties thoughts and regrets. It’s not as cute as I’ve seen in other books – less involuntary ‘aw!’ing, but that could be viewed as a plus.

As a post zombie apocalypse novel, this follows a pretty standard template. An across country journey, zombies shuffling around everywhere, leading characters that are super good at fighting, broken up society – hardly any humans left, and the ones that are left are excellent examples of how low humanity can sink, etc.

Look, it’s not the best zombie book I’ve read, but it’s pretty good. And for under four dollars from either Amazon or Kobo, how can you go wrong?

If you like your romance on the fluffy and somewhat predictable side, and your zombies not too gory, Tomorrow Land may just be the book for you.

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris.

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eBook, 256 pages

Published July 12th, 2011 by Random House Children’s Books

IBSN: 9780375898068

You may know this type of girl: she wears a periodic table robe, has ‘I heart Science’ underwear, and actually enjoys doing pop quizzes. She is Kate Grable, a high school senior with aspirations of becoming a doctor. She is the student trainer of the football team – attending to sprains and other game related injuries.

When Kate finds out that her coach – the type of guy who just screams ‘zombie fodder’ – has started giving ‘her players’ steroids, she is suitably unimpressed.

Not that I was going to let the steroid thing slide. No way. I actually felt a little protective now. Steroids could kill, and I wasn’t about to let that happen to any of my players.

Then the guys start turning into zombies, and that’s when Kate’s troubles really begin.

Bad Taste in Boys is only a short book. And as far as the zombies go, it is relatively low on gore. Possibly so it is more suitable for a younger audience? As well as that beautiful cover, it’s got plenty of other typical young adult requisites: most notably, a cute boy that the MC is totally crushing on (in this case, Aaron – the quarterback), best friends (Kiki and Rocky), and hardly any mention of parents (mum overseas, dad working all the time). So it’s a little bit more-of-the-same, but it’s also a lot of fun.

Kate is a smart, driven, and funny leading lady. She does have a tendency of putting herself down a bit (I was like ‘come on, now, that’s enough of that’), but otherwise I liked her. Also, when push comes to shove, she’s pretty brave. Because of her future in medicine, it fits that she would try her darnedest to find a cure for her classmates’ new zombified conditions, and all the medical talk seemed pretty legitimate (I did read that Carrie Harris’ husband is a doctor, so she’d probably have some of that doctor mumbo jumbo down pat already).

This really has nothing to do with plot or anything, but there were a few Twilight references in here – possibly mocking. I thought to myself: ‘I’m onto you, Carrie Harris’, with a little chuckle. I like that sort of thing, you see. Anyway.

Read Bad Taste in Boys if a quick, funny (or enjoyable, at the very least), teen zombie novel appeals to you. But be warned: there is a lot of vomiting in this book (it makes sense when you read about it, but still. Buckets and buckets of regurgitated product).

“[Spoiler] is a zombie, isn’t he?” Jonah asked when I could breathe again.

I tried to scoff. “Not exactly. If you’re looking for a scientifically accurate explanation, I think he has a virus that–”

“Bull! He’s a freaking zombie, Kate. I’ve played enough Resident Evil to recognise a zed head when I see one!”

Blackout by Mira Grant.

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Book three in the Newsflesh trilogy

Paperback, 659 pages

Published May 22nd, 2012 by Orbit

IBSN: 9780316081078

(contains spoilers for Feed and Deadline)

Georgia and Shaun Mason seem to attract trouble. They have uncovered layers of a conspiracy that runs deep within the United States government and that seems to get deeper and muckier all the time. They have survived countless zombie attacks as well as betrayals from people they thought they could trust. Georgia was killed and secretly cloned, Shaun went a little crazy, members of their news team became chow for the living dead. A lot of excrement has hit that twirly thing in the ceiling since they took on the Ryman campaign job back in Feed. But now it’s time for the real truth to get out, no matter how bad the outcome may be . . .

Told from two perspectives, Blackout follows both Georgia – held captive in the facility where she awoke after being cloned – and Shaun – leading his team around the country on a rescue mission.

I dare say that Blackout has the least zombie action out of the three books. It focuses more on the conspiracy/uncovering the truth side of things. There is, however, still plenty of tough guy talk where zombies are involved. I have a prime example for you:

I adjusted my position, calling over my shoulder, “A little speed in the carpool lane would be appreciated, guys. We’ve got incoming, and I didn’t bring enough limbs to share with everybody.”

This series is absolutely splattered with macho comments, and I love it. It’s probably my favourite thing about it.

As an ending to the Newsflesh trilogy, I think this does okay at properly finishing everything. Feed is definitely my favourite of the three because it seemed the most complete. You could have pretty much left it as a stand alone novel, whereas Deadline and Blackout need each other.

One thing I do wonder about is how the Masons enemies always manage to start these zombie breakouts so quickly – and maybe this was explained somewhere and I’ve forgotten – because it seems mighty convenient (a little too convenient). Maybe they use their little needles of virus? Ring the dinner bell? Walk the zombies over on leashes? I just don’t know.

Overall, Blackout was a good read and a fine finish to this technological zombie political thriller series. Mira Grant came up with lots of great ideas (plenty of ‘ah!’ moments) and seemed well versed in all the science stuff.

Feed by Mira Grant.

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Paperback, 599 pages

Published May 1st, 2010 by Orbit

IBSN: 0316081051

It’s 2014 and someone has found a cure for cancer. Someone else has discovered a cure for the common cold. Great news, right? Let’s all get cured! Unfortunately, when these two experimental viruses meet each other, they create a single air born germ that reanimates dead people. So now we have zombies everywhere. Millions of people die, but thanks to the vital information gained from classic zombie flicks, mankind continues on – with the zombies for company.

Fast forward a couple of decades and the internet is the boss of media – it’s a bit hard to send paper boys out to the deliver the news when there are zombies roaming the streets, after all. The general population stay inside their houses and rely on bloggers for news and entertainment.

Georgia and Shaun Mason are two such bloggers, they seek out news and go into the thick of it to show everyone the way things are. They are also on the verge of a big break – they have been chosen to cover the presidential campaign of senator Peter Ryman.

But something bigger than just the campaign is going on. Conspiracy! Corruption! Zombie attacks! The more truth they uncover, the more dangerous things get for them – hitting the big time comes with a massive price!

I was introduced to this series through a goodreads group last year. Back then I was pedantic about reading every monthly book, so I felt obligated to read this during it’s month. I was reluctant at first (‘it’s so long’, ‘it’s about zombies and I’m housesitting alone and might get scared’, etc), but once I started I found that I couldn’t stop!

Feed is unlike any other zombie novel that I have read. Instead of the post-zombie world breaking off into chaos and secluded communities, technology has advanced. There are some very nifty virus detector thingys that test your blood and let you know the good or bad news with green and red lights. Also, Feed isn’t all about the zombie attacks – it’s a political thriller sci-fi too. In fact, the balance may shift slightly the other way – it’s a political thriller sci fi with zombies. Another difference is that everyone is infected already – the original germ being air born – but the virus doesn’t take over your body until you die. All mammals over forty pounds have the capacity to zombify after death.

We get a really good look at the blogger situation through the eyes of the main character, Georgia Mason (a ‘newsie’ – your classic journalist), and her adopted brother Shaun (an ‘Irwin’ – he spends a lot of time making videos of himself getting up close and personal with zombies). There is also another type of blogger called a ‘fictional’ – no guesses what their specialty is – their friend Buffy heads up this department.

It’s a long book, but it didn’t feel long as I was reading it. The world building is great – you can tell that Mira Grant has put a lot of thought into the little things. For example, because of the all-mammals-over-forty-pounds-turning-into-zombies-upon-death thing, hardly anyone keeps horses or big dogs anymore. Also, say you eat beef that isn’t completely cooked – even that could tip the scales of the virus within you and send it live. I really appreciate cool little bits and pieces like this in a story.

Others have said that they found this hard to get into, but personally I disagree. I was very into it right from the beginning. However, I would suggest that the second half is more conventionally exciting than the first half (more action, more answers, etc).

Go on, give Feed a go.