Plot Outline:The eighth book in the series. B and her fellow Angels fight to retake control of New Kikham from the Klu Klux Klan, but that is only the starting point for this devastating entry in the series. Back in London, troubling answers and explosive secrets from Dr Oystein's past will be revealed, while Dan-Dan's presence stirs up angry feelings among his captors, which will lead to a shocking showdown and a startling unmasking. The stakes are rising... the heroes are dropping... the end is nigh...
Author Notes:I started Zom-B Clans on the 31st of January 2011, and finished work on it on the 16th of October 2013.
The book was called Zom-B Klan for most of the time that I was working on it, but my publishers were very nervous about putting it out under that title, or about featuring a member of the KKK on the cover (which was my suggestion before they settled on the dog, Sakarias). While that was disappointing, I had expected it -- even though this series has tackled racism head-on since the first book, it's a very sensitive subject, and I understand the reluctance of my publishers to bring the anti-racist angle to the forefront. A straight-up horror book is an easier sell than one that throws in the problem of dealing with racism, so I was happy enough to compromise. But for me the book will always be known as Zom-B Klan.
Book 8 followed on smoothly from book 7, Zom-B Mission. I had ended that book mid-action, so the beginning of Zom-B Clans was one of the easiest starts of any of my books, since I was able to carry straight on from where I had left off. It was a fun way to kick things off, with a large-scale action scene that would have been the finishing point for most other books. I relished siccing the Angels on the Ku Klux Klan, although it was a more sobering moment when I came to deal with the treacherous survivors in the aftermath of the big battle. This is one of the problems we face in everyday life -- it's easy to confront a violent extremist who launches an attack on us, but how do we deal with lesser degress of racist and intolerant people who live and work among us, whose views create only small chasms between us and them, who aren't overtly evil, but who do bad things or allow bad things to happen because of their beliefs? I don't think there are any simple answers to these questions, and I don't offer any here.
I loved showing a bit more of Owl Man and his pet, Sakarias, but Dan-Dan was the real guilty pleasure of this book! He's such a slimy, disgusting creep, but he has a certain charming quality as well -- as much as the Angels loathe him, they find themselves liking him in an odd sort of way, and I think many readers will feel that way too. That's one of the hidden dangers of the world -- the most deadly menaces are those with an easy smile, who find it easy to win people over, who charm their way into positions of power, which they can then abuse and turn to their own advantage. While zombies will probably remain a fictional threat in the real world, vile manipulators like Dan-Dan are all too common.
I also loved the way Rage's development continues. Rage is one of the more complex characters in these books, someone who can swing any which way. It often seems as if he makes his choices on a whim, but we're never sure if that's just a charade, if he thinks about everything in-depth and at great length before he acts. The real beauty of the character is that we never know for sure -- indeed, by the end of the series, we'll probably still be none the wiser. All we know for sure is that everyone should be keeping a careful eye on Rage at all times, because he has the capacity to be friend or enemy, hero or villain, depending on how the winds inside his strangely-wired head blow...
The two big twists near the end of the book were probably my favourite twists since the pair near the end of book 1, where B turned out to be a girl and was then killed. I don't think these twists are quite as earth-shaking as those, since a lot of readers will have anticipated them, given the way the series has been shaping up... but they're pretty damn close! They also set up the next book marvellously -- could there be any excuse for what Rage did? Could the figure who appears at the end turn out to be B's salvation or doom? Which of them should we be more scared of?
The character of Coley returns in Zom-B Clans, having featured in Zom-B City and Zom-B Gladiator earlier in the series -- but he wasn't actually in the early drafts of the book. I hadn't planned to bring him back -- I thought his part in the story was over and done with. But as I went on editing the series, I started to get curious, wondering what might have happened to him after we last see him in book 6. I began to feel that we had unfinished business with him, so I looked into the possibility of how to work him back into the story, and teaming him up with Dan-Dan again just seemed the most likely way -- having served the child-killer once, it was logical that he should look to link up with him again.
I was sorry to say goodbye to Jakob in this book. He was one of the Angels I most enjoyed writing about. But I felt it was important to show that there could be a connection between the living and the living dead, that any group in life can overcome any differences that might exist between themselves and people who they don't have much in common with. We're encouraged by many of our leaders and people who profit from wars to believe that there are insumountable differences between certain sectors of society, and that armed conflict is the only way to resolve those differences. I don't believe that. I think we can almost always find common ground if we look for it, and work together if we're brave enough and open enough to accept people as they are. I say "almost" because sometimes certain groups DO put themselves beyond the reach of others, and DO create a situation where conflict is unavoidable -- but those sorts of cases would be a lot rarer, I believe, if we could look inside ourselves for understanding and tolerance before looking at others with suspicion and loathing.
We learn about Schlesinger-10 and Clements-13 for the first time in this book, and they're the key to what happens over the second half of the series -- indeed, everything from the beginning has been building to this. The viruses are actually named after two good ladies who worked for my agent when I was writing Zom-B Clans, Emma Schlesinger and Rachel Clements. Owl Man's real name was also inspired by someone I know -- Tom White is the husband of one of my aunts!
Zom-B Clans ends on another cliffhanger -- you'd better get used to them, because it's going to be like this all the way to the end of the series from this point on! I hope it leaves you hungry for more, and that you're left anxiously counting off the days until October 9th, when Book 9, Zom-B Family, goes on sale. I'll be back with my next set of notes around that time. Until then, be careful -- be VERY careful -- who you trust...
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Zom-B Clans (USA audio)
Zom-B Clans (USA)
Zom-B Clans (Canada)
Zom-B Clans UK first draft
Zom-B Clans (UK)