Aspen Daily News | 01 November 2013 | Genevieve Smith

What Gortex is to Aspen, zombies are to Halloween: fine alone but better together. To get in the Halloween spirit, this spook-loving librarian couldn't help but pick out a fresh zombie tale and get pumped for one of the biggest holidays in the valley.

 

There are several wars going on in best-selling Cirque Du Freak author Shan's latest, and it's not only the Zombie apocalypse on which our modern media has so eagerly capitalized.

 

For nearly two-thirds of this speedy read, the war is entirely internal. B Smith, the B in Zom-B, is a gender neutral, teenage thug caught between loyalty to an abusive, racist father, and his creeping moral conscious. Regardless of rumored Zombie attacks, B's parents allow B to roam the streets, wherein he/she (we only find out at the very end) picks fights and spits prejudices at those he/she considers easy targets. B is easily manipulated into bullying and harassing minorities in the novel's British low-brow neighborhood, as this earns high-fives and praise on the home front, but a trip to the Holocaust museum and secret “colored” friends has sparked some introspection in B.

 

Identifying B's inner tug-of-war, in one of many of the books philosophical moments, a teacher pulls B aside to pass on the following wisdom: “There are lots of black-hearted, mean-spirited bastards in the world. It's important that we hold them to account. But always remember that you might be the most black-hearted and mean-spirited of the lot, so hold yourself the most accountable of them all.”

 

B is a classic antihero with a hair-trigger temper, an acerbic tongue, and absent personal morals who is nonetheless admired for a strong will and dominant personality. When the Zombies finally do appear, B becomes a leader to a rag-tag group of students on the run for their lives; at this point, the novel whizzes by.

 

Unfortunately, B is never held accountable for his/her hatefulness, resulting in a horrifying and heart-wrenching decision that closes this first book in a projected series. “Zom-B” will take an afternoon to read, but will linger well after. A combination mirror and window, a reality check and a horror-laced farce, Zom-B calls for a willing suspension of disbelief as all Zombie spoofs do, while still highlighting important issues regarding racial, sexual, and religious inequities.

 

Too much thinking for a Halloween tale? Perhaps, but it's still lots of fun.

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