Starburst | 24 November 2012 | Scott Varnham

One of the perils of reading a multi-part series is the fear that it could fall to what the scientists are calling the Miracle Day effect. In effect, it’s where the series doesn’t have enough story to justify its length and has to resort to padding that doesn’t amount to much of anything. Fortunately, Mr Shan has avoided that in the second book in his 12-part Zom-B series, Zom-B Underground.


By the way, there’s a reason the series as a whole is called Zom-B but if you’ve not read the first book we probably shouldn’t spoil it for you. (However, if you’ve read anything about the series at all and have even the most basic grasp of wordplay, it should be obvious.) The underground zombies are divided into two categories by military scientists, ‘reviveds’ and ‘revitaliseds’. The reviveds are your basic brain-munchers (we can see this becoming an insult in Shan’s eventual vision of a zombie-free world, if he decides to go that way with the story), while the revitaliseds are the ones who’ve grown a conscience and feel bad about any past brain-munching.


The two categories get to mingle every once in a while and we get to see it, courtesy of Warren Pleece’s illustrations. His atmospheric pieces show us the bleak and desolate world of a post-invasion scenario. (Not that we see very much of the invasion in this book – nobody ever goes to the surface so we don’t know how bad it is yet.) Even though nobody really goes above ground, Shan still manages to create a readable and engaging story about B’s interactions with both groups and being part of both.


They also depict B’s face properly for the first time, and frankly we wish they hadn’t. Bit of a wrong’un, if you ask us. And it’s not just B’s face but opinions and feelings that could also do with a bit of a radical change as well. One thing this book teaches is just how easily racism can rub off on you if you grow up with it, no matter how you might pretend otherwise.


Still, so far the series is shaping up to be an enjoyable zombie tale told in a different way to the usual manner. Zom-B is just getting started so the pieces are currently being put into place and we think that things will really get going in the next book, Zom-B City. As long as Shan doesn’t turn this into an after school special on the dangers of racism, then we’ll be very happy to stick with it for ten more books.


7/10 stars.

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