Watch. Read. See. | 19 October 2012 | Laura

Oh. My. God.

 

Yet again, Darren Shan has concocted a fantastic first book to what promises to be a compelling series.

 

Zom-B is the first of a twelve-book series. It begins with a zombie invasion in the town of Pallaskenry in Ireland, already throwing you into a bit of action, which is just what we need because the true action doesn’t really occer until about half-way/two thirds of the way through the story (but, please, don’t let that put you off!).

 

We then get to know B Smith, the protagonist of the story. B’s father, Todd, is an abusive father and husband and a diabolical racist. We also come to find that Todd isn’t the only racist in B’s life. Shan has done a wonderful job of seeing Todd through B’s eyes, who is only a teenager. B is confused: is Todd in the right, or are B’s instincts to go against him in the right, especially where B’s coloured and foreign friends are concerned?

 

I absolutely love that Shan is exploring these issues in a book that, when you pick it up, you think is just going to be another Darren Shan horror story, simply about zombies. But when is anything in life simple (when is anything in a Shan book simple!?) It’s something new and, in many ways, darker. Despite being best-known for young adult fiction, Shan has made this story a great learning tool for youngsters and adults alike (as I, an adult, have discovered), for social and personal problems. It definitely puts the series to come in good stead.

 

WARNING - MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!!! DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS REVIEW UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK!!!

 

Then, we come to the horrific zombie invasion of B’s home town of London. B is in school when the zombies attack, and they go in hard. No one is safe, which is typical of Shan’s writing – not even the most important of characters is immune to death, not even his protagonists.

 

Eventually B’s dad comes to save the day, which I was a bit shocked at, because although he cares for B, I didn’t think he cared that much. But that’s not as shocking as when we discover B’s gender. Up until this point, we are told B is a boy. Wait, ARE we!? That’s the point when I went back through the book, and realised that as B was described as such a physically strong character and with such short hair, we were led to assume B was a boy. But no. B is a girl! ‘Becky’, in fact. That certainly made it all the more shocking, somehow, that a girl would be put in all these situations that boys would normally find themselves in, especially when it comes to B’s dad hitting her. Really, it shouldn’t make any difference whether B is a boy or a girl. Abusing a child, or anyone, boy or girl, is just plain wrong. This point has been so strongly put across by Shan that I’m just astounded. It’s just what I would not have expected. I literally read the rest of the book with my mouth hanging open.

 

THEN, as if my jaw wasn’t already in enough pain from hitting the ground, B’s shocking act of sending another kid, a black kid, to his death by throwing him to the zombies to distract them as the rest make their get-away, is truly horrifying. Even more so that is was Todd, B’s dad, that told her to do it. She suffers a moral dilemma but gives in to her intimidating, racist dad. Then, as Todd and a few others get to safety, B returns to the fray out of guilt. Her fate is bluntly put as the last two words of the book: I die. That’s then followed by To be continued…

 

Shan has awesomely set up this new series in an enticing, imaginative, shocking and thought-provoking way. And, of course, there’s plenty of the standard Shan-brand of gore! I can’t wait to find out what’s happened to B: is she dead? Is she now a zombie? Will the next book have a different narrator? Who knows? Only Darren, it seems. But hopefully not for too long! The second book will be named Zom-B Underground, and apparently, according to the Guardian website, a new installment will be released every three months. Bad news for my bank account, great news for my Waterstones points and stamp cards!

 

Seriously. Get this book. Shan fan or not, this book is for everyone.

 

Keep your mind open,

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