Book Expectations | 29 October 2013 | Christina

You know what is so good about Darren Shan’s books? You think you have an idea what the book is about and where the story is going and then all of a sudden you realize you know absolutely nil.


In the fifth installment of Shan’s Zom-B series, B must decide whether or not to join the Angels in battling the freakish clown Mr. Dowling, the Owl Man and the mutants in an ultimate battle between good and evil. That’s not saying this book is the crescendo. Based on the Cirque du Freak series, we could be in for many more books before we reach that point.


The other thing Shan does well is create all kinds of weird creatures and Zom-B Baby does not disappoint. A long time ago, I watched Dawn of the Dead, you know, the one in the mall with Ving Rhames and Ty Burrell, the latter now in Modern Family, and was absolutely mortified when it introduced a zombie baby. It’s curious that there seems to be an unspoken general consensus that certain things are taboo and this is one of them, which surprises me because of course readers and movie buffs think of these things- what happens when a pregnant woman is infected.


Anyway, back to zombie babies… In previous books Shan introduced us to freaky clown zombie, owl man, mutant zombies, reanimated zombies, revitalized zombies and now, weirdo talking baby zombies. Seriously, after reading this series so far and the Cirque du Freak series, I am convinced that Shan either has some really horrible night terrors or smokes a little something something from time to time. Either way, it makes for good fiction.


Zom-B Baby holds some very serious issues within its pages. For example, does it matter what a leader’s beliefs are if what he or she is doing is the right thing to do? In Warm Bodies, there is a quote, “Once you’ve arrived at the end of the world, it hardly matters which route you took.” Does the same hold true with a mission? If the means of resolution and end result are right, then does it matter what religious or political beliefs the leader holds? If you participate in doing the right thing, but don’t agree with the leader’s politics or religion, does that mean you tacitly approve of his or her beliefs? Is it possible for different cultures, political parties and religious organizations to work together to change things for the better without having to agree on every issue?


Sounds a little heavy for a young adult zombie book which consists of merely 160 pages, but it’s in there and it doesn’t hijack the book. You still get a good zombie story out of it.


Allow me to get on my soapbox for an itty bitty moment…


Due to the theme of this series, it’s not too far off subject. Trust me, after you read Zom-B Baby, you’ll understand the relevance of my little soapbox. I want to say a big thank you to Darren Shan for the following:


Lots of wars have been fought by people who used religion as an excuse. Kings, politicians and generals twisted the beliefs of their followers as they saw fit, playing the religious card to justify their crusades over land, oil, gold or whatever it was they were really fighting for. p10


As with other authors I truly enjoy, i.e. Jonathan Maberry and Neal Shusterman, without researching Shan, I am not so sure on which side of the political or religious fence he falls. I was brought up by my father to debate and I love it. But it really bothers me when faulty logic is repeated over and over again and no one points it out. I seem to be on a roll here because I recently read something by Maberry that sort of addressed the same thing.


I have read a lot of atheist works, some well known, and some not so well known. I have watched debates with Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. One of the most common arguments against the benefits of religion is that so many wars have been fought over it, as if somehow that is religion’s fault. I don’t know how many times I have said pretty much what the quote above proposes. Usually my answer involves, land, power and money.


Religion is a tool, plain and simple. When a drunk driver kills someone, we don’t blame the car. There are those who argue there is nothing more than this existence and there is no God. And that’s fine. However, if that’s the argument, then humans would be the cause of war, not God or religion. If someone argues otherwise, it is inconsistent at best, hypocrisy at worst.


Another common argument is the diversity of beliefs in God or gods. With all these beliefs which vary with time period and culture, which one is right? Surely this proves none of them are; they are all fiction. Shan portrays what I consider a brilliant and eloquent viewpoint on this, and it ended up being my favorite quote in the book:


“I don’t think it’s about being absolutely right,” Timothy says. “The main message of most religions is the same- be kind to other people, lead an honorable life, don’t cause trouble. I’ve always seen God as a massive diamond with thousands- maybe millions- of faces. We get a different view of the diamond, depending on which angle we look at it from. But there must be something there, otherwise what are we all looking at?” p111


I don’t know that Shan is taking up the banner of believers; I am not even attempting to suggest that whatsoever. Shan can address that himself if he so chooses. I just find it exciting that someone else has come up with viewpoints I have proposed for a long time, regardless of whether we believe them or not. After all, the best debaters are those who can argue both sides equally well.


End of soapbox.


Don’t worry, there’s still zombie gore and disturbing material in Zom-B Baby. Make no mistake; this isn’t a big kumbaya fest. Weirdo religious theme + zombies = A+ fiction.


5/5 stars.

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