Bookbitz | 27 September 2012 | Erin

It was the darkest, most wretched hour of the night when the dead began to walk in the tiny Irish village of Pallaskenry. While the luckiest locals were killed in their sleep, many were not so fortunate and met with agonising, torturous deaths at the hands of demented zombie hordes. In a matter of hours the village was a bloody, horrific mess but the inevitable camera phone footage of the incident at least provided some laughs and ghoulish entertainment for the rest of the world.


Speculation about the potential zombie threat and/or the causes of the Pallaskenry incident even reaches as far as B’s London comprehensive and an otherwise boring biology lesson. While pondering on conspiracy theories is momentarily engrossing, B actually has far more to worry about. With a violent, racist father and a suspicion that bigotry stretches much further than might be expected, B is struggling to maintain a tough facade and keep the peace at home while also questioning personal attitudes to race. B has plenty of anger and rage bubbling away behind a steely exterior but that’s just as well really since the zombie menace is spreading and, pretty soon, no schoolhouse, church house or outhouse is going to be safe.


Darren Shan really is a master of horror and there’s enough scares, danger and gore in Zom-B to more than satisfy fans of his other books. The zombie threat is very real and very deadly with the undead creatures themselves being part classic movie menace and part Darren Shan original. The zombies do love to chow down on brains and take a quick much of friends and co-workers but they have the added advantage of turning remarkably quickly and having sharp bone spurs protruding from their fingertips which can slice nicely through any nearby craniums. The moments when B and friends are fleeing from the zombies are very exciting and Shan keeps the tension high as they try to find means of escape while being thwarted at almost every turn.


Of course, the zombies aren’t the only threat that B and the world faces. B’s father Todd is a truly vile man who constantly spouts racist barbs and thinks nothing of knocking his wife and child about. Some of the other adults in B’s life aren’t much better either. It’s these real life dangers rather than the zombie grossness that make Zom-B a gritty teenage read rather than a fun horror for younger readers. It might not always be terribly shocking but B’s life is very dark and depressing even before the undead arrive.


Zom-B is so action packed that it’s a really quick read. B seems to lurch from one danger to another, even a school trip to a museum isn’t a straightforward matter, and seems to be facing several conspiracies at once. As well as shocks and scares, Darren Shan has worked quite a few twists into Zom-B with one at least likely to causes readers to re-evaluate everything that they have read so far. Zom-B is quite a change from Darren Shan’s demon-filled previous books but it features all of his signature horror, danger and realistic characters doing their best in dangerous situations. It’s a great gory read that’s sure to entertain and chill.

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