Starburst | 02 October 2013 | Scott Varnham

Attentive readers of the first book in the Zom-B series may recall that our protagonist was haunted by a recurring dream in which a horde of zombie babies advanced on her. Thus it came as no surprise when that particular Chekhov’s Gun was fired and the baby made its first appearance in reality.


However, despite the title, that’s not what this book is all about (as evidenced by the fact that the baby doesn't make its first appearance until page 160 of 215). B’s crisis of faith from the last book makes a return appearance and she spends most of the book arguing with herself and others as to whether the good Doctor Oystein is really on the level. It’ll be interesting to see where things go now that her crisis of faith has been resolved.


Before she gets everything straight in her head, B takes a walk around the city to look at some former places of interest, including the London Eye, where she races her fellow revitalised zombie Rage to the top of the wheel. Once they reach it, he pushes her off it. This may take the reader by surprise (well, it won’t any more), but it’s a twist executed for no good reason and looks for all the world like it was done just to provide a shocking end-of-chapter twist. It bears the hallmarks of Raymond Chandler’s words of advice, “in writing a novel, when in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns.” This sticks out like a sore thumb and serves to remove the reader somewhat from the narrative. (However, according to Shan's author notes the opening section about the London Dungeons was hastily rewritten when they were moved and it’s impossible to tell just by reading it.)


Another bugbear is that the above-mentioned storyline about the crisis of faith lends the book the feeling of filler to be read while waiting for the good bits. Here’s hoping the next book picks up the slack somewhat.


It’s not all bad, of course. The usual superb visuals provided by Warren Pleece have been given a splash of colour (although advertising them as ‘blood-curdling’ is going a bit too far). Not to mention that the mystery of what the baby will turn out to be is genuinely interesting and we look forward to seeing where it’s going in later books. One mediocre book isn’t going to turn us or his fans off the series forever.



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