War Goddess Book Reviews | 02 June 2013 | Morrigan

Darren Shan’s book ‘Zom-B’ is a new young adults horror story based around the ever popular idea of a zombie apocalypse. The story starts off with news coverage of an apparent zombie attack in a town in Ireland, however many people are unsure it is real and claim that it must be a hoax, possibly to promote a movie or game. The story follows the young protagonist B from this first attack to when one happens in London.


This is the first book in a 12 book series that is mainly written in first person.


There will be spoilers from this point on.


I really enjoyed this book and I have been a big fan of Darren Shan’s work since I read ‘Cirque du Freak’ over a year ago now. Though despite being a fan of his works it took me awhile to read this book because of reviews that claimed it was similar to his older works and unoriginal. However I could not disagree more.

Now we know that in recent years there has been a mass of zombie apocalypse books, TV shows, movies and games, however I feel that while his approach to the zombie apocalypse at first seems to be done in a typical way he adds an unexpected twist to this popular idea. He does this by creating a group of characters called Mutants who seem to be controlling the zombies with whistles. In the book we have no explanation or hints of the goal of this group making me excited to read the next book in this series. He has defiantly has captured my interest in wanting to know who this group is, what they want and how has this zombie apocalypse been caused. Knowing his other works, the end will be much of a shock that will be unpredictable from reading the first book. This has made me seriously look forward to how he will be ending the series as a whole off.


I was pleasantly surprised when the gender of the main character was revealed towards the end and we find out B is actually short for ‘Becky’, meaning are main protagonist is actually female. B acts in ways we would commonly associate with a male lead rather than female, as she is violent, impulsive and tends to physically bully others. We can see this through her verbal and physical abuse of Tyler through the whole book. The characteristic she has helps to break the stereotypes of women in horror stories as often being victims rather than hero’s. Or even more so the very common portrayal of women being useless and damsels. It is her traits which help her to survive once the apocalypse starts.


B is shown to be physically strong, dominating and extremely loyal (if in some cases people might argue to loyal). These traits are shown to have been driven into her by her father from a young age and also as a defence from his violent ways. However despite loyalty being a positive trait it is shown to be her largest flaw because it leads to her killing a young black boy she had been bullying, called Tyler, by throwing him to the zombies to save the others on her father’s orders, as her father see’s Tyler as less than human because he is not white. However because this is it in first person we can see through the whole book that she is slowly questioning if not standing up to her dad is the right thing (also coming to thoughts where she thinks she might be worse than him) and once she sacrifices Tyler it acts as the catalyst for when she finally stands up to her father, despite it being too late to save Tyler.


I think B is a well-rounded character because even though we are shown she has power she is still as flawed as any other human. As well her development of her character over the book is interesting and realistic, despite the changes only truly showing at the end of the book it has a believable build up to the change. Darren Shan develops her a lot considering the size of the book.


One thing I found a bit lacking in this book was exploration of other characters beyond B. We only get a vague sense of the people B is friends with. However the book is rather short (being only 217 pages long) so it’s not surprise that we are made to focus only on the main character. Being written in first person also makes it harder to explore other characters because we are only given the thoughts and feelings of the person’s view we are being told the story by. Still I think the development B gets though out the story makes up for the lack of other characters development. I do however hope than in the next few books we get to learn about other new or already introduced characters.


The plot is fast and mostly revolves around B’s changing attitude toward her father, her social group and her protective instincts towards her mother. However it has already set up several mysteries that I can wait to learn the truth about. One is the Mutants which I have already spoken about before but there is one more. A character we met at the start, who is nicknamed ‘Owl Man’ by our protagonist. We are introduced to him before the main character in the prologue where he is shown to be the only person in a town over run with zombies, is the only person who isn’t being attacked by them. This creates questions immediately about how is this possible he wasn’t attacked , is he human if they didn’t attack him and what was he doing there. However we get no answers about him in the book, all we know is he is an old friend of B’s father and knows about her nightmares that B has been having her whole life, which we discover in his second and last appearance in the book.


One thing about the plot is that there is very little zombie action until towards the end of the book. This makes the prologue, which has an existing action scene is rather misleading for what you will be reading straight after. However this does help create the setting to understand our protagonist better and her life situation. It does make the book rather slow but I feel like it was important for him to set the scene as he did.
There are also pictures of the scene throughout the book in wonderful comic like images. While the images are beautifully drawn I feel like they took my attention away from what I was reading and would have liked them to have been a section at the end rather than scattered throughout the whole book. I was pleased how they were always relevant to the pages they were placed on however as it meant you received no spoilers from them or that they were placed after the scene it was depicting.


The writing itself is easy to read and creates suspense beautifully throughout the whole book. It is not hard to read and never over describes the horrors in the book keeping it age appropriate for its target audience of young adults. It also doesn’t patronise the reader like some young adult books and helps to break the stereotypes that people may have about a variety of different people. It also creates an insight to the head of a teenager who is controlled by expectations and pressures of those around her, making her easy to relate to.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book and found it to be a refreshing take on the zombie apocalypse. The main character is interesting, realistic and is easy to sympathise with through the whole book, even if you don’t always agree with her take on things. The plot leaves a lot open meaning I am very much looking forward to reading the 11 other books in this series once they have been published. I recommend this book if you are a fan of zombies, horrors or just good quick read.



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