Tomes of the Dead is a new series of books from Abaddon which aims to give a new spin on the old idea of zombies. I, Zombie, being the first in the series, does exactly that, and with remarkable aplomb.
John Doe is the zombie in question, and – for the most part – the central protagonist. He exhibit’s the usual zombie fare of rotting flesh and an insatiable hunger for brains, and the not-so-usual abilities of time manipulation (think the bullet-time technique as pioneered by The Matrix films). Doe tries his utmost to blend in with society, sometimes fighting crime for cash, but otherwise keeping himself to himself. That is until he has a run-in with a werewolf, before being imprisoned and tortured by a retired boxer and a telepathic humanoid working for her majesty the Queen who believes Doe signals the ultimate end for mankind.
It has to be said, this is very much a book of two halves. The first half mashes together a lot of ideas very quickly, but the problem is that none of them are very original. The bullet time, as has already been mentioned, is basically taken from The Matrix. There are pretty standard werewolves. There is a man with a large head who has the power to move objects with his mind. It’s readable, but all very familiar.
Then, something amazing happens (which, thanks largely to the cover artwork, isn’t as big a surprise as it should be) and everything goes absolutely batshit. It is in this second half that the author takes things to an extreme level, soaking every page with grisly descriptions of gore and mutilation, introducing new characters and killing them off in the same chapter, and constantly defying expectations. In fact, my expectations had been quashed so many times that I was expecting an equally original, dazzling ending. Which I didn’t get, but by that time I was already blown away by the earlier audacity to care too much. One particular scene, which features a 9-year-old girl trying to reason with a rampaging alien, at first had me rolling my eyes, but turned into one of the funniest parts of the book, in the darkest possible way.
I, Zombie seriously has a lot of stuff going on, but the transitions from modern-day London to feudal Japan, to 1970s gay clubs, to an apocalyptic imagining of the future, are seamless and handled in so skilled a way as to never seem overbearing. Likewise, the constant switching from first to third-person narrative always flows smoothly and never seems too jarring. Sure, it’s far-fetched, ludicrous and silly fun, but that is entirely the point. The important thing is, this is a highly enjoyable story breathing new life into and old genre. I expect good things from the rest of the series.
Author: Al EwingPublisher: ABADDONISBN: 978-1905437726