I never really fell for the current zombie craze, so I hadn’t heard much about Zombielicious before Tim asked me to give it a read. With a short, single paragraph blurb, though, he immediately hooked me with his unique approach to the genre. I found myself truly excited about the read ahead of me, which is absolutely one of the greatest feelings in the world.
What I loved most about Tim’s approach is the intimacy of it. By telling the story through the eyes of the 5 main characters, he deliberately limits our view of the catastrophe to personal experience. There are no highlight reels of zombie attacks across the world, no montages of military or political agendas, and no scenes of desperate scientists trying to find a cure. In fact, we never find out how the zombie plague started, why it mutated, or what the end result will be. When you’re 5 survivors thrown together by circumstance, the struggle to survive is far more important that indulging in philosophical musings on the big picture.
Jill is a kind, if slightly jaded, nurse at a medical research facility – the kind of place that pays desperate people a few hundred bucks to act as guinea pigs for new drugs and treatments. She’s also an ex-junkie and an ex-porn star (Katie “Killer” Cummings), with her own line of sex-toys to accompany her DVDs. Ace is a disgusting creep of a security guard, who not only knows about Jill’s past, but who is desperate to exchange his Katie toys for the real thing. He’s an ex-cop, with serious anger issues . . . and a ridiculously small package between his legs.
Walt and Molly are twins, as dissimilar in personality and temperament as they are in appearance. Walt is the typical good son, desperate to do everything right, and to blindly follow in his adopted father’s footsteps. He’s also gay, and very much in the closet, but not above messing around with his favourite grocery store hottie. Molly is bitchy, self-centred, and completely focused on becoming a star, regardless of the cost. She’s not above a little blackmail to achieve her goals, even if that means hurting her brother by outing him (and the hottie they unknowingly share) to their adopted parents.
Joey is a good kid who only wants to be happy, but whose parents planned to have abducted and taken to a ‘treatment’ camp to ‘cure’ his homosexuality. Instead, he’s run away to become a medical research subject, desperate to make enough money to help him and Ever, his transgender girlfriend, make a new start together. In addition to being the cleanest and least-damaged of all the characters, Joey also serves as the moral compass of the novel, reminding us of how quickly the world can become uncivilized.
They’re definitely an odd bunch, and their interactions are what carry the story along.
At its heart, this is a blood-and-guts horror story, and Tim never shies away from the gore. It’s creepy and scary, with zombies who quickly mutate from Night of the Living Dead shambling corpses to 28 Days Later fast and angry monsters. The action scenes are frantic and intense, with the characters delightfully aware of their own horror movie mistakes. Just to ratchet up the tension a notch, Tim also introduces a crazed survivalist later in the story who has taken advantage of the catastrophe to pursue his own sick and twisted plans. The escape from his dungeon is one of the highlights of the book, alongside the elevator ambush, and the prison-bus fiasco.
Well-paced, this is also a story with moments of friendship and quiet reflection . . . along with some graphic sex scenes that likely wouldn’t survive the transition to film, but which are never gratuitous, and really do serve to advance the plot and develop the characters (Walt and Joey especially).
If you’re looking for a good, action-packed zombie story with characters who deliberately avoid the genre stereotypes, then I can’t recommend this enough. Forget the mash-ups and parodies, and indulge yourself in some good, old-fashioned zombie horror. I had an absolute blast reading it, and I am definitely looking forward to more.