Pros: Powerful, and surprisingly original given the current wave of zombie interest
Cons: Very few (sometimes it took me a little time to catch up)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review copy courtesy of Penguin Group.
Sure, we’ve seen the zombie-causing virus before. We’ve witnessed countless movies and books about mindless once-human things bent on contaminating all of the human race. Yet Walter Greatshell’s Xombies: Apocalypticon (sequel to his Xombies: Apocalypse Blues) actually succeeds in bringing something new and fascinating to this milieu.
Agent X has taken out most of the human race in one fell swoop. People—starting with women—became blue-skinned, mindless, and crazed, relentlessly chasing down every last human possible in the effort to spread the contamination. But why? How did X escape? Why did it affect women first? How is it that a few Xombies seem to have some of their mental faculties left intact?
All of these are fine questions to be sure, but they pale next to the need to survive. A ragtag bunch of young men, a scientist who worked on Agent X, and a bunch of military men seem to be safe aboard a refitted nuclear sub; their only major problem—and it’s a doozy—is that they’re running out of food. They have the only “tame” Xombies known to exist, and plan to use them to seek out supplies, as well as knowledge of what happened with Agent X. There are just a couple of problems with this. Their tame Xombies might have other ideas, and there’s a new world order out there that doesn’t want the competition…
Yet again, being a book reviewer has resulted in my starting a series in the middle. I highly recommend starting with the first book, because this is a rather complicated story, and while this book stands about as well as could be expected on its own, I would have had an easier time with some of the plot points if I’d started at the right place! Not to mention there’s plenty of interesting material here, and you might as well enjoy it all.
While there’s a fascinating mystery at the heart of the Agent X infection, and some interesting characters, the real story is the altered world in which the characters find themselves. The folks on the sub have their own hardships, and the ones on land have found some highly unusual “solutions” (I use that word very lightly) to many of the dangers the Xombies pose. There are also quite a few social implications raised by the lack of women, and Greatshell definitely has some unusual and fascinating takes on what might happen there.
I know it seems like I’m not going into much detail here, and that’s because it’s hard to get into the nitty-gritty of things without giving away some of the best surprises. The Xombie tale is gory, wild, surreal, gross, and definitely action-packed. It has a macabre sense of humor and isn’t afraid to step on toes or go places that might offend some readers. Yet it adds onto that with some great world-building and a fascinating biological puzzle that will certainly keep you guessing. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then I definitely recommend this one!