on 2 July 2015
Apocalypse stories work well when they stick to a formula. Use H.G. Wells' 'one novelty' technique i.e. that readers will accept one bizarre plot twist such as zombies existing, but suspension of disbelief will weaken with more than 'one novelty' in a story. So with zombie apocalypse the novelty is that zombies exist. Any attempt to add to that will usually end in failure (David Wellington's novel Monster Planet is a good example of failure due to too many leaps of the imagination, and straying too far from the zombie apocalypse formula). The elements of that formula are fairly simple: one novelty (zombies exist!). So think up a believable reason for that, usually a plague or bio-weapon. Then reveal how society is slowly (that's important) falling apart, law and order is breaking down, and some resourceful civilians survive. The story usually involves a journey to find a safe haven (island, military base, prison etc) and ends either when a haven is found or (shock! horror!) no such haven exists. It's all great fun, even if the formula does have some reactionary elements. Here Lebbon does stick closely to the formula, and those bits of the novel are very well done. The pacing is good, and it's clearly written. The characters are a bit weak but zombie stories are plot driven, not character driven, so that's forgiveable. The weaker aspect is when Lebbon drifts away from the 'one novelty' aspect, and instead brings in the multi-verse (no spoiler here: it's on the book cover and promotional blurb) and the 'Inquisitor'. But even here, Lebbon does well to keep the story moving along and maintain interest. I really liked this, and as this is the first book of his that I've read, I will be seeking out more of his work. Recommended.
on 21 November 2013
There really should be a law against toying with the fabric of spacetime and jeopardising the very nature of reality. When the scientists at a Top Secret underground facility in the Appalachian mountains do just that, you know beyond a shadow of doubt that it will all end in tears... well, in a zombie apocalypse, to be more accurate.
The market seems to be awash with zombie fiction at the moment. The reading public's taste for vampires and werewolves appears to be waning somewhat (thank goodness), but you can't swing a chainsaw in your local bookshop without hitting a new zombapoc offering. I can't claim to be any sort of expert in the genre but, like all literary phenomena, there are good and bad entrants to the competition.
Coldbrook ranks among the good, I am pleased to report. There may be better out there (I have a few more of the type on my Kindle awaiting my attention, so I shall report back eventually) but there are definitely many worse. Faint praise? Not really. It ain't literature, but Lebbon writes a tidy, strong and technically accomplished story and populates it with a cast of diverse, believable and sympathetic characters. There's nothing particularly original to the story itself and many or all of the plot elements will be familiar to readers of sci-fi, horror, fantasy and of course zombiefic. However, Lebbon makes effective use of his well-stocked sci-fi toolbox to construct an interesting narrative. There is a slight disconnect as Lebbon, a Brit, puts a Welshman as one of the main protagonists into an American setting. It's not a big killer, but Brits should very careful when writing novels about America and Americans, just as Yank novellists should be careful when writing about Brits and Britain.
Good fun, well written and easy to read. Recommended.
It's time to turn on the nightlight and read long into the night with the latest offering from Tim Lebbon demonstrating why as a horror hound he's one of the best to run you to ground and gnaw on your leg whilst the zombie horde approaches as here within this book is a story that has not only a lot of original elements but brings the best of the Zombie Genre to the reader with enough grotesquery to bring the most ardent horror fans retching to their knees.
Add to this top notch genre defying prose, some wonderful forward thinking and overall a book that feels cinematic throughout its pages as the revelations will have you glued to the final page. Back that up with an authorly style that's identifiable alongside some cracking characters and all in I was more than sated. Great stuff.
on 22 November 2012
Coldbrook is a seamless blend of science fiction and horror that for the most part works brilliantly (I had a couple of niggles, but nothing that detracted too much from the story). A group of scientists lift the lid on a Pandora's box when they open a gateway to a parallel universe, but what comes through is not what they are expecting.
The characters in the novel are brought to life on the page, and they become people you root for and care about as they try to cope with the end of the world as we know it. They seem like very real people trying to manage with a very unreal situation. This is an inventive and thrilling addition to the shambling zombie genre, and it goes to show that there are still some authors out there who can push the boundaries and take it to the next level.
Author Tim Lebbon has been on my radar for a while, I keep hearing good things about his books. I was therefore delighted to be provided with a review copy of Coldbrook and further interested to realise it was branded with the old Hammer (horror) branding.
Coldbrook is a scientific facility where scientists have created a breach into a parallel Earth and are studying what they can see through their limited opening. This is a zombie/apocalypse novel, so as you might suspect, something nasty lumbers through the portal and creates havoc in our earth. It would be easy to dismiss this as a typical guts and gore novel, but that would be wrong, this is an intelligent and thoughtful novel. With zombies.
Tim Lebbon blends horror, science fiction and strong characterisation to provide a long and very entertaining novel. No Special Forces heroes here, no running gun battles with lurching zombies, but real people acting like real people. We have the elderly scientist still at Coldbrook, we have the guy who ran away (and let the contagion out of Coldbrook) and tries to redeem himself, we have the scientist who escapes into the portal only to find what seemed idyllic, isn't! And we have the potential saviour who is hampered by a debilitating illness. So, real people in a nasty world and it works very well.
All that would have worked brilliantly on its own, but the author throws in a curve ball, an evil presence that ups the ante even more.
Really enjoyed this and it appears that Mr Lebbon's reputation is well deserved and I need to be digging into his back catalogue. Recommended.
on 31 March 2013
hey came when we least expected them. At first a rare glimpse in darkened shadows but then they got braver. Soon they were everywhere, vast hordes, indistinct, unintelligent, dripping gore and body parts. Now everywhere you look you see them...oh the horror...oh the stereotypes and now they have us cornered and outnumbered, there is nothing we can do, resistance is futile, there is no getting away from god damn zombie novels.
I must admit my heart soared when I heard Tim Lebbon, one of my favourite horror authors, was writing a major apocalyptic novel but then it very quickly sank when I read it involved zombies. If I read another sentence about shambling creatures, blank lifeless eyes or infected bites I might just become one myself. So it was with some trepidation that I ventured into Tim Lebbon's Coldbrook.
The Coldbrook facility is a secret experimental lab which has somehow opened a connection with another parallel earth. Whilst the facility is geared up to stop the alternative lifeforms gaining access to earth it is slightly less prepared for the undead to sneak through. Couple that with a staff member who eschews heroism in favour of legging it and mayhem ensues. It's not long before the world has been zombified and it's left to our gallant heroes to seek a solution (in both worlds).
Lets get the bad news out of the way first. Inevitably there are many many scenes of zombie carnage, biting, ripping, exploding, delimbing and more biting and inevitably this all takes place through a deja vu haze. Current and past zombie movies, books and TV series are evoked and in general it all left this reader rather bored.
In lesser hands that would probably mean three stars, lets forget the whole thing and move on, but this is Tim Lebbon and he redeems the situation with several new twists and a large dose of quality writing. Strong, flawed, realistic characters abound and the alternative society that exists beyond the breach gives a fascinating duality to proceedings. It's not clear who the good guys are as everyone scrambles for their own self preservation. At the heart of the novel is a much deeper treatise on faith, religion and man's place in the world(s), theology meets goreology.
It doesn't quite reach the heights of some of Lebbon's previous work and it seems to be aiming for a more populist market which I hope it finds. In a way I wish Tim Lebbon would continue to write obscure horror novellas for me, but who can blame an author for attempting to find a wider audience using a well worn trope in a relatively original fashion. A good book from a great writer.
on 18 July 2015
It's been difficult to find something new to do with zombies after they've dominated the horror genre for so long, and Lebbon doesn't wrap himself up in knots trying. The zombies are as you'd hope for, brainless and hungry, and their spread across first America and then the world is fast and furious. The author paints the zombification of the Earth with graphic effectiveness, but doesn't stop there. This time the zombies are both brought on mankind through his own folly (scientists meddling with forces beyond their ken, naturally), and inflicted by an outside force. There are other Earths out there which have already been annihilated by the undead, and a powerful force behind them which might have an ulterior motive that can be unravelled and challenged... Lebbon mixes alternate Earths with the zombie holocaust I signed on for to increase the scale of the horror exponentially. A world destroyed by the undead is bad enough, but countless? There are proper frights to be had in Coldbrook, particularly as one survivor of the outbreak is stalked through silent corridors by something impossible and horrific, and wonders too.
on 17 July 2013
First of all despite the number of pages this is a very quick book to read, it has a large font and I ploughed through it in a few days. Tm Lebbon is a clear writer he is very easy to read and the book moves at a swift pace.
Moving on to the story, it isn't a bad mix of a classic zombie apocalypse with a multi-universe sci-fi plot. It is nothing particularly unique and is best described as a B-Movie made into a novel and that is not a bad thing.
It is not particularly taxing, and the multi-verse story line could have got particularly convoluted but Lebbon has avoided this maybe giving scope to explore further in a sequel.
If you enjoyed the first 200 pages of The Passage for example and thought the rest was rubbish, or enjoyed The Stand or Swan Song then this book is for you. If you have never heard of those novels then go and read them first (apart from the The Passage as it is rubbish)...!
on 3 April 2013
Found this book really interesting, engaging and happy it was a stand alone novel and not part of a series. The science fiction (or is it?) linked with the zombie action was cool and a something not done since Brian Keene's 'The Rising'. Well worth a look.
on 6 February 2013
I've read a few zombie books, they frighten me in the same sort of way that roller-coasters do - I enjoy it but shake like a fool for twenty minutes afterwards and have the occasional issue with walking to the toilet on my own in the night for a couple of days.
Coldbrook blew them all out of the water.
As far as zombies go, Lebbon created the scariest ones I have encountered. Which is impressive because until now I would have replied to a statement like that with 'but surely a zombie is just a zombie?' Apparently not.
Combining quantum physics and multi-universe discoveries with Stephen King-esque road-trip horror, Coldbrook takes you on a journey across an America ravaged by something from another world.
There's plenty of stereotypical 'shoot the zombies in the head' action mixed in with loyalty and love and bucket loads of desperation when there's a whisper of the word 'immunity'.
I liked the ferocity of love in the book, sometimes it is easy for horror novels to fall into the trap of killing everyone off apart from maybe one character, and I always find those a bit numbing - by the end I really don't care - but Coldbrook doesn't do that. There is the love of friendship, family and illicit affairs running through the story, buoying you through the gore and terror of it all and stopping it from becoming too mindless - there was a reason for all the destruction you witness through the character's eyes. (Admittedly though, if Vic had called his daughter 'beautiful' one more time I may have screamed. I understand the contrast of innocent child versus relentless death-bringing zombie hoard but, seriously, there are other words than 'beautiful'.)
Possibly the scariest thing about Coldbrook was the human-ness of it. The story may be stretched across worlds but the heart of it all was something very human and scary - the reactions of the world and the mystery at the very centre of all the madness came down to things that were hauntingly easy to believe. Humans are very scary creatures.
Coldbrook scared me witless and made me cry but for all that, there was just something not quite right that I couldn't put my finger on. Partly I felt it was trying a bit hard to be a Stephen King novel - there were a few references dotted throughout, Lebbon clearly holds him in high regard - and because of that bit of it felt almost forced. I probably couldn't go back and tell you which bits, it was just a feeling I got that sometimes dragged me out of the action. Also, I think there was a slight juxtaposition where the characters all felt a bit too 'British' for a book set in America - something subconsciously off about their mannerisms - I've found it before, though more often in books written by American authors, set in England.
If you like zombies, shotguns, multi-universe theology or being scared witless I would recommend picking up a copy of this.