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ZOM-B Mission (Zom B Book 7) Kindle Edition
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As with all of the previous books in this series, Zom-B mission is a relatively quick read and I finished it in a single sitting. It is almost my favourite of the series so far. Only almost though, and I will come to the reason for this in a bit. In Zom-B Mission, B and her team of Angels are tasked with taking Emma and Declan, the mother and child they took in to their care in Gladiator, to a sanctuary out in the countryside. On their way, they are also to stop off in Hammersmith to pick up another group of human survivors. B and the team are excited that they have finally been given a mission, but calamity strikes before they depart which dampens their excitement considerably (you'll have to read the book to find out what).
Escorting the zombie version of fast food through infested territory is not without its risks, and the journey is not without incident (hell, this is a Darren Shan book so of course it isn't!). However, I don't think it is spoiling things to say that the group eventually reaches the 'safe' compound of New Kirkham (is that an almost nod to another master of the genre?). This journey and their eventual destination gives us a much greater insight into what is going on outside of London, as until now the books have very much focused on the revitalised, and the occasional human or monster that has come their way, and Shan smoothly reveals a little more of the post-apocalyptic world he has created, and some of the many hazards that face the small groups of survivors, many of which I would never have even considered. In addition to this, B's past also starts to catch up with her and we see how far she has developed as a character, and how even in her semi-zombified state she is more human than many of the humans out there.
So why is it only almost my favourite so far? Long time readers of my blog will know that I am not averse to cliffhanger endings. I loved the way Shan finished the first book in this series - it really was one of those jaw hitting the ground moments. However, in this one I felt that the cliffhanger was just a little too extreme, and almost left me feeling like the book hadn't been finished properly, and that i had been cheated. I can't tell you how this episode ends (obviously), but all I will say is that yet again Shan reveals an evil in his horrific world that is sadly all too human in nature. Oh yes... and the Owl Man is back! Hurrah! Which kind of makes up for the cliffhanger in my mind :-)
There was also a fresh torrent of the meaningful moral waters which these books - almost all shan books, in fact - are excellent because of. In this book it revokes some old issues, such as a higher forces involvement in this and especially racism.
An old character returns from book one. Oh, and an old vilain is back, now with a sidekick. But we've already met them. And you'll never gues who it is...
B must also battle her own inner demons; a racist and abusive father has left her a terrible legacy, and following her father she has committed an atrocity for which she now seeks redemption.
‘Mission’ has a pretty big shock early on, and I won’t spoil it, but it is very well done, and involves the demise of one of the series good guys. The story then moves to a mission B and her fellow Angels undertake, to escort a band of human survivors to a human compound in the country, New Kirkham. The compound, although well run, has some deep shadows of unease. B is shocked to find her old demon Racism alive and well and finding a terrible new strength, and aligning with some old foes…
Shan is pretty adept and underwriting his fast paced and gory zombie stories, primarily for young adult readers but enjoyed by a much wider and older readership (including me), with some serious themes on human corruption and evil. It was ever thus with this particular genre (as with Romero’s satirical swipes), but Shan is good and illustrating the insidiousness and creeping nature of such ills as racism, and how passivity is just as destructive as complicity. Here that point is very well made, and we see humanity at its worst, passive in the face of evil or actively engaged in it, and heroically defiant.
I also enjoy the referencing to other zombie fare in these books. So we have a reverent nod to one of the most chilling scenes in Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later,” transmission of infection by a drop of zombie blood that falls from a bird, and the shadowy nature of human compounds of survivors that feature repeatedly in “The Walking Dead” franchise. But this is different from being derivative. Shan’s series, his mysterious demonic foes and zombie-human hybrids are very much his own.
A cracking read, then, and it’s good to see the series both develop its themes with this instalment, and take it in intense new directions.
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