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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback
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Back in 2010 I read Zombie Apocalypse and was pleased to discover a polished anthology that contained some first class fiction. This year, the second book of the series was launched at Fantasycon.

As with the first collection there are many differing accounts of the fall of humanity and the rise of the zombie. Overall the collection is pretty solid and there are a few tales that I thought really stood out.

Paris When it Sizzles by Anne Billson - High fashion and flesh-eaters? Who wouldn't want to know how zombies fair on the streets the French capital city. The undead hordes versus Gallic indifference is a sight to behold. One of the things I enjoyed about this novel's predecessor was that the action took place all across the globe. I'm not always a fan of apocalyptic fiction that sticks to a small canvas, I want events to feel truly global. Stories like this maintain the international scope of the events that are unfolding.

Pages from a British Field Manual by Guy Adams - Interspersed between the pages of the manual for dealing with the zombie situation, a man writes a final letter to his son. He tries to explain his reasons for deciding to join the fight against the undead. This story illustrates very effectively that zombie stories don't always have to about gore or body horror. It's nice when fiction catches you by surprise and takes you in completely the opposite direction from where you expected to go. This ends on a bittersweet note that tugged at the old heartstrings.

Peace Land Blood by Sarah Pinborough - The basis of this story is a series of increasingly desperate telegrams sent from the British Ambassador in Russia, back to the UK. This is another example of fiction that very effectively captures the collapse of society on a foreign shore. The Russian response to the zombie problem is totally in keeping with their turbulent political history. Nice to see familiar faces from the Communist old guard make an appearance as well.

Fright Club by Brian Hodge - I can sum up everything that you need to know about this particular story in three words - zombie cage fighting. This story really appealed to me. I'll freely admit that I own a t-shirt that proudly proclaims "Zombie Cage Fighter" so I can only hope when the inevitable zombie apocalypse does occur that this will become a real sport.

The Play's the Thing by Robert Shearman - A playwright is forced to write a new work for the zombie hordes. Who knew they were such a cultured bunch? The good news is that he'll have the assistance of a few famous literary faces.

The stories that I've mentioned just scratch the surface. There are many more gruesome delights to discover, including what I can only describe as the nastiest sounding menu I have ever heard of. We learn the history of the zombie condition, and discover the details of the plagues initial source. Each author has provided a unique interpretation of the holocaust but where this anthology really succeeds is that the overall story arc flows seamlessly through each of the individual tales. There is a sense that events are building to a climax and each episode moves things forward.

I can appreciate that efforts have been made to keep this collection feeling as authentic/in-character as possible but I have to admit, it would have been nice to have page numbers and possibly the names of each story at the beginning of the book rather than just a list at the end. Sometimes it wasn't immediately obvious where one ended and the next began. That said, this is only a technical gripe. The stories themselves are all very well presented.

I may be wrong but I think I spotted the suggestion that we're not quite done yet. Is the endgame still to come? I do hope so.
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on 7 October 2012
[With apologies to Joe R. Lansdale for stealing, above, the subtitle to his second 'Drive-In' novel!]

First off, I have to admit: I was a little weary when I heard about this sequel - the first one was such a giddy good read that I thought, 'I hope this isn't the publisher pressuring the editor to cash in on a hit.' I needn't have worried. Earlier this year I read an online interview with the editor in which he explained that, back in the beginning when his ambitions for the project were all pie-in-the-sky, he envisioned it as a trilogy. Also, it has been two years since the first instalment; a length of time that reassures the reader that just as much care and attention has been paid to this new instalment as was to the original.

This, then, is the second of what promises to be creator/editor Stephen Jones's crowning achievement in his, so far, almost 25 year career as a book-published editor (his early roots as a magazine editor go back another two decades before that).

And it's not really a sequel as such, in the sense that it picks up where the last one left off. Instead, it almost constitutes another retelling of the entire tale, whilst at the same time laying out in scientific detail how the virus that caused the zombies in the first place is mutating, how they're evolving... becoming organised... becoming vocal...

Humanity, then, is not up against mindless eating machines. And don't forget that great British penchant for irony: who said the book's title refers to humanity's fightback?

It's constructed in such a way that new readers can simply dive in, without having read the first instalment, whilst returning readers will be rewarded with, among many additional details, the fleshing out of the background story on Thomas Moreby, the architect behind the All Hallows church and site of the cause of the Human Reanimation Virus. For the uninitiated, be prepared for a wild ride through what are easily the best looking trade paperback books you'll ever pick up. Told though newspaper articles, emails, handwritten letters, text messages, twitter accounts, official medical, military and government reports, diaries, transcripts of interviews and so on, and with the format of each of those media retained to give a visceral reading pleasure that puts you right there in the moment.

As with the first instalment, this is a group effort with almost two dozen writers and one artist contributing (including Neil Gaiman, Christopher Fowler, Michael Marshall Smith and Sarah Pinborough). Move over George R. R. Martin's 'Wild Cards' series - these are now the best mosaic novels ever written!

The first instalment clocked in at 480 pages. This time it's a whopping 540+ pages.

After some newspaper articles to set the scene, we beginning with REGGIE OLIVER recounting the full, fascinating story of Thomas Moreby, more articles and email accounts then follow from JO FLETCHER and CHRISTOPHER FOWLER, among others, as we investigate the true implications of what Thomas Moreby has unleashed and what New World Pharmaceuticals is up to -

- and then we hit PAUL FINCH's superb police radio transcriptions and we're off and running, with repeat contributors from volume one referencing characters and events from that initial instalment, whilst laying the ground work to show how the Infected are no longer remaining simple George A. Romero-style zombies.

ANNE BILLSON gives a terrific account of a fashion journalist in Paris at the moment when all hell breaks loose.

GUY ADAMS's fantastic 'British Army Field Manual' interspersed with handwritten notes from a father to his son, telling what army life is really like in this new world order.

SARAH PINBOROUGH tells of the British Embassy's rising panic in Russia.

JOHN LLEWELLYN PROBERT's scarily brilliant account of what's going on behind the doors of the New World Pharmaceuticals Group.

The delightful contribution of NEIL GAIMAN, with a comic script illustrated by the wonderful LES EDWARDS. (Titled "Down Among the Dead Men" this mini-comic has been semi-animated and narrated by Neil Gaiman himself, to serve as an online promotion for 'Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback'. I urge you to Google it!)

Canadian short story sensation SIMON STRANTZAS gives us a riveting twitter account of a group of young pranksters entangled at the US border control.

PAUL McAULEY returns with more entries from the journal of Dr. Alison McReady.

BRIAN HODGE presents an amazing reimaging of David Fincher's 'Fight Club'.

PAT CADIGAN and PETER CROWTHER return with more fascinating uploaded video accounts and transcripts of telephone conversations detailing the rapid disintegration of the norm as everything spirals out of control.

MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH gives a brief but poignant account of a brother's undying love and determination to go ahead with the family's traditional BBQ get together.

ROZ KAVENEY tells what it means to be a zombie, via a prose poem.

LISA MORTON knocks it out of the park with a stunningly detailed series of military reports and memos - only these reports are from the New Zombie Order Army Southwest in California, not the Human Resistance Movement.

PETER ATKINS relates how a zombie detective responses to a human serial killer.

Quirky short story genius ROBERT SHEARMAN tells of how a minor playwright is press-ganged into writing a play for zombies.

LISA TUTTLE explains how even the remote islands of Scotland and not immune to the crisis gripping the world's major cities.

And finally NANCY HOLDER ends with an address to the nation from the real human president... holed up in his secret underground bunker.

At this year's FantasyCon, run by the British Fantasy Society, Stephen Jones expressed his desire to eventually include every writer he likes and personally knows. To that end here's who I'd like to see in volume three: Ramsey Campbell, Mark Morris, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Gary McMahon, Conrad Williams, Steve Rasnic Tem and Nicholas Royle. Joel Lane's thoughtful, bleak stories also seem a natural fit for a poignant section. John Llewellyn Probert's partner Thana Niveau has appeared in the last two volumes of Stephen Jones's 'The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror'. A contribution from her - or even better, a collaboration with her partner John! - would be ace. Simon Bestwick hasn't yet appeared in Best New Horror, but he has appeared in many other 'best of' anthologies, including placing two stories in this year's volume from Ellen Datlow. Besides he's written, for my money, easily one of the best zombie novels in recent years, `Tide of Souls' (2009). And while we're indulging in pie-in-the-sky speculation, how awesome would be if next time we had David J. Schow, Joe Hill and Joe R. Lansdale? (Caitlin R. Kiernan is also a regular in Best New Horror, though I'm not quite sure how her style would fit, although she is a superb short story writer).

That's 14 writers I've named (15 if Jones uses artist Dave McKean in the same way he used Les Edwards). Add to that AZ! regulars Peter Aikens, Pat Cadigan, Peter Crowther, Paul Finch, Christopher Fowler, Lisa Morton, Paul McAuley, Sarah Pinborough, John Llewellyn Probert, and Michael Marshall Smith and you're talking 25 contributors. 2 more than AZ!#2, which in itself was 5 more than AZ!#1. Plus I haven't counted Jones's fellow editors behind the scenes, who have also made substantial contributions: Jo Fletcher, Amanda Foubister and Mandy Slater. Of course, this is all idle speculation: Jones has been in the game for some 40 years, so he'll know better than anyone who he feels is best suited to bring off each section of these mosaic novels.

Assuming the same time and care it taken with AZ!#3, it probably won't appear for another two years - roll on 2014!
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on 27 April 2013
I read quite a lot 'Zombie' type books, among others, and I disagree with some of the reviewers here. Like the first book, I thought it was a good read, with an interesting back story on the historical origins supplemented with various 'stories'. Overall I have a preference for this kind of book, rather than the usual weakly plotted, often sexist story lines or endless weapons descriptions in many books that abound in the genre. If I have a reservation it's about the move it seems to making into realms of fantasy towards the end with the machinations of the 'leader' of the undead. I have always felt a good Zombie type story can be sustained without such flights of fancy. It won't put me off reading the next book but it will be with a slight concern as to where it is heading.
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on 30 November 2012
Started well, enjoyed the new take on writing which included newspaper, media, television, emails. But this became boring towards the end, sometimes making it hard to follow what was going on.
I love zombie books and try to read as many as possible, while this one was ok I am glad it was a loan and not something I spent money on. It took a different route than most (not wanting to ruin the book) it was not something I liked, I like my zombie's to be zombies, I want to see people fighting back and to hear their sad stories, this book starts this way yet ends completely different and if you are a zombie/surivial against all odds person who enjoy's the fight to remain human in a world full of zombies then this book is not for you.
Is this book worth a read? Only if you want something different than normal zombie books, I would not tell anyone to buy this book myself, because it was not an enjoyable read.
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on 18 December 2014
Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback is the sequel to Zombie Apocalypse! I was disappointed with Zombie Apocalypse!, but I still picked up Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback and was pleasantly surprised.
First let me explain the premise of Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback. Following the breakout of the Human Reanimation Virus (HRV) at All Hallows Church in south London; the book tells the story of Thomas Moreby (patient zero & leader of the zombies) and that of the human struggle for survival across the world.

The book uses a range of mediums to tell the story: emails, eye witness accounts, news paper articles, reports, diaries, photos, stills of video, twitter feeds and there’s even a poem. I love this idea and although Jones et al isn’t the first write in this way, they probably are the first to use the idea in a zombie story.

The plot was acceptably fascinating and well interwoven, especially considering the number of different writers. The pacing was good and kept the story moving along at a suitable pace. But the editing could have been better. It wasn’t that there were typos; but that there was a fair amount of padding that made the story feel like it could have been told in less words. There was a lot of telling and more could have been shown to the reader.

The characters changed too often and lacked depth. The closest the book came to depth was the two brothers at the camp/caravan site, which ended far too prematurely. I would like to have read much more of their story.

The ‘Twitter pages’ were the worst as they went on for far too long (I actually skipped a number of these pages) and felt completely unbelievable. The characters description of events in tweets didn’t feel right. The whole concept that he would be on twitter, when he was being hunted in a dark museum by monsters failed to be remotely believable.

Overall Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback was a gigantic improvement on Zombie Apocalypse!, but still needs more work. Anybody that likes a zombie read will enjoy it, but it will not be a reader’s favourite in the zombie story genre.
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on 19 November 2012
For anyone who has already read Max Brook's World War Z or Zombie Survival Guide (or for anyone who has an almost unhealthy infatuation with zombies, like myself) then you will love this book. Originally when I bought this in WHSmith (double the price, amazon is a much better deal by far) and flicked through the pages I was immediately intrigued by the format of the book, since rather than page after page of standard text the narrative is told through personal accounts, from old fashioned letters to more modern social networking mediums. I was a bit unsure on whether I'd enjoy this new way of reading, but it was brilliant. I found myself looking back at different accounts and tried weaving the story together myself and ahead of the book, which meant I couldn't put it down as I was eager to find out if my suspicions were correct. Little things are added to each account and for those who enjoy mystery solving it is also a great read as, personally, I found there was this exact added element. Over all brilliant book, highly recommended. I've even bought it for a friend's christmas present!
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on 21 February 2013
This second volume in a present-set zombie plague anthology has the benefits and drawbacks of anthologies - you don't get bored but there is no development. It contains more long pieces than the first. Some work well - Putin and Lenin joining forces for example, the episodes featuring the Patient Zero of the zombie plague. As before it is done as transcripts, diaries and so forth. The explanation of how the plague works allow a non-zombiephile to suspend disbelief somewhat. The print quality really lets the second volume down, with poor contract of text and background making it a physically hard read. But engaging enough to want to dip into when I really should have been persevering with "Wolf Hall".
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on 22 February 2016
Second volume of Stephen Jones' trilogy. As with the first, transcripts of emails etc were use. This volume expands on the origins of the plague with old letters from the 1880s and press cuttings from the 1950s and 60s. Further references to Nigel Kneale's Quatermass and the Pit and HP Lovecraft make this a must for every horror fan.
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on 10 June 2014
I've read the first book which was pretty good. This one isn't bad it's mostly as good as the first and in the same style but there are some annoying bits and a few boring bits. If you like zombies it's worth a read. but don't break the bank to buy it.
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on 12 January 2013
The first book in this series proved to be a great read and is up there with one of the best zombie books I have read to date. This follow up turned out to be really poor. All the tension/horror the first book created is lost in the sequel due to the author altering the basics of zombie lore to the point of it just becoming a bit silly. I find myself shaking my head reading this book more often than not.

If you are looking for a zombie book written in a similar style but of vastly better quality try world war z.
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