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When there's no more room in hell...
on 11 March 2011
(May contain very mild spoilers)
As a zombie fanatic, it's odd that I've never been drawn to the world of zombie fiction. It all seems rather dreary, silly and, ultimately, pointless. After all, everybody knows how a zombie apocalypse ends - a small group of survivors holed up somewhere relatively safe, waiting patiently to meet their end. In a war between humans and zombies, the zombies will always win. Certainly I've heard that some of the available zombie books are rather good, but they just haven't interested me. Indeed, the only zombie tale I'd previously read was Christopher Fowler's short story 'Night after night of the living dead', which I recommend along with his other works.
Thus, it was with fair to middling interest that I finally decided to buy this book - Breaking News: An autozombiography. The 70p price tag convinced me that it was worth a flutter.
I was initially concerned that it would be a light-hearted affair involving much running, hiding, fighting and wise-cracking with, perhaps, little in the way of real thought about how the inevitable zombie apocalypse would play out. Instead, I was astonished at how detailed it was. NJ Hallard has clearly thought this through way too much!
I found myself pulled in to the lives of the characters, fearing for their safety, cheering their successes and genuinely touched by the moments of tragedy. There is a scene where our heroes rush back to Cissbury Ring when it becomes apparent that their camp is being overrun by zombies and, if I'd been sitting down rather than loafing about in bed, I'd have inched forwards to the edge of my seat waiting to find out what had happened to Lou.
People use the phrase "roller-coaster ride" too often, but I think it describes this book perfectly. I was delighted at the heroes victories and saddened by their losses. I cared about what happened to them.
Perhaps this is partly because Hallard has done something rather clever, electing to write about what he knows best. You see, the whole story is based on himself, his girlfriend, their friends and family, and the geographical area that he lives in. It's a genuine autobiography that suddenly takes a turn into the Twilight Zone. A classic 'What If?' plot. There are no crudely-drawn caricatures (well, apart from the knuckle-headed Brian, perhaps) because these are real people.
When finishing a thoroughly enjoyable book such as this one, I always experience a sense of loss; the journey is over, the story finished. The literary equivalent, perhaps, of Le Petit Mort.
The final three words of this book, however, filled me with childlike anticipation: an otherwise blank page with a simple "To be continued..." in the centre. I hope it does continue. Hallard is an excellent storyteller and I'm itching to find out what happens next.