Top critical review
on 23 October 2013
B had a hard life and death certainly isn't proving any easier. Raised by a violent racist father, plagued by moral uncertainties and in serious danger of failing to gain any GCSEs, a zombie apocalypse could perhaps have brought a little life relief to B's life but that's unfortunately not how things turned out.
Following the events of last year's Zom-B, B is well and truly dead (and has a gaping hole in the chest instead of a beating heart to illustrate the point) but is far from resting in peace. Indeed, in Zom-B Underground poor B has to adjust to life as a member of the rampaging undead. Well, maybe not rampaging exactly since being killed by having your still beating heart ripped from your chest would put a dampener on anyone's mood, but B is certainly still a walking, talking member of society despite an absence of life per se.
However, while the majority of zombies that are trundling the streets of London are concerned with nothing more than killing folk and munching on brains, B seems to have retained her original personality and powers of reason. This puzzles both B and the team of military scientists that have imprisoned B in a hi-tech underground bunker. It turns out that B is not the only teen to escape full conversion into a mindless zombie and so the scientists have rounded up a group of these "revitaliseds" in order to see if they can be of any use against the more common or garden variety zombies. In Zom-B Underground B therefore has to adapt to a new lifeless status while figuring out how to get along with the other zom-heads (that's what the cool kids are calling the revitalised) and what the scientists might ultimately want from them.
Zom-B Underground is a grisly, brutally realistic account of life as a conflicted zombie. B is arguably far nicer as a zombie than as a person but is still far from being a saint. B does now seem have a lot more difficulty picking on zombies than when picking on school nerds and racial minorities in Zom-B but ultimately still has a serious temper and some major killing skills. Perhaps losing a heart caused B to gain some humanity? It's a weighty question that doesn't really get discussed but may crop up again later in the series.
One thing is for certain though, even in undead society, B is still an outsider. While B and the other zom-heads have retained their mental faculties in a way that the regular zombies have not, B seems to be the only one able to control her bloodlust. The rest of the gang that B is matched up with positively revel in torturing and killing regular zombies and so Zom-B Underground is often a real splatterfest. Despite taking place entirely in a supposedly secure, controlled bunker, in Zom-B Underground the high body count from Zom-B is maintained. It's not wise to get to attached to any of Darren Shan's characters.
There is a lot of action, fighting and extreme eating involved in Zom-B Underground but ultimately not a great deal happens. B gets to grow as a zombie character, there is a tiny bit of insight into the government's response to the zombie crisis, and a Machiavellian potential Big Bad is introduced. All of these elements could have been developed much more but, perhaps unsurprisingly as it is only book two in a planned twelve book series, Zom-B Underground doesn't get stuck into the details of anything. Hopefully future Zom-B books will have more depth to them since it has the potential to be an excellent, gory series.