Read Recently — September 2007 — Toys and Zombies

The Toyminator by Robert Rankin

Sequel to The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, this book has Toy City facing grave peril — again, and again, the only ones who can save it are Eddie Bear and his sidekick, the human boy Jack. Toys and Nursery Rhyme characters are dying in fear in the midst of brilliant flashes of light. Some are calling it Spontaneous Toy Combustion. Some call it the End Times. Chief Inspector Bellis wants Eddie and Jack to solve the case, or he will arrest them for the murders. But who is behind it all? Is it aliens? Is it chickens? Is it alien chickens? Is it, in fact, Eddie and Jack? And what lies behind the Second O?

Weird, weird stuff. Rankin writes like the bastard child of Terry Pratchett and Tim Powers (don’t try to think about how it could happen; you’d only hurt yourself), with in these books a touch of Fforde thrown in for good measure. If that sounds appealing, well, these are good books. Recommended.

Dead Sea by Brian Keene

Another zombie novel by the author of The Rising and City of the Dead. This time it’s a different world, and we have traditional slow zombies, victims of a plague. It all begins with rats emerging from New York’s sewers and attacking people on the streets. Except that the rats are already dead. And all the people they bite die. And then they come back, and they bite people. One bite, scratch, or exchange of fluids, and you’re infected with what the media call “Hamelin’s Revenge”, it being the narrator’s opinion that they have mistaken Hamelin for the name of the Pied Piper, rather than the town.

And our narrator is one Lamar Reed, a young, gay black man living in Baltimore. Lamarr’s a hard-working guy but he’s lost his job and now he seems to have lost his civilization, too. He’s been hiding in his house but when the neighbourhood burns down he has to flee. Circumstances throw him in with a couple of brave kids and a gun-toting ex-bible salesman, and they make a break for the harbour, where they hope to find a boat. No zombies and no fires on the ocean, right? By good luck, they end up on the Coast Guard ship Spratling, which had been a tourist attraction at the docks, but was still capable of putting out to sea. Their troubles are over, right? Of course not.

Overall, I liked this one. It lacks the major fault of The Rising, et al, that the intelligent zombies just aren’t scary. These are more like a force of nature; a disaster that descends through no fault of anyone involved. They’re still not scary, but at least the story is interesting. And Keene is content to let strong characterization carry it. All things considered, mildly recommended.

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