Sunday 11 August 2013

Review: Zom-B Angels by Darren Shan

After spending the last few months wandering around London--a city filled with the dead--B Smith has given up hope for any sign of normal human existence. But then B finds strange signs all over the city--a "Z" plus red arrows. Following them, B finds The Angels-- a group gathered in the hopes of combating the evil dead and the forces that introduced them. But all is not as it seems and it's up to B to find out: what battle are they truly waging?

*** Warning: This review will contain spoilers for earlier books in the series. I you have not yet these other books then please navigate away now.

The closing line of Zom-B City left us with something of a cliffhanger, with readers' jaws hitting the ground possibly as hard as B's did. As with previous books in this series, Zom-B Angels picks up the story immediately following the close of its predecessor, with B discovering that she has been subtly manipulated into walking into County Hall. However, it is not some kind of trap, and for the first time since she first woke in the underground complex B finds herself among friends. More importantly she finds herself under the care of a Dr Oystein who has many of the answers that B (and us readers) have been craving since the opening chapter of Zom-B. Answers such as how the zombie plague started, the identity of the freaky clown thing Mr Dowling, why B is a freethinking revitalised zombie rather than one of the stumbling reviveds and more.

Darren Shan has done it again and produced another superb instalment in this series, although given that he wrote all twelve books in the Zom-B series back-to-back then this should be expected I suppose. Darren promised his readers that the first three books were very much setting up B's character and the zombie changed world, but this fourth book would start delivering much sought after answers, and he hasn't let his readers down. This book is much lighter on the action and gore than previous episodes, and as such moves at a slightly slower pace, but what it delivers in plot development make it just as un-put-downable. You may as well dig a deep hole and bury pretty much every guess you have made about what?, how? and why? as you will probably be wrong on most counts (I was), and the shocks, although not bloody in this book, are just as effective. This volume is certainly setting things up nicely for the rest of the series now.

When the first book in this series was released Darren Shan stated that he wasn't setting out to just write a zombie horror story. He was very clear in his intentions to cover some pretty hefty themes, and we saw that in the first book with B's racist father, and how she had been brought up to have similar bigoted views. Now, with this fourth book, Shan has continued to create topics for discussion, with themes that touch on religion, corruption, genetic engineering and more. Again Shan has delivered on his promise: this is definitely far more than just a zombie story full of blood splatter and brain munching.

I have been a fan of Darren Shan's ever since I first picked up and read Cirque du Freak back in 2000, but this latest series is possibly my favourite out of anything I have read by him. I used to think that Shan was a great storyteller, but lacked a little something as a writer. No longer - this series shows that he has continued to develop and mature as a writer over the past decade or so, and now he is both a great storyteller and a damn fine writer to boot.

My thanks go to the ever generous people at Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of Zom-B Angels to read. The fifth book in the series is due out in the UK at the end of September, and given its title, Zom-B Baby, and its gloriously disgusting book cover I'm expecting a return to some Shan-tastic blood, guts and violence.