By Stephen Bills
Note: this review may be slightly biased, as it was written by the author…
What’s the Story?
Constable James Paddington has been waiting all his life for something interesting to happen on the sleepy island of Archi. Now, it has: a cow has been killed by what is clearly a supernatural creature, so Paddington calls in the Supernatural Help and Investigation Team to deal with the problem. They, instead, tend to point their guns at everything rather than solve any problems.
Oh, and Norman Winslow has documented his own zombification in a wine ledger and is now somewhere on the loose.
And now, with a horde of philosophical zombies on the loose, the Team has discovered a prophecy about the end of the world…
What’s the Problem?
Not Enough Zombies
Yes, okay, there’s a horde of the damned things, but for something that’s in the title – and is therefore presumably a selling point – there isn’t a whole lot of zombie stuff early on. It gets there, later, but in the early stages it’s all about Paddington and his search of what killed poor Betsy the cow.
It has no particular genre, toeing the line between comedy and horror and being genuinely both. Some passages, for example, are so nasty that they made preview readers feel physically ill and wouldn’t read the book for a period of days. But the story also goes to absurd humour.
It’s a bit like Shaun of the Dead in feeling: true comedy and true horror. Because of that, it limits its audience somewhat because if you don’t like either the comedy or the horror, you mightn’t like the book. For those that enjoy both, though, it’s a whole lot of fun.
There’s a bunch in here, and one can almost see the point in them all when the final battle emerges, but until then there just seems to be…
Too Many Storylines
There’s Paddington (and his relationship with damned well everyone he meets); there’s the investigation into Betsy’s murder; there’s the zombie angle; there’s the Team; the prophecy… It’s a lot to keep in one’s head all the time. Storylines drop out of the tale for twenty or more pages at a time, and when we return to them sometimes it takes a moment to remember what was happening and why.
It’s a Bit Convoluted
But then, the author likes that kind of thing: stories like Doctor Who where a throwaway comment in the second chapter (or episode, in The Doctor’s case) turns out to be the pivotal point at the final moment. For those that were piecing it all together before the story gets there, it’s enjoyable (and there are catch-ups for the audience who have shorter attention spans), but it does demand something more of the audience than the mere comprehension of language.
What’s the Solution?
If I knew that, I’d have fixed them. All of the points listed above are limitations, but they’re also necessary sacrifices and, in most cases, choices. I enjoy stories that require or reward the audience that pays attention. I like stories that don’t confine themselves to one genre but are willing to go wherever is required by the story. But that’s just me.
If you like this blog, then yes. Because it’s written by the same person…
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