his is a tough one to review. I’m feeling like the food reviewer who is assigned to check out the local greasy spoon, a favorite of the lowly locals. Is it proper to equate what you eat there to the finest of French restaurants? Or if it’s a favorite for its clientele, should you pursue it with that angle?
Okay, for those who don’t know about this sort of thing, there is a sub-culture of literature (in this case, “Blood Enriched Classics”), which takes a classic and puts zombies or whatever into their story. I first heard about this with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensitivity and Sea Monsters (none of which I’ve actually read). As I understand it, these take these classics and supercharge them with a chum-bucket of gore, making them attractive to the younger generation.
I don’t want to get into the ethics of the thing, or what I might think of a culture required to do this to preserve its literature. But I must confess that I am a true fan of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds (reviewed HERE on this blog, the first in the series). I’ve read the actual book something like twenty times, have read several spin offs and re-imagined versions of the classic tale (some good, some not-so). I’ve ever read books about WOTW, dissected down to its very components. So, yes, I am a fan.
I saw this at Strands in New York and felt I had to read it. After all, I was wondering what you could possibly do with zombies for a book where the world, for all practical purposes, is destroyed before our eyes anyway. It’s hard to make a story more horrifying when it’s got pitiless monsters, massive war machines, sweeping heat rays, choking smoke, the death of a good portion of London’s population while on the road, and even a curate getting hit in the back of the head with a cleaver (admittedly, the blunt side). But still. So the idea in this take is that the Martian transport cylinders, fired at Earth from Mars, picked up something in space, something that made the dead come alive. Yes, so now we have Martians and zombies.
A cute idea, but it didn’t quite play out for me. Most of the zombie references were tacked onto the end of each scene, even each paragraph. You’d read Well’s vintage prose of Martians striding about, a paragraph as perfect as it could be made, and then there would be mention of the dead doing something deadish. Frankly, it was rather annoying, like watching a great movie and cutting away from time to time to check on another flick, an inferior one, I might add. So, yes, I am taking sides, I suppose.
Worse, it got in the way of the story. For example, the curate is Wells’ vehicle for belittling the church, for its useless nature the in face of true crisis. The character is ineffective, sniveling and weak. But shortly after the narrator meets him, the curate leaps onto the back of an attacking zombie and snaps its neck. Hell, I don’t think I’d be able to do that, not the first day of a zombie apocalypse. And worse, when they are sealed up together for fourteen days I kept waiting for the curate to become a zombie. It seemed like a given (the trope of a person hiding a wound and becoming a zombie in the midst of the heroes’ fortress is de jour). I was actually hoping it would happen. But instead, the book ran as it did, with mentions here and there (after the Martians move on) of zombies in the background, zombies in the distance.
I suppose what I’m deciding, even as I write this, is that if you were going to put zombies into a story, they should impact the story and change it in a new and clever way. Otherwise, it’s like watching the play of The Book of Mormon and there is a zombie in it, one that staggers around and falls into the orchestra pit but really doesn’t change anything at all.
So, I suppose if you are young and like this sort of thing, maybe you should try this book. Still, to my mind (and even when I was young), WOTW really threw me. It was horrifying in its own right, an end of the world experience as grim and unfair as it could be. So, yeah, cute idea, but I’m standing with Wells on this one.