NewCon Press have just released Andrew Hook’s novella And God Created Zombies in electronic format, and that seems like reasonable justification to reproduce my review here.
So that’s what I’ll do.
My review then, just as it appeared in Black Static #13, other than for any edits that didn’t get updated to the Word doc I keep on file:-
And God Created Zombies (NewCon Press paperback/hardback, 128pp,£9.99/£18.99)by Andrew Hook opens with narrator John Baker holed up with his girlfriend Rowena in a hotel in Yarmouth, while outside the Golden Mile is overrun with zombies. He recaps the story so far, which begins with him out in a car with friend Roberto, when they run over what appears to be a corpse in an alley, only it’s still moving. John returns later to check for himself, and has to dispatch the zombie. Roberto is watching, and tells him that he works for a secret organisation that keeps the zombie threat, so far off the radar, in check. More incidents follow, with John joining Roberto’s organisation while at the same time pursuing a new romance with chance encounter Rowena. Finally the zombie menace becomes public knowledge, and the characters start to drop dark hints that John is somehow responsible. John and Rowena flee to Yarmouth, but the zombie plague follows them, subsequent to which Rowena reveals what is really going on.
Early on this novella reminded me of Carpenter’s film Vampires, only with the living dead in place of the bloodsuckers, but towards the end it segues into something more like Kevin Smith film Dogma, with God trapped inside his own creation and the end of all things threatened. Hook’s usage of the concept is more developed than Smith’s, but against that he doesn’t have Alanis Morissette in the pivotal role of creator.
Hook has a lot of fun with the idea of the zombie apocalypse, low key at first but escalating to a crescendo courtesy of hordes of the living dead. There are lashings of gore, as the zombies faithfully follow in the shuffling footsteps of their flesh eating forebears, and plenty of action set pieces, with fire fights in a library and on the steps of the Hayward Gallery, not to mention the final showdown in Yarmouth. There’s also some gallows humour, with inventive deaths that bring to mind schlock classics like Return of the Living Dead as the zombies are variously dispatched with bicycle pumps, kitchen utensils etc. And against all that we have a convincing picture of a society that is both collapsing internally and at the same time going about business as usual, which those who see the current vogue for apocalyptic fiction as a commentary on modern times may find especially telling.
Good as he is at handling the tropes of horror fiction and zombie grue, I was left with the feeling that for Hook these are a side issue, which is both this novella’s strength and its weakness. Weakness because, fun and/or frightening as they are, the zombies are not really necessary to the exigencies of the plot, which calls for the collapse of society, a goal that could have been accomplished in any number of more mundane ways, with no recourse to the supernatural at all. The suspicion is that zombies were used because they were a lot more dramatic than economic meltdown, global warming or hanging round waiting for peak oil to bite. But, this is also the novella’s strength, because while there’s plenty of brain munching mayhem for the zombie aficionado, at the same time this is more than a zombie story. It’s a work that addresses metaphysical and philosophical concerns, with the narrator John at the centre of his own solipsistic reality as surely as he is the hub around which all the plot events revolve. John is accused of being self-obsessed by several of the other characters, and that he is constantly trying to get away from his responsibilities. The truth of this, seen on a macrocosmic scale, with reality mirroring John’s behaviour, is the concept at the heart of this story, and it is an intriguing one.
Ultimately I’m not sure Hook capitalises on this as much as he might. At the end it is all a dream, or rather a nightmare, only the dreamer is God Himself. The novella doesn’t use its central conceit to tell us anything new or profound about the nature of life, instead offering the plot coupon equivalent of a get out of gaol free card, but all the same the ride was a hell of a lot of fun while it lasted.