A review that originally appeared in Black Static #2:-
THE WORDS OF THEIR ROARING by MATTHEW SMITH
(Abaddon Books paperback, 339pp, £6.99)
After a prologue in which a British deserter in WWI encounters German zombies, we skip forward to the present day when, thanks to British experiments in developing a zombie weapon, the country has been overrun by the undead. Order has broken down, with central government’s authority undermined and crime barons such as Harry Flowers looking to fill the power vacuum. Gabe, one of Flowers’ lieutenants, is compromised and to save his own skin must turn against his master, but things go badly wrong for him. Years later Flowers has succeeded in his aim and rules London with an iron fist, commanding both the living and the dead, but the prize has been won at the cost of his own humanity. Gabe, who is now a zombie but an intelligent one, prepares for a final confrontation with his former employer.
The second volume in Abaddon’s Tomes of the Dead series of novels, this book picks up on themes and ideas explored by George Romero in Land of the Dead, primarily that of the intelligent zombie. And, while hardly a radical departure from the zombie archetype, the book does have a lot of fun with the old tropes of this subgenre, offering a read that holds the attention and engages the imagination.
Smith knows how to tell a story. The characters are all well drawn, have a depth and motives for their actions which we can understand, if not always empathise with. Gabe, whose back story we are given in full, is the quintessential man of action with a conscience, treading the thin line between the expediency demanded by circumstance and outright amorality, though his relationship with Flowers’ daughter, the initial cause of antipathy between the two men, does have more about it of plot convenience than not. The spread of the zombie plague, the way in which the dead can so quickly overpower the living, is depicted in a way that engages the attention and seems entirely credible, and the same can be said for the rationale behind the various zombie societies that emerge in the wake of this disaster. The battle scenes are an especial strength, vivid and colourful, with plenty of bang for our buck and conflicts that could go either way. All things considered The Words of Their Roaring is well worth a few hours of any zombie aficionado’s time.