Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Book Reviews: Land Down Undead by John e Normal

Land Down Undead by John e Normal is a zombie comedy, set in Australia, after an outbreak of the undead. Their government allows the other nations of the world to dump their undead in secure, allocated locations, but the zombies escape, unleashing a second wave of flesh-eaters. The other countries of the world, having offloaded their zombie problems in Australia, have returned to their regular lives and the younger generation can barely even remember the outbreaks. Land Down Undead Tours Inc decide to capatalise on that by offering them guided backpacking tours across the still zombie-infested country. After surviving for several years, John, the narrator, decides to get a job as a tour guide with the company, and that's where the story begins.

The premise of the book is quite amusing and, like the book Zombie Housewives of the Apocalypse, it tells the story from a first person perspective, as though the zombie infection had actually happened. In this case, however, it's a human telling the story and not the zombies! The comedy is in a similar style to the films Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead though, in as much as there are frequent zombie killings - many times just for fun - and gory scenes intermingled with humourous quips and one-liners.

There is something I personally don't like in the zombie genre: killing zombies for fun / for sport. I don't mind the gore and flesh-eating or even the killing zombies for survival reasons and the zombie opera, but, for some reason, hacking off a zombie's arms and putting tape around their head so they can't grab or bite while a tourist bashes them over the head repeatedly with a bat bothers me.

On the other hand, you do get the sense that John has just become completely desensitised to death and violence in general because of his experiences, and uses humour as a coping mechanism. Even human deaths don't really seem to phase him much, as when any of his tour group is killed by one of the infected, he seems more concerned about getting grief from his employers and having a half-empty  tour bus, than anything else. Still, as a character, he is likable. Or I wasn't wishing he'd be eaten by zombies halfway through, at least!

Land Down Undead is promoted as a comedy and that's primarily what it is, but actually I think that there's more to it. I could be way off here, but the inclusion of zombie politicians, reality TV shows, Australian celebrities that only ever return to their country to get good publicity, and many other things seem to be something of a social commentary in the guise of a zombie book. The zombie apocalypse doesn't change human nature and there are always people looking to take advantage, no matter what the situation. As the narrator states at one point: "the scumbags who relished the new chaos were worse than the infected".

Overall, Land Down Undead is a quirky and fun read and works well as a mock travel guide to zombie tourism, especially with the references to real places in Australia. It is relatively short at 70 pages, but it doesn't really need to be any longer. Besides, the Kindle version only costs 77p, so it's not exactly expensive! I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone with a penchant for gory zombie spoofs, or who's looking for something a bit different from the genre.

You can purchase the book from Amazon here or visit the website below for more information:


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