Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: Zombies vs Unicorns

Ed. Justine Larbalestier & Holly Black, 2010, Allen & Unwin

Which reigns supreme, the zombie or the unicorn? It's a question as old as time itself (or not). Zombies vs Unicorns is a short story feud that challenges the reader to pick a team and stick to it. But be warned: the contributors to this unique anthology are stellar storytellers all, and may just convince you to switch...

Zombies vs Unicorns is that rarest of all beasts, an anthology containing not a single story that isn't an absolute gem. Frankly, it's one of the most enjoyable and entertaining reads I've had in ages, and - for all that I am, and always will be, staunchly Team Zombie - the unicorn tales were of such quality as to almost swing me over to the side of the rainbow-farting hornponies. Almost.

Major kudos must go to editors Larbalestier and Black for their obvious decision to seek out authors and stories that pushed the boundaries of both camps. Herein, you'll find intriguing new takes on the zompocalypse, as well as stories that shatter the image of unicorns as noble white steeds. The tales range across many genres including romance, horror, comedy, fairy-tale fantasy, and even mild erotica, with each prefaced by some largely entertaining and good-natured bickering between the two editors on the perceived strengths and failures of the individual story.  

As one might expect, it was difficult to pick specific personal favourites from a publication comprising only top-quality prose, but I must make mention of the two stories that, for me, most fully represented the anthology as a whole, in terms of their originality and entertainment value; for Team Zombie, 'The Children of the Revolution', by Maureen Johnson, relates the tale of an American backpacker stranded abroad, who winds up minding some very unusual adopted youngsters for a very unusual (and strangely familiar) Hollywood power-couple. What begins as a wry, gently humorous story rapidly develops into one of the more disturbing pre-apocalyptic pieces I've ever read. For Team Unicorn, 'Princess Prettypants', by Meg Cabot, brings us a highly-satisfying fantasy/SF/romantic mash-up that manages to actively lampoon traditional 'unicorn culture' whilst simultaneously reinventing the legendary beasties.

Zombies vs Unicorns is an anthology that every fan of speculative fiction should read, and I'll certainly expect to see the publication - as well as many of the stories herein - garnering multiple genre award nominations over the coming year, and quite possibly inspiring a range of copycat collections. Vampires vs Goblins, perhaps? How about Cthulhu vs Fairies? No..?

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