Monday, July 18, 2011

Zombies vs Unicorns - Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier

The Facts:
Authors: Edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (Australia)
Australian Date of Publication: November 2010
Length: 415 pages

The Fiction:
From the Publisher: It's a question as old as time itself: which reigns supreme, the zombie or the unicorn? 'For too long, the zombie has dominated the public consciousness, but the reign of the unicorn is at hand!' Holly Black - Team Unicorn
'I think that posterity will look upon this as the moment when zombies took their rightful place at the top of the food chain.' Justine Larbalestier - Team Zombie
Contributors to this unique collection include bestselling teen and YA authors, Garth Nix, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson and Margo Lanagan. Zombie vs Unicorns challenges you to pick a team, and stick to it. But be warned, these are stellar story-tellers, and they can be very convincing...

One freaking awesome concept and a kick-arse author team = one must-read anthology. I had been looking forward to this release since last year’s zombie week.
Firstly, here’s a breakdown of who’s writing and which team they represent:

Zombies (Team Captain - Justine Larbalestier):
Libba Bray
Cassandra Clare
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Maureen Johnson
Carrie Ryan
Scott Westfeld

Unicorns (Team Captain – Holly Black):
Meg Cabot
Kathleen Duey
Margo Lanagan
Garth Nix
Naomi Novik
Diana Peterfreud

First, I have to preface this review with the fact that I’m very much 100% Team Zombie (as you will all know by now), so the review may be slightly biased, despite by best efforts to stay fairly neutral.
The basic structure of the anthology is that each chapter alternates between a unicorn and a zombie story (and each chapter is marked with a handy-dandy logo in the corner, so you can skip through and read all the stories of one team if you wish). All of the stories are introduced by the captain of the appropriate team, with some banter between the two editors (which was fun, but to be honest, I skipped through it on my first reading – I just wanted to get straight to the stories!).

Now here are some of my thoughts on the two teams and the stories of the anthology:

Unicorns: I was actually kind of surprised by how much I enjoyed the unicorn stories. Prior to reading, I was curious as to how these stories would stand apart as I had thought that unicorns don’t lend themselves to as many potential readings/covering as many issues as zombies. However, each unicorn story is engaging and an enjoyable read, and whilst themes such as purity are common in the unicorn stories, there is also a great mix of coverage (from the poetic, to the bloodthirsty, to the just damn funny). My favourite was probably Meg Cabot’s Princess Prettypants (c’mon, the name is enough to be a winner!). It’s just pure silly, enjoyable fun (I don’t want to give anything away because it is a great read, but I will say that Meg Cabot’s unicorn can fart rainbows – now surely that is teaser enough to make you want to read it!).

But of course, it was the zombie stories that really captured my attention. They too range from the laugh-out-loud funny to the quietly haunting. Though I thought each story was strong, my personal favourites were Carrie Ryan’s Bougainvillea, Maureen Johnson’s Children of the Revolution and Libba Bray’s Prom Night (which by the way, is a kind of perfect story to end on). My only complaint is that some of the stories were so good, that I would have loved to read a full-length novel about them (especially Carrie Ryan’s Bougainvillea), and similarly, I felt like Scott Westerfeld’s Inoculata was almost a tease, and could have definitely been part of a larger work.

Overall, the anthology is a very entertaining read. I think it will go down well for fans of either team (or (or for fans of any of the contributing authors), I also think this book would be a fun way for those who don’t normally read zombie stories (or who haven’t pledged allegiance to either team yet), as it’s definitely a nice ‘taster’ with a variety of different perspectives. For unicorn skeptics like me, the book showed me that unicorns can be funny (and also rather gruesome – thanks Diana Peterfreud!) and for people who find our living-impaired friends a bit creepy, hopefully these stories will show that there is more to zombies than a hankering for braaaaaains.

Question time: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

(as if you needed to be reminded!)


Rhiannon Hart said...

This one fell victim to a former housemate. She owes me this book as well as money--neither of which I ever expect to see again *sob*

I'm on Team Zombie too but totally have a unicorn soft spot. I'll need to buy this one again methinks.

Steph said...

Ohhh what a bummer Rhiannon - yep, you might need to invest in a second copy ....

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