By Tim Lebbon,
Published by Hammer, 2012.
They came when we least expected them. At first a rare glimpse in darkened shadows but then they got braver. Soon they were everywhere, vast hordes, indistinct, unintelligent, dripping gore and body parts. Now everywhere you look you see them...oh the horror...oh the stereotypes and now they have us cornered and outnumbered, there is nothing we can do, resistance is futile, there is no getting away from god damn zombie novels.
I must admit my heart soared when I heard Tim Lebbon, one of my favourite horror authors, was writing a major apocalyptic novel but then it very quickly sank when I read it involved zombies. If I read another sentence about shambling creatures, blank lifeless eyes or infected bites I might just become one myself. So it was with some trepidation that I ventured into Tim Lebbon's Coldbrook.
The Coldbrook facility is a secret experimental lab which has somehow opened a connection with another parallel earth. Whilst the facility is geared up to stop the alternative lifeforms gaining access to earth it is slightly less prepared for the undead to sneak through. Couple that with a staff member who eschews heroism in favour of legging it and mayhem ensues. It's not long before the world has been zombified and it's left to our gallant heroes to seek a solution (in both worlds).
Lets get the bad news out of the way first. Inevitably there are many many scenes of zombie carnage, biting, ripping, exploding, delimbing and more biting and inevitably this all takes place through a deja vu haze. Current and past zombie movies, books and TV series are evoked and in general it all left this reader rather bored.
In lesser hands that would probably mean three stars, lets forget the whole thing and move on, but this is Tim Lebbon and he redeems the situation with several new twists and a large dose of quality writing. Strong, flawed, realistic characters abound and the alternative society that exists beyond the breach gives a fascinating duality to proceedings. It's not clear who the good guys are as everyone scrambles for their own self preservation. At the heart of the novel is a much deeper treatise on faith, religion and man's place in the world(s), theology meets goreology.
It doesn't quite reach the heights of some of Lebbon's previous work and it seems to be aiming for a more populist market which I hope it finds. In a way I wish Tim Lebbon would continue to write obscure horror novellas for me, but who can blame an author for attempting to find a wider audience using a well worn trope in a relatively original fashion. A good book from a great writer.
Rating 4 out of 5