Corgi, p/b, 384pp, Â£7.99
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
Comedy rarely mixes well with fantasy, science fiction or horror.Â Most who attempt it either sacrifice the essentials of novel-writing for the laughs, or almost leave the comedy out in order to maintain realistic characters and a properly structured story.Â Tery Pratchett can do it, as can Jasper Fforde, but aside from those luminaries a truly satisfying novel is a rarity.
To pull it off with such panache in a debut novel is an outstanding achievement, and this is one of the most enjoyable books Iâ€™ve read this year.
Basically, British livestock and assorted other mammals become infected with a zombie virus and start attacking and killing people.Â Itâ€™s because of a chemical weapon gone wrong and thereâ€™s a government cover-up.Â A small group of survivors discovers the truth and has to survive the mayhem and take the truth to France.
The survivors include a mentally scarred abattoir worker Terry, his appalling cousin and equally appalling offspring, a sex-obsessed teenage boy and his fanatically vegan parents, a maths teacher and the worst journalist in the world.Â Plus a supporting cast of creepy military types, mad scientists, gun-toting neighbours, assorted doomed extras and a thousands of scary animals.
It is as silly as it sounds, but the characterisation, the energy of the writing, and a generous gags-to-words ratio make it a great deal of fun.
It wonâ€™t be for everyone, as a lot of the humour is often a bit juvenile.Â The animals are horny as well as murderous â€“ itâ€™s mostly played for laughs but the scene in which a man is raped to death by a bull stretched even my appetite for depravity.Â Some of the jokes are at the expense of social groups (women, teenagers, vegetarians, The French), and while itâ€™s mostly fairly light in tone I can imagine people being offended.
Ultimately I found it about as offensive as an American teen-sex comedy movie, and mostly funnier.Â If you can leave your serious hat at the door and just roll with it youâ€™ll have a great time.