Apocalypse Cow. Book Review

ApCowAPOCALYPSE COW by Michael Logan

Corgi, p/b, 384pp, £7.99

Reviewed by Stewart Horn

Comedy rarely mixes well with fantasy, science fiction or horror.  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.  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 I’ve read this year.

Basically, British livestock and assorted other mammals become infected with a zombie virus and start attacking and killing people.  It’s because of a chemical weapon gone wrong and there’s a government cover-up.  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.  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 won’t be for everyone, as a lot of the humour is often a bit juvenile.  The animals are horny as well as murderous – it’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.  Some of the jokes are at the expense of social groups (women, teenagers, vegetarians, The French), and while it’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.  If you can leave your serious hat at the door and just roll with it you’ll have a great time.