Thursday, 31 March 2011

Viking Dead review

Zombies, eh?
I don’t know about you, but I am of the opinion that they have been, of late, somewhat over exposed. So it takes something special to make me sit up and take notice.
Thankfully, Abaddon have been managing to do this, with books like Way of the Barefoot Zombie and I, Zombie both taking the genre in original and interesting directions.
And you’d have to be dead inside not to think the prospect of Viking zombies was very cool indeed.
So… does this book live up to the hopes I had for it..?
Things start off well. I love having my expectations subverted, and this book does that very early on, as the reader thinks it is going to be about one thing and it quickly becomes apparent it is not.
Now, I’m not an expert in Vikings and their lore and lifestyle, but I get the impression that author Toby Venables is. Or if not an expert, it feels like he has done his research and he doesn’t allow the research to swamp the story.
And the story is, I’m happy to report, a good one. I have to say, that while he has assembled a great cast of characters, the story is not, for the most part, particularly original, with nods to things like The Magnificent Seven and a few other classics in there. This is not to say that it is not well told, however.
Venables tells the tale in short chapters that make this an easy read and has the reader hanging on for just one-more-chapter…
I mentioned characters- and yes, they are well realised, but I had a minor problem with the names. They are, I’m sure, authentic Viking monikers, but the trouble is I have no idea how to pronounce them, so was recognising characters by a collection of letters on a page rather then a name.
The other good things: the pacing is great and the plentiful action scenes are well written. And there are the zombies. We don’t see many of them for the first part of the book. Their presence is hinted at and they are genuinely spooky when we do encounter them.
And then there is the ending…
I had an inkling about what was going on earlier in the book, and was kind of correct when we got to the final chapters. Now, initially, I did not think the ending was going to work But by the gods it does.
I mean literally right up until the final paragraph I thought Venables had dropped the ball on the final stretch, but as he reveals his true intentions in the closing words, I could not help punching the air in glee.
Obviously I will not spoiler anything here… but if you think that Zombie Vikings are cool, well…

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