All hail Canada, which never had the temerity to rebel against the oppressive yoke of British tyranny, so they could continue to have a closer relationship with the British publishing world. All hail my sister for marrying Canadian, moving there, then finding a book unreleased stateside that is so freaking perfect
, and mailing it to me for Christmas. (I know that the history of Canada and my sister's married life haven't unfolded the way they have just to get a zombie book into my hot little hands. No, j/k, they totally have.) All hail the first 35 pages for not having any reference to Jane Austen. Braaaaains.
This book is blast. Unlike the some other historical zombie books I can think of (*cough* Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
*cough*) the author this book makes the odd and laudable choice of treating both the history and the zombies with an earnest respect. My Victoriana is a little hazy these days, but Moorat conjures the London I know and love from Victorian populist fiction like Sherlock Holmes which I scarfed down in huge chunks as a teenager: grubby, dingy, mired in poverty that is either politely ignored or actively sneered at by the upper classes. This book has that sly social commentary where the descriptions of the actual, historical living conditions of the poor in London at the beginning of Victoria's reign are much more horrific than the descriptions of zombie attacks.
Lordy, I am droning
again. La! This is not a history lesson! This is a zombie book! Crunch crunch! And that's one of the best things about this book: it is so freaking gross. Glorious, lurid set-pieces involving rats, entrails, Members of Parliament, severed limbs, spurting blood and other unmentionably icky things dot the narrative. At one point, Victoria Regina herself is outfitted with an Ash-style steampunk chainsaw – buzz buzz – which she gets to wield in blood splattering effect. The mythology is an absolute mess, but the kind of energetic mess that doesn't exposition you to death with how it all works because GRR ARG BRAAAINS SMASH DEMONS WHAT? OMFG RUN!
Also, there are some great flashes of humor that are based on character
, of all things. Lord Quimby, stupid, zombie-creating upper-class-twit-of-the-year, is the best drawn character in the book. He's the kind of character you love to hate, reveling in his awesome cluelessness. Very early on, he has a conversation with his soon-to-be-zombified man servant about terminology. Which is better: the French photographie
or the English photogenic drawings
? Then the punch-line: the term pornographie
? “It'll never catch on.” I may be easy, but this was seriously funny to me. Maybe in later historical zombie books they can debate xerox v. mimeographs or VHS v. betamax and I will bring the serious lulz. I will also give props to the author for excellent verb-use, which may be weird, but there it is. I love when people mither. I love that my crappy spell-check doesn't even recognize mither. Screw you, spell-check.
But, just to be jerk, this never really transcends the genre, whatever the hell that is. There are tons of things for a zombie-loving/fearing, Victoriana loving/fearing person to freak out about, and that's me, and freak out I did, but I can't unreservedly recommend this to anyone, predilections unknown. Someone less lazy than I should start a letter writing campaign to get this published in the States, because there's totally a market for this kind of stuff – ahem hello? – and it's discouraging how bad most of it is. This isn't just not bad
; it's actually fun