Friday, September 24, 2010

Zombie + Unicorn = ....Team Zombicorn!

Zombies or Unicorns, which is the ultimate species on the fast track to stardom?  Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier are on a mission to declare the winner once and for all.  Zombies vs Unicorns, boasts an anthology by many well known authors of paranormal and teen fiction of the present day all vying for their team of choice.

Team Unicorn is headed by Holly Black and includes stories by Meg Cabot, Kathleen Duey, Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, Naoini Novik, and Diana Peterfreund.  Reviews follow:

We will start this journey with Garth Nix's story "The Highest Justice".  Nix weaves a tale that includes unicorns and gasp...a zombie?!  The unicorn is portrayed as a purveyor of justice for a jilted lover against her cheating spouse.  This is a very short tale that I found to be a nice intro story for the anthology.

Story 2 in favor of the unicorn is "Purity Test" by Naoini Novik.  The old association between unicorns and virgins is as strong as ever, and one such bond is necessary to vanquish an evil baby unicorn stealing wizard.  Sarcasm is star in this story and kept me highly entertained.  Score 1 for Team Unicorn!

Next up is "A Thousand Flowers" by Margo Lanagan.  Many small stories are linked together by a shifting of character focus.  A small character becomes the major in the next scene, etc, etc.  At first, it was hard to follow and piece the bigger point of the story together, it does come full circle at the end.  The implied bestiality was a bit much for me; otherwise, it was a very strange story with the overall theme that true pure love conquers all.

Diana Peterfreund's "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" was fantastic.  The fresh view of unicorns as connoisseurs of raw flesh, animal and human, really makes this story stand out.  Humor and pitfalls face the main character as she accepts her gift of unicorn tamer and raises a killer baby one of her own.  Score 2 for the Team Unicorn!

"Princess Prettypants" by Meg Cabot is next on the unicorn bandwagon.  This story embraces all the traditional views of unicorns as perfumed rainbow huggers and the strong bond that a girl shares with her single horned equid.  As the story unfolds, the main character loses her temper, and not far behind follows her new pet.  Entertaining tale that is worth a few laughs.

Last but definitely not least is Kathleen Duey's "The Third Virgin".  The darker side of these symbols of purity is once again explored.  Unicorns are blessed with the innate ability to heal the sick and dying, but this comes at a price.  Instead of feeding on the flesh of their victims like Peterfreund's tale, this unicorn feeds on their life force.  As every addict, our hooved protagonist begins ingesting more life juice and even goes so far as to kill.  Disgusted with himself, the unicorn travels the world far and wide to find a virgin to which he can confess his sins and seek comfort.  This was my favorite unicorn story followed very closely by the baby killer unicorns.  Score 3 for the Unicorns!

That puts Team Unicorn at 3.  Let's see how the zombies did!

Team Zombie is led by Justine Larbalestier, members include: Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Maureen Johnson, Carrie Ryan, and Scott Westerfeld.  Reviews shuffle on:

First off is Alaya Dawn Johnson's "Love Will Tear Us Apart".  A love story unwinds between a human boy and a partially zombified boy-zombie.  Certain phrases like those comparing the humans smell to mac and cheese made me chuckle.  Despite the obvious opposition to their pairing, the couple runs off to start a new life together.  Score 1 for Team Zombie!

Second in line is "Bougainvillea" from Carrie Ryan.  This story was fantastic.  It jumped back and forth from pre-zombie reminiscing to zombie breach attack of the main character's fortress.  At the end the story comes full circle and ties up very nicely.  Beware, fast moving zombies star in this tale.  Overall this wins as my favorite of the undead stories.  Score 2 my undead friends!

Maureen Johnson's "The Children of the Revolution" is genius.  Very tongue-in-cheek, this tale had me rolling constantly with peals of laughter.  Johnson unveils a new religion where becoming zombie is considered reaching enlightenment.  Stabs at celebrity life and their enthusiastic adoption of foreign children and fad religions prevail.  I am sure many of you will be able to guess exactly who Johnson is poking fun at.  Wonderful story, a very close second favorite of mine.  Score 3 zombies!

Next up is "Inoculata" by Scott Westerfeld.  This tale involves a small compound of adults and teens/kids training intensely for the imminent demise of their fencing and face to face death match with the flesh eating undead.  One character harbors a "mutant" strain of the zombie disease and proceeds to share it with her comrades in an attempt to escape and survive the onslaught.  This story was entertaining.

Cassandra Clare offers "Cold Hands" to this collection for team zombie.  The detailed world building that Clare is known for in her Mortal Instruments series is alive and well even in a short story.  I love her ability to perfectly set a scene.  Characters are accessible and the action plugs along at a steady pace.  The message at the end is intense and powerful.  Zombies are a definite representation of society and social standing within this tale.  Well worth it.  Score 4 for Team Zombie!

This collection of stories ends with Libba Bray's "Prom Night".  All the adults have been infected and removed from the town.  Teens and children have been forced to grow up fast and take over the governing of their society in hopes of survival.  This installment was not one of my favorites, but the ending is gut wrenching and a perfect final scene for the anthology as a whole.

So the tally is in and the winner is....Team Zombie!  When I picked up this collection, I already figured zombies would win out; however, the unicorns did give a great fight.  This is well worth the read!

Rating: 4/5



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