Zombie Britannica by Thomas Emson

Britain is suffering the most extreme heat wave it has ever experienced when suddenly the dead dig their way out of earthen and watery graves and swarm across Britain, devouring and dismembering everything living in their path.

Emson is a contemporary British horror writer, born in Wales and currently residing in England. He writes both Welsh and English books, and in 2008 his first English novel was printed.

Zombie Britannica follows half a dozen view points and jumps around Britain and the UK as it follows these groups in their fight for survival.

This is an action book – there is just enough character development to keep you invested and interested. The chapters are short and sharp, and by jumping frequently through the UK we can witness different viewpoints of the same event – a cleverly used device to maintain the momentum of a fast paced story. This pace begins on the first page and runs to the last page – a non-stop action ride filled with gore and viscera.

It is an entertaining book, but does little to add or expand upon the idea of zombies. Though, it should be said, his zombie apocalypse does return to the ‘classic’ film zombies where they rise from the grave. Nothing original, but a nice departure from the post-modern obsession with viral plagues.

The story does start to get tedious in places – there are only so many ways to describe a zombie biting someones throat out before the writer runs out of adjectives and starts repeating himself. Also there are some very clear  Stephen King tropes in this book. Anyone familiar with Stephen King would instantly recognize the character archetypes found in Britannica, which is not a bad thing – as they are used well and help make the story work.

There is also a barrage of pop-cultural references in this book; films, novels and TV shows get quoted in every chapter from various characters. Pop culture rises out of the grave just as readily as the corpses in this novel. In fact, the homage to George Romero films, the recycling of Stephen King characters and fight scenes straight from The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later gives this book the feel of a well-written piece of fan fiction.

Whatever the inspiration and direction taken in this book, it works. It is bloody, violent, funny and entertaining. Zombies are more popular than ever nowadays – in part to our cultural obsession with the apocalypse, but perhaps more so as a satire about capitalism and greed.

Zombies represent the endless appetite for more: more food, more money, more objects; More of everything. They are an allegory for our endless consumption of the world around us and it’s resources. Most importantly, though, zombies are an equalizer. It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are, what your religion is, your ethnicity, sexuality, political opinion: zombies don’t care. They bring everybody down to a level where we are all equals trying to survive.

In this age of extremes of wealth and poverty, every audience can relate to a story that negates these things and makes us truly equal. And these things are present in the book – Emson gives us characters from various walks of life; various sexualities and religions and social standings, and he brings them all down to the basest of levels where we can relate to them.

So perhaps, in that regard, this is one of the more intelligent and better written zombie books out there. It winks to us, the reader, while acknowledging the culture it comes from. It doesn’t try to be different it just grabs a proven successful strategy and holds on tight, taking the reader along with it.

A very enjoyable read and highly recommended to fans of horror, splatter-punk and zombies. And if you don’t enjoy it, it doesn’t matter: zombies don’t care about your opinions, they’ll devour you anyway.

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