September 2011 – The Unnatural Dead – Darren WJ Mills
A Ripping British Zombie Yarn
(Click Book to purchase from Amazon.com)
We all seem to think there are stacks of good British zombie tales out there but I think it is still hard to find a sharp British zombie read. I agree there are more around but not so many that we should highlight when something kick ass comes along.
It's no secret; I love zombie survival fiction so getting a review copy of this book was a priority for me. I read the paper version as I'm an old-fashioned. I manage the www.ministryofzombies website so I see a lot of zombie fiction.
Mills was an unknown author for me & judging from his bio in the book, he has a colourful background from working on a building site to being a fitness trainer. To be honest one of the first things I noticed was that I think he brings this life experience into his characters. Leaving the story aside, the characterisation teems with minute observations which could only have come from experience. This ensures that the book feels more colourful than some greyer zombie novels.
The whole plot revolves around a major zombie outbreak in the UK & how a band of survivors finds each other & then tackles the grim business of surviving. Tom's one of the key characters & you can't help feeling he's semi-autobiographical. He's a likeable chap - I don't want to include any spoilers in this review but there were occasions when Mills really twists the plot on its head. That's one of his strengths - there are a couple of short chapters told from different perspectives which really light up the story - I won't spoil it only to add beware of zombie bricklayers.
The story moves along at a good pace, with comfortable sized chapters as Mills attempts to answer the classic pub discussion - what would you do in a major zombie outbreak? Answer, head to the Lake District etc. Queue mayhem, rival humans, the teeming undead etc. This makes the book feel relevant to UK readers & I'm sure others.
For me, this is riveting tale with some great twists. I love it being based in the UK. I've read a few reviews that people thought it was too short, not a criticism I would level at it - this is a focused punchy tale which is cut of any waffle.
I think Mills is a new writer & the book is an excellent first novel. I would certainly further works from this author.