Annalisa's Reviews > Zombies Vs. Unicorns

Zombies Vs. Unicorns by Holly Black
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Dec 10, 2010

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bookshelves: short-stories-poetry-collections, humor, fantasy, book-club, young-adult
Recommended to Annalisa by: YA book club
Read from December 10 to 13, 2010

I'm a sucker for amusing zombie stories. No really, I am. And I grew up on The Last Unicorn, bad singing and all. So when I heard of the concept of this book, what makes better fiction, zombies or unicorns? I had to smile. What a fun idea for a short story anthology.

I cracked the cover thinking "zombies for the win, all the way." I never laugh when I read, crack a smile at most, but not laugh. The introduction alone, a debate between editors Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier about the benefits of zombies and unicorns, had me laughing out loud. Oh the stories that could fill this anthology. So who won my heart? Team zombies or team unicorns? Here's the fickle trail of my loyalty:

1. The Highest Justice by Garth Nix. The most interesting thing about this story was the titillation of a zombie appearance. It was okay, had the flair of a medieval unicorn story but without any of the mystique of the medieval creatures. I think Nix should have stuck to team zombie and left the description of unicorns to someone who wanted to write about them.

2. Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson. The story started out crass with way too many f words. I'm not a fan of crass humor (or the f word), not even a little. The zombie POV with descriptions of his virus as a psychopathic disorder were awesome and the battle of love vs zombie feeding was good too (Twilight-esque without the cheese), but all that crassness made me feel dirty and I never recovered from it. Plus, I'm not a fan of same-sex romances. I know zombies are gross, but they can be funny or scary without the crass factor, right? Maybe I don't want to be on team zombie.

3. Purity Test by Naomi Novik. Score one for humor. Jokes about finding a virgin in NYC, Harry Potter, and how dragons are so much cooler than unicorns, which begs the question: dragons or vampires? Sequel, anyone? Midway through it fizzled and got old, but a team unicorner who has a sense of humor about unicorns, maybe I'm switching teams.

4. Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan. We already know Ryan can write a best seller about the zombie apocalypse. Couldn't she surprise us with a good unicorn story? Or even a different zombie story? Okay the story was interesting and memorable (beside the tense shifts that drove me crazy), but zombie apocalypse, dictatorship keeping the last remaining humans intact, rebellious teenager, haven't we read this before, from her?

5. A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan. The POV shifted in the middle of the story, dropping the only character I connected with. Several vague explanations and descriptions later (not a fan of the writing), we learn that the point of unicorns is not to save the wrongly accused, to heal the princess child, to avenge the robbery of her purity, but beastiality, and a romance that leaves a lot of victims in its wake (including its readers with those graphic images in our head, not only beastiality, but with a child, nice). What ever happened to the magical creatures that were supposed to be the point of this anthology? Are they ever going to make an appearance? Definitely team zombie at this point.

6. The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson. A satire about celebrity-adopted children "cured" from death by a zombie virus. Tom Cruise on his no medication media rant, Angelina Jolie adopting yet another child, celebrities who don't actually raise their children, I'll let you decide what Johnson is mocking. Either way, the satire made me smile. I knew there was a reason I was team zombie.

7. The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund. If I can't get a magical unicorn the way they are depicted in medieval fiction, I'll take a killer, wild-animal version with the vampire unicorn slayer who just can't kill them. Another story that tied into the mythology and storyline of her novel, even more so, but since I haven't read it, I didn't have the same expectation for new creativity I did with Ryan. A strong story and protagonist. I'm not discounting team unicorn just yet.

8. Inoculata by Scott Westerfeld. I was into this story until it just ended, a flat, empty, quitting of words because it'd already gone on too long. Westerfeld tried to make a quick, enlightening statement, or maybe just make me think about zombies a different way, but it didn't work for me. (There's some girl-on-girl action, same girl later going for some girl-on-boy action. It is in vogue these days.) The story was just developing when it ended, leaving me to wonder if maybe there just weren't any more good zombie stories out there. My loyalty is in limbo.

9. Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot. Again with the sense of humor about unicorns. None of team zombie have touched humor (except Johnson with her satire that's not nearly as strong as this story). Cabot says, yeah okay, so unicorns are the obnoxious fairytales of little girls, but if one showed up on your doorstep, would you actually turn it away (or sell it on ebay) or would use that fierce, magical power to intimidate your ex-boyfriend? Oh yeah, and happy endings aren't so bad either. Mock all you want, you know deep down, you'd love a unicorn. Score one for team unicorn.

10. Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare. Not having read the Mortal Instruments series myself, I had heard that Clare's writing was atrocious, but I found her writing in this quite beautiful. Her zombies aren't the brain-sucking types, just undead cursed to return from the grave seeking out the company of their loved ones, making the love story not quite the moral dilemma of Johnson's story, but I still liked it. It's a sweet zombie love story. I'm still open to either team.

11. The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey. I liked the idea of this psychopathic zombie unicorn story more than I liked the all-tell, no-show delivery of it. I find myself wondering if any of the team unicorn writers actually like unicorns.

12. Prom Night by Libba Bray. A story about zombies on prom night? I am so there. Only, that's not what this story was about. Another zombie apocalypse, this one where the adults got infected and only children survived, and as their food and hope runs out, they hold prom. Not a bad story (although Bray once again pushes the "I know what teens are like" display too far), but it wasn't quite the story I'd wanted to read when I know Bray is capable of humor and zombies on prom night lend themselves to it.

There was no zombie/unicorn showdown. None of the unicorns I'd expected showed up and there wasn't enough humor in the zombie stories. Each team had a story that left a bad taste in my mouth, but there were plenty that shined, which is rather difficult with a short-story anthology. So who won? Team zombie or team unicorn. I'd have to say the editors. Their commentary was hands down the best part of the book.
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07/22/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Zombies vs. Unicorns? Sounds like a real winner. Hopefully this isn't a book club pick. Let me know if the book club needs some suggestions. I've always wanted to be in a book club, but other guys just don't seem to be interested in them. And, I'm not about to sit around with a bunch of ladies talking about vampires, zombies, and unicorns.


message 2: by Annalisa (last edited Dec 13, 2010 10:12PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Annalisa It's supposed to be funny. A battle between writers to see what makes better fiction and the editors argue back and forth. You can't publish a book like that without a whole lot of sarcasm.

It actually is a book club pick, but not that book club. We picked some good stuff for next year, but it's all fiction. I'm curious what you'd suggest, probably not anything most of the girls would want to read :). It's hard with guys. Sometime around 13 either guys quit reading or transition to adult sic-fi and/or non-fiction.

Annie and I have actually talked about you. We need to find some guys around here who read, or at least some more people serious about actual discussions and serious books. Most of our time at book club is spent catching up and talking about everything but books. Sometimes we hold good discussions, but the books don't always lend themselves to in-depth discussions. Our best one was for Life of Pi, which if you haven't read I'd recommend.


Annalisa It made me sad too, even though I didn't think I'd like any of the unicorn stories because of it. Maybe I did a little, just a little magic, a little majesty would have given their team a nice balance.


message 4: by Cami (new) - added it

Cami But have you read The Last Unicorn?


message 5: by Cami (new) - added it

Cami And if you like Zombies so much you really need to read Garth Nix's Abhorsen series.


Annalisa No, I totally should. I hear it's so much better. I've read the first in his series but haven't gotten around to finishing it.


message 7: by Cami (new) - added it

Cami I love the book The Last Unicorn. Well written and fun!


message 8: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel Hunt I <3 "The Last Unicorn" also. (: Being a hard-core fantasy (and some sci-fi) fanatic, my interest is piqued in this collection of zombie/unicorn stories...


message 9: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel Hunt READ "The Last Unicorn?" Hmm, this just got interesting...


Annalisa It's a pretty good anthology, a fun read.
I would love the read The Last Unicorn. Maybe one of these days I'll get to it.


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