Justin's Reviews > Monster Island

Monster Island by David Wellington
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's review
Aug 04, 2009

really liked it
Read in August, 2009

I didn't think much more could be done within the zombie holocaust genre, but David Wellington breathes new life into it with this rip-roaring, tightly written horror novel.

I actually read this out loud to my girlfriend over a succession of evenings, and we both got completely sucked in to Wellington's story of a boat-load of teenage Somalian girl-soldiers, led by a reluctant American, on a quest to post-holocaust New York to fetch AIDS medication for their African queen. That rather unusual plot synopsis alone sort of hints at the scope of Wellington's imagination. Now throw hordes of bad-ass zombies into the mix and you have what can only be considered a classic of this genre.

Wellington's prose is taut and suspenseful, his dialogue... functional (this IS a zombie novel after all; we'll forgive the occasional cheesy conversational passages), but what truly astonished me was simply his creativity. He has so many great ideas in this book, so many surprises, and they just keep coming, just keep rolling in around the corner... and just when you think there's nothing else the guy could possibly do with this material, another shocker comes down the pike.

My favorite creative flourish was Wellington's human character, Gary, who figures out how to turn himself into a zombie without killing his brain. Thus, he becomes a clumsy, flesh-craving monster with a rational mind. Wellington's depiction of what it must feel like to be a zombie while maintaining control of all your mental faculties feels somehow spot-on, even though I can't speak from personal experience. With Gary, Wellington has all kinds of fun, as it turns out any zombie who can actually think has enormous power over the other zombies, and thus Gary gradually morphs into a kind of zombified warlord intent on the destruction of all the remaining humans. That this all-powerful monarch happens to be called "Gary" demonstrates that Wellington also has a sense of humor, and flexes it often.

There's still some summer left, and Zombie Nation is a fantastic beach read. Fast-paced and somehow literary at the same time—as in, it feels smarter and wryer and more self-aware than your usual pulp novel. I like zombies, but my girlfriend could care less about them, and yet she loved this book too. Highly recommended for pretty much everyone who isn't, well, a living corpse.

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