Justin's Reviews > Zombies Vs. Unicorns

Zombies Vs. Unicorns by Holly Black
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May 25, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: dystopian, fairy-tales, fantasy, funny, horror, lgbt, paranormal-romance, shelf-of-fame, short-stories, science-fiction, zombies, unicorns
Read from May 25 to June 07, 2011

Zombies or unicorns: which is superior?!

It’s the…

…the eternal question… ?

The title and premise of the collection was enough to attract my interest. Of course, zombies are better. I mean, seriously, unicorns? Does that even need to be explained? I had to get more on the particulars of that debate. Also, I was goaded into action after reading about somebody somewhere that tried to get this book off of a library shelf, because it allegedly features a gay zombie and unicorn bestiality. Awesome, right? Turns out, there is indeed a gay zombie (who stars in one of the best stories in the collection), and unicorn-boning is marginally more creepy than zombie-boning, which if not technically present is at least heavily implied. With that established, I can wholeheartedly vouch for this entire collection. Even the unicorn-boning.

The collection is edited by two YA authors, Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier. The stories are introduced with their respective commentaries on the debate, with Black establishing herself as a unicorn enthusiast contrasted to Larbalestier’s steadfast support for the undead. Each has enlisted a team of like-minded YA authors to support their cause, which include rock stars like Garth Nix, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, and Libba Bray, among others. Each team’s stories are then presented in alternating order, with little icons at the top to denote their respective content/allegiances. Furthermore, the editors preface each story with a mix of folkloric background and hilarious snarking at each other.

So, obviously, zombies win, but the unicorn stories are fantastic. Between zombies being the paranormal flavor of the week and the existence of an exhaustive back-catalog of zombie fare, the edgy takes on unicorns were fresh and interesting by comparison. In fact, my favorite story in the collection was Kathleen Duey’s tale of an amoral beast searching for release from its instincts.

Generally speaking, though, the zombie stories are just as original and interesting. Libba Bray’s entry, the final story in the collection, is fantastic enough to demand its own full-length novel. And while I may have my issues with Carrie Ryan’s sulky, mascara-running zombie poutfests, she’s in fantastic form here. Maybe it has something to do with time of exposure, for me; what came off as unnecessary angst in her otherwise great novels seemed to enhance the grim, bittersweet mood in her short story.

The collection has the same peaks and valleys in consistency that all short-story compilations have to deal with, but while there were one or two stories here that didn’t really do anything for me, there’s nothing that I would categorize as weak or not pulling its weight, even when comparing to the ones I liked. Both teams perform admirably, and are likely to make unexpected fans of readers that venture in with their preconceived notions firmly entrenched. Furthermore, this is definitely a book that is meant for older teens, as it deals with some pretty mature themes. By extension, it’s a perfect choice for adult readers who enjoy plot-centric teen lit, if the cast of contributing authors isn’t enough to convince you.

It must be said that, as a thirty-year-old man, carrying around a book called Zombies vs. Unicorns isn’t something I’d normally be proud of, and the instinct to proclaim its virtues would usually be curbed in place of quietly admitting it as a guilty pleasure. Further, it must be said that this isn’t anything that’s going to blow a reader’s mind. But this collection is too much fun. I couldn’t even bring myself to search for nits to pick like I usually do, because I was too busy enjoying tales about killer unicorns and the zombie apocalypse. I guess I could complain about this weird obsession that paranormal and urban fantasy authors have with interspecies romance, but honestly, that’s barely even surprising at this point. This collection is obviously not for readers who take themselves or their books too seriously, but I’d recommend it to anybody who likes zombies, teen lit, fantasy, or just has a taste for something offbeat. It’s hilarious and genuinely creepy by turns, and it's crewed by a seriously talented group of authors.
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