Undead has a girl named Bobby (or Roberta) Brook on a lame road trip out in Scotland, where she was from and just came back to after living in the United States and mixing up her accent, and in Scotland is the Cheery Chomper Café. It’s also pretty cold out. But she decides to just stay on the bus. And it was right to. A popular lip-gloss type of girl named Alice runs up to the bus saying everyone in the café has perished…and come back alive. Zombies, anyone? And these zombies may be stupid and walk as fast as Clyde Barrow could if he was still alive with those two toes of his shot clean off, but the zombies are Dwayne-Johnson hefty. And one bite and she’s done. With the help of a few misfit survivors, Bobby and her gang have to escape the rural café stop and find safety.
Think No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale in the zombie genre, and it mixes into Undead, a book that has a simplicity to it that is more welcoming than The 5th Wave, and having an untrustworthy simplicity at that. Let me explain. Typically, we are told rather than shown about how the human population fell apart and now it’s the wasteland that we just might face in the next half century. Well, in Undead we don’t know that for sure. All we know is these four misfits and their wan bus driver who stayed behind for the trip got to prevent being turned into, well, flesh-eating zombies. It even feels like a videogame at times. The setting is this wilderness and bleak café that probably serves week-old burgers and sitting tap water and too-oiled chips which is what they call fries in the UK, and these four have to strategize how to escape. It actually also feels like a rogue scavenger hunt game. And that made it all the more fun.
When I realized the book was going to have lots of jokes in it, I braced myself. I really don’t like it when a character is killed and the characters shy it off on the next page with humour. That doesn’t happen here, thankfully. Mixing jokes with horror is like putting a fish in the same room as a camel. They have nothing in common and there’s no reason for them to be together. But Undead’s kind of humour makes it so in a slow scene, it isn’t really boring and there can be some tension release so we can be reminded that perhaps not all hope is lost and these are kids. And because these are just kids up against these zombies, and they have no weapons that can do an instantkill like a gun, they’re on their own, and for most of the book, I felt like I was on the bus at this café trying to escape too.
Speaking of kids, this cast of characters is excellent. Bobby, Smitty, Pete and Alice are all personified into people and fun to be around. Bobby’s the brave, Smitty’s the jokester yet overly tough guy, Pete’s smart and sometimes overly logical, not to mention white-haired, and Alice is the dramatic and exhausting cheerleader turned great friend.
By the end, it dives into an overly typical story for the next book about some kind of corrupt business and has such a narrow escape from death that it felt a bit cheesy. But the book’s fast pace and delicious characters make Undead a worthy bloody apple for hungry bookworms.