Summary: Joss’ life sucks. She’s in the middle of university exams and up to her neck in student loans. When she’s attacked by zombies, her roommates have the nerve to think she’s making it up. But when the zombies turn out to be terrifyingly real, only Joss knows how to survive the undead invasion: by following the Rules of Zombie Movies.
Zombies Calling, by Faith Erin Hicks 7.0
After reading the enjoyable ‘Friends With Boys‘ and the delightful ‘The Adventures of Superhero Girl‘, I just had to check out Faith Erin Hicks’ further output. Her first book, it turns out, is a short zombie satire called ‘Zombies Calling’ – a title inspired by the main character’s Anglophilia.
It tells the story of Joss, Sonnet and Robyn, three friends at London University in Ontario (Hicks is Canadian and frequently makes Canadian references in her books, God bless her), who find themselves trapped in their dorm room when zombies inexplicably overrun the campus.
The book satirizes the zombie film genre, poking fun at the tropes, or so-called “rules”, in a meta fashion: Joss, who is a huge zombie movie aficionado, briefs her two friends on all the things that they need to do and/or expect to happen if they want to survive this ghastly episode.
Some of these rules include the survivors suddenly running into bad@$$ zombie killers with mad skills they never knew they had, mysteriously finding weapons that shouldn’t be there, …etc. Amusingly, many of these are merely Joss’ theory and don’t eventually apply in ‘Zombies Calling’.
But that was also problematic for me because, although the book claims a deep knowledge of zombie mythology, it shows us early on that students are turning into zombies for no apparent reason. Like magic. Hordes of them also disappear into thin air as though they never existed.
That was weird to me, and it left me incredulous.
But I enjoyed the book nonetheless, and some of my questions were answered later on. Meanwhile, I was captivated by some of the exchanges between the friends, notably between Joss and Sonnet, as they discuss their fears – their current predicament vs their uncertain future.
And that resonated with me a fair bit. I liked that Hicks eventually made a statement about higher education transforming people into zombies, a sort of parallel to ‘Shaun of the Dead‘s statement on the soul-sucking quality of daily 9 to 5 routines; it wasn’t deep, but it was smart.
I just wish that the book had more of this type of reflection in it. Unfortunately, most of it revolves around action pieces with the zombies. And, really, watching a trio of young adults fight interchangeable zombies isn’t particularly riveting stuff. There are tons of other books like that.
But kudos for the meta aspect of the book, and kudos for bringing a certain amount of depth to the table. ‘Zombies Calling’ makes for a good first effort by Hicks. She would eventually outdo herself, grow as a writer and artist, and, seriously, I can’t wait to see what else she will do next.
She’s one to watch.