Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Zombies vs. Unicorns (Round Three)


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ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS ROUND THREE!
Story Reviews for Lanagan and Johnson
from Zombies Vs. Unicorns Anthology 

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A Thousand Flowers
by Margo Lanagan  


When we think of unicorns, this stereotyped image of a beautiful white horse galloping around with a virgin maiden on his back will pop in our heads, an atmosphere of magic and mystery lingering around it.  Margo Lanagan snatched this picture of fluff from my mind and twisted it in the most sickening way possible, then served it to me on a silver tray that was her story, “A Thousand Flowers”. 

In my honest opinion, this is one of the most stomach-turning tales compiled in the Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology—and that’s saying something, because I don’t easily get squeamish no matter how gory or brutal a piece of literature (or even a movie) is. This one breaks the record for me; it’s so haunting and disturbing. So you ask, “Aren’t we talking about Team Unicorns? I thought Team Zombies have all those disgusting stuff.”  Seriously, if you ask me what’s more likely to make me puke—an undead gnawing on gray matter or bestiality—I’d certainly choose the latter.

The story revolves around a princess who’s found naked in a forest—presumed to be defiled—and a man named Manny who’s accused of a crime he doesn’t commit, which, as you may have guessed, is raping the princess. Throw in pregnancy and a unicorn in there, and let your imagination do the rest. :P I commend Lanagan for weaving a strong story that plays around the “virginity” concept about the mythological creature in question. Her gritty style is completely new to me, and I have to say I’ve never felt uncomfortable reading something like this before. Every image etches itself on my head, and that’s bad for my part, because I wanted to forget it right after I finish it. I think I’ll give it a thumb up for that—for the ‘ick!’ factor—but I have to admit that I’m not sure I like this. *shrugs*

One of my only rants here is how Lanagan readily dropped Manny’s POV after the reader has grown accustomed to him, and then shifted to someone else’s perspective just because someone has to attest what happened to the princess and the unicorn. For more than half of the story I thought it’s all about Manny; I was ready to commend her for developing his character. Really, there are problems about writing in first person point of view if that character dies. :P 
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The Children of the Revolution
by Maureen Johnson 


Reading Maureen Johnson is a magic in itself—how can you feel very comfortable laughing out loud and still feel creeped out at the same time? While not exactly original, Johnson’s contribution “The Children of the Revolution” is perhaps one of my favorite zombie tales in this anthology, because she has obviously reduced me into this little walking (or reading) dichotomy.

The story follows Sofie, an American college freshman who goes with her boyfriend to get a scholarship(?) or some sort of a study program abroad, only to realize later that it means student labor in an English farm. When she sees the chance to escape from this “slavery”, she snatches it no matter what the consequences may be. She gets to babysit a rather strange set of kids adopted by a popular Hollywood actress, and only realizes that she had just made her situation worse when it is too late…

I really enjoyed this story. For one, it reminded me of one of the local horror flicks that I used to love back when I was still a wee thing—if my memory serves me right, it also has an oblivious heroine who applies for a babysitter job, and the toddler turns out to be some kind of a monster (a tiyanak). :P Yes, that’s the one with the dense protagonist who will be prodded by her motherly instincts from time to time so she will go “awww” over the monster babies and then get herself into trouble. “The Children of the Revolution” has the same premise, but what made it really likable is all the sarcasm and satire that Johnson crammed in it. Toying with the bizarre religion of the Hollywood actress is my favorite; the insanity of Lazarology proved to be a very effective plot device for a zombie story (and it makes fun of several religious fads in real life, if you think about it). Reading Johnson’s descriptions of the kids sent shivers down my spine. There’s something very scary…and yet so cute about them, and after I felt that I went “I hate you Johnson, why do you make me feel like your thickhead character!”

This is a very entertaining read, and Johnson ended it perfectly with her quirky humor.
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MY VERDICT FOR THIS ROUND:
Team Unicorns- 0
Team Zombies- 1

Total as of Round Three:
Team Unicorns- 0
Team Zombies- 3

(Round One is HERE)
(Round Two is HERE)

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