April 27, 2014
Review: Alice in Zombieland
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I would really like to recommend this book, but unfortunately I can't.
There are many good things about it. The world-building is fantastic (with one glaring exception). The plot hums right along. The writing is very poignant in spots. The supporting characters (in particular, Ali's best friend, Kat) are well-drawn.
And then you look at the main characters, and in particular the ill-advised romance, and the entire house of cards comes tumbling down.
First, the good. This is a zombie story, but it's unique. The "zombies" are more of a combination of zombie, vampire and ghost...they're spirit zombies, not physical ones. This means that their "slayers" also have to be spirits, or rather people who can slip out of their bodies and fight the zombies in spirit form. Alice Bell is one of these people. After a brutal first chapter in which her entire family is killed, she gradually discovers who she is, and how to fight the monsters that slaughtered her family.
All well and good. Unfortunately, Alice, or Ali as she wants to be called, is not, shall we say, the most compelling of protagonists. To put it bluntly, the story would be far better served if it retained the dark, grim tone of the first chapter, and if Ali was instead a bitter, cynical, badass heroine out for revenge. Not that she doesn't want to kill zombies, but good heavens, she's unrealistically chirpy. She wants to go back to school. She wants to make friends. She wants to get along with her grandparents. She wants a boyfriend. All of which does not fit AT ALL with the trauma she has been through.
And as far as that boyfriend, Cole, the person who realizes she is a slayer, introduces her to the truth, and begins her training...argh. I could have done without the romance altogether. I'm sorry, after the murder of my family I wouldn't be thinking about dating ANYBODY. Also, since a great deal of the time Cole is nothing more than an overbearing, sexist prick, after Ali learned enough hand-to-hand combat and weapons training he would have been shown where to get off, if I had been writing this story.
Also, there is a fascinating philosophical tenet to this whole thing the author completely overlooks. It is established that zombies are spirits, that certain humans (slayers) have spirits, or souls, and in fact Ali sees the ghost of her little sister, Emma, after Emma's death. She even speaks to Emma. And Emma talks about heaven as a real thing, and her mother as being there. All of which proves (that is, if the entire book and series isn't some massive Alice Bell hallucination) that God REALLY EXISTS.
Talk about a bombshell. This should have been dealt with, in my opinion. So Ali believes in God? If so, why wasn't she RAGING at Him for letting the zombies exist and allowing her family to die? Again, if I had been the author, I would have been heartily tempted to let Ali commit suicide, just for the express purpose of her going to heaven and ripping God a new asshole.
But instead, we have Ali meekly submitting to her new life, and ending with Cole by her side, full of determination to hunt zombies.
Gah. I'm sorry, this was not well thought out at all. The world is a fascinating idea...the execution of it is not.
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