Sheila: Baby’s First Zombie Apocalypse by Brian Malbon
Bad Day Books, 2014
In a genre that seems like its brain must be, by now, completely dead, Brian Malbon has figured out how to keep it not just alive, but interesting. He presents readers with an understated page-turner, using common zombie tropes to his advantage by making several quirky references to film and other well-known works. The massive quantity of existing zombie literature frees Malbon from having to provide detailed backstory; he simply picks up the common thread and continues to his tale. Zombie fiction lovers looking for a gore-filled tale of monster mayhem will want to look elsewhere; this is a human story.
Set in Toronto, characters enter at a steady pace, weaving in and out of the threads of micro-plots; the apocalypse creates fast friends, and this is what keeps Sheila from being ordinary. The main story is about Wendell, an antihero who, having lost his pregnant wife to zombies, is placed in charge of an infant, Sheila. The baby gives Wendell a reason to live, and the situation provides a great platform for Malbon’s humor and obvious sensitivity. The solution to their isolation is a hook-up with a band of young teens. This gives Wendell a realistic chance to grow, and prove his courage and survival skills, despite constant, palpable self-doubt.
Sheila is a true crossover, (adult/young adult), and it’s an enjoyable break from the gore and other adult-only content of many horror works. Malbon’s style is quick and vibrant, and he has an interesting timing mechanism; there are several suspenseful cliffhangers, and he got me every time. He’s clearly setting up for a series, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next. Recommended for 13 and up
Contains: light profanity
Reviewed by Sheila Shedd