Monday, 5 April 2010

'48 by James Herbert (A Zombie Book Review)

James Herbert is one of my fave horror authors.  I got into him after picking up The Fog which I mistook to be the inspiration for John Carpenter's classic film.  The Fog was actually a zombie tale about a poisonous fog that turns anyone who comes into contact with it into a homicidal maniac.  '48 is another zombie tale with a difference, as the title suggests the book takes place in 1948.

The book follows an alternate history.  At the end of the 2nd World War Hitler knowing he was defeated launched some special V-2 rockets at Britain.  The V-2 rockets were filled with chemicals which unleashed a virus known as the Blood Death.  The Blood Death spread over the entire Country (and it is implied the World) infecting virtually every single living human.  Of these infected nearly all died agonising deathes straight away as the blood in thier bodies forced its way out of thier bodies.  The remaining infected live a half life, thier skin rotting, thier motor functions slowed down as thier blood coagulates in thier bodies. People with AB Negative blood types were unaffected by the disease.  Hoke, a American pilot is one such person.  For 3 years he has survived in dead London, constantly being hunted by a group of infected facist blackshirts who believe his blood holds the key to thier survival.

The book starts off exciting, and never really lets off.  Hoke is in one of his hideouts (revealed at chapters end to be Buckingham Palace) trying to escape as heavily armed blackshirts attempt to capture him.  His survival is attributed to the fact that the blackshirts want him alive, so he knows he can take risks, plus the blackshirts are slow, meaning for instance they take ages to be able to reload thier weapons, and the blackshirts are also quite cautious as any wound they get simply would not heal due to the Blood Death they are infected with.  Hoke is accompanied by his dog Cagney (it seems animals were not affected) and sees himself safest being alone.  In the 3 years since the event he has not seen any uninfected, and has gone slightly crazy.

Midway through the first quarter of the book Hoke is discovered by other uninfected; 2 women, and a German who Hoke takes an immediate hatred to.  He is unable to forget the war, and sees all Germans as Nazi's and evil, this is one of the characters flaws.  The women however see any uninfected as friendly, and stick up for the German (Stern).

There is lots of descriptions of the dead in London.  As nearly all were infected the bodies all lay were they died.  The underground, and Hospitals for instance are packed with dead.  Lots of time is spent describing the dead; men, women, and children.  Dead are everywhere, in cars, in beds, sitting at tables.  The animal survivors are described as parasites.  Ravens, Rats, and Dogs all shown as rabid monsters, feasting on the flesh of the dead, and even attacking the living.  Hokes disgust of these parasites is often described.

There is not much downtime during the book.  The few scenes were action is not happening are purposly shown to be temporary, Hoke ever on edge waiting for the next attacks from the Blackshirts who always seem to know where he is.  There is character development, the German, the two women Cissie, and Muriel, as well as the Air Raid Warden Potter all provide background for themselfs, showing who they were before the choas, and how they have survived for so long in the dead world.  The Blackshirts are led by a man called Hubble.  Hubble and Hoke are deadly adversaries, having seen each other many times during the fighting. The Blackshirts while English are all fascists, who believe in the Nazi ideology.  Hubble really believes he is special, and that he can recreate the world in his image, and that the blood death was a test for him.  The infected having no hope flocked to him.

The book has betrayals, deaths, sex, and violence as well as the overall theme of what it is to be human, and coping with loss and tragerdy and rising above it to be a better person.  I'm no good at book reviews, but still, I enjoyed this book!

No comments: