Forget about pirates and ninjas. Vampires and Werewolves is so 2008. Don’t even talk to me about salty vs sweet or angels and demons.
There is something far more important to debate.
Even more important that Edward/Jacob, Will/Jem, Puck/Ash debates.*
Which is better: the zombie or the unicorn?
This heated debate has raged for centuries** and now, at last, two authors have sought to settle the matter once and for all in Zombies vs. Unicorns (2010).
This anthology was edited by Holly Black (leading Team Unicorn) and Justine Larbalestier (leading Team Zombie). Each team is comprised of six young adult authors including most of the big names you’d expect to have an opinion on the matter.
As editors Black and Larbalestier also include an introduction to each story with a bit about the origins of the mythology and the inspiration or appeal of the story. Then the opposing editor (Larbalestier if it’s a Unicorn story or vice versa) will put in a few ribs about why the story (and the creature in general) is totally lame. The introductions are funny but after going through twelve of them they started to become ever so slightly grating.
The book design also includes a handy icon to identify each story as pro-zombie or pro-unicorn.
I’m not actually much of a short story reader but I picked this collection up because there was a lot of hype and a small chance it would be shortlisted for the Cybils which would mean I had to read it anyway (it wasn’t and actually that decision makes perfect sense–if you were wondering).
As with any collection, some of the stories in Zombies vs. Unicorns were quite good. Garth Nix’s opening story “The Highest Justice” sets up the story nicely with a creepy zombie and a severe unicorn. Stories by Meg Cabot, Diana Peterfreund, Naomi Novik, Cassandra Clare, and Libba Bray were all lots of fun.
Unfortunately this review isn’t about individual stories.*** It’s about the anthology as a whole.
Again this might be because I don’t read a lot of short stories, but a few stories in the whole reading process because a struggle. The fact that I am solidly on Team Unicorn also probably helped. Almost all of the zombie stories felt too long. They were too creepy, too icky and just too much for me in one concentrated book.****
Zombies vs. Unicorns is a breezy book sure to entertain anyone with an interest in zombies or unicorns. Some of it is fun. Some of it is, honestly, kind of gross. Some of the stories were excellent. Some of them were not. At the end of the day Zombies vs. Unicorns had its moments but the stories were too divergent (in terms of quality, style and content) to really feel like a cohesive collection.
*I’m actually the only one on Team Puck but that’s okay.
**Or, you know, since February 2007 when our intrepid editors began discussing the merits of each supernatural creature.
***And even if it was that only amounts to six stories I truly liked. Frankly fifty per cent is a great stat for a book.
****Proof: I had a dream last night that I couldn’t leave my house because the yard was infested with zombies that wanted to eat me. I might never read a zombie story ever again. To be fair Margo Lanagan’s unicorn story was also truly awful in terms of gore. If nothing else I learned that I should probably skip her books since the style of her story just didn’t work for me.
Possible Pairings: I was going to do pairings, honest. But truthfully there are too many to name. If you want something to read after loving this anthology I’d suggest going through and picking up some of the other works by writers whose stories you enjoyed.
Exclusive Bonus Content: The title of this book is never actually written in words. Instead a picture of a shambling zombie and a majestic zombie face off on the cover cut out from a black dust jacket. Underneath the book binding is printed with a painting by Josh Cochran (who also did the hand lettering in the book) that shows zombies and unicorns . . . tearing each other to shreds. The cover is reminiscent of The Garden of Earthly Delights a famous Renaissance era triptych (three-paneled painting) by Hieronymous Bosch. The endpapers feature enlarged drawings of the scenery from the cover in black and white instead of the color paintings on the exterior.