Remember when you were a kid and you used to have all kinds of silly arguments about who would win in a fight? Would Superman win a fight against Green Lantern? Could an alligator eat a bear or would the bear eat the alligator? What would happen if an elephant fought a tiger? I don't know that I ever argued about aliens and zombies, but those arguments are the first thing that I came to mind when I read the title to this book. I was happy too, because we actually do get to see the aliens and zombies duke it out. It was a childhood dream come true. And yes, Zombies Versus Aliens really does deliver. It's a rock-em sock-em gorefest and it doesn't let up.
I'll be honest in stating that the thing that I love about this book will leave some readers cold. ZVA is a book about an alien invasion done right. It is a rollicking good time. Translated into English for the awareness impaired: If you're looking for weepy literary message fic with the proper message and no plot look somewhere else. If you want a story where the good guys are the good guys and they use guns look here. This is a story about people doing their best to survive in a jacked up situation that gets even worse when the aliens show up. They travel around doing everything themselves and improving their situation however they can. These people work hard. They literally go to war.
Chapman very obviously comes from the George RR Martin school of character development. I'd also be willing to bet that he's watched more than one episode of The Living Dead. He has added what I view as a necessary element of pretty much any zombie story: He will let you get close to a character and then kill them. He has no problem doing so. Given the type of story this is, he needs to. I've always been a big fan of that kind of gritty writing. That kind of story development builds suspense. When I'm not sure if the point of view character that I'm currently reading about; is going to be alive on the next page I get into the story more. I can't help turning the page to find out how things turned out and where the author is taking me next. Chapman delivered a story that kept me engaged and wanting more.
The characters in the book are in some ways more accurately portrayed than what I'm used to and that's a good thing. These are not all-knowing supermen. They are living in a zombie apocalypse at the beginning of the book. They fight, they travel and they loot. It makes sense. They don't necessarily know how to do everything right. When they find a horse most of them don't know how to care for it. They're not expert riders their first day. It drives me crazy when you see a city boy (no offense, I am one.) just jump up on horse and start growing things out of nowhere. When they find an alien gun, they can't figure out how to use it because it doesn't work like a gun that humans would build. They eventually do figure out how to drive an alien vehicle but they get spotted because they suck at it. When they try to blow up an electrical tower it doesn't work at first and they have to try again, etc. They know enough to survive but not much more. I enjoyed that.
Chapman's characters are believable in another respect: They react the way that they should. When two sixteen year old boys go off to fight the aliens they're excited. The veteran in the group tries to calm them down. They fall in love with people of inappropriate ages. They bicker among themselves. Things are never perfect.
Chapman has joined a group of zombie writers that I have seen emerge recently and I really like: His zombies are not some mystical, magical creation. They have become zombies through an airborne contagion that damaged their brain. There is no doubt that a headshot would drop one, but headshots are not necessary. Shot to the torso will kill them and a hit on an arm or a leg leaves them wounded. They're also smarter than zombies in many other stories and learn to use weapons and true ambush tactics. This makes them not only more credible opponents in a fight but also more fun to read about. When the zombies go at it with the aliens it makes sense that they could take a few down. Chapman's zombies move quickly and they can -somewhat- think. It takes a bit of getting used to but it adds a dimension to the story that most other zombie stores miss.
The aliens in the book are believable as well. They're not just cardboard cutouts, but "real" people with real motivations who make mistakes. One of their mistakes comes back to bite them in a major way. They have a lot of advantages but they're not unbeatable even if it takes awhile for them to realize it. They do have the advantages of technology and numbers (remember, humanity has been nearly wiped out by a zombie plague) but they pay the price when they screw up. They get cocky. They fail to do the one thing that would have ended the book in the first chapter but they have a good reason for doing so. They really work.
I'll say this about the book as well: It includes a prologue that I enjoyed and that is also relevant to the later story. Chapman names it "Chapter 0" but a prologue is what it clearly is. It is entertaining, relevant and short all things that a prologue should be. I wasn't happy when realized it had a prologue (I'm not generally a fan) but after I read it I realized that it needed to be there.
My one complaint about this book is the ending. I won't spoil it, but suffice it to say that I had seen it before. I knew exactly where too and one of the characters in the book points it out. I was a bit disappointed by that. It was well foreshadowed and it fit with the story but it left me a little empty. Once for that ending was enough. It almost felt like a cop-out. That much being said, it was still a really fun story.
Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Exploding Alien Heads
Aliens versus Zombies
Mark Terrence Chapman (http://MarkTerenceChapman-Author.com)
Empty Sea Intergalactic Enterprises, 2015
Aliens Versus Zombies is available here: