Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Dead

Today was one of those muggy days in Hong Kong where the city never really pauses to take breath, the humidity pressing down on you like a wet blanket, similes and metaphors mixing together in a mess of urban rage and mental confusion.

Or perhaps I was just worn out from staying up late reading zombie stories for adolescents to my fiancee.

I'm reading to her from The Dead, Charlie Higson's second for-young-adult post-apocalyptic doomfests. Perhaps I shouldn't admit that: it smacks somewhat of infantilism when there's all those Booker prizewinners up on the shelf, waiting to be read. But then I've never felt the need to be ashamed about my reading. Apart from when somebody found my cache of Lovecraftian Mythos comic books, I suppose.

It's not a stunning work of literature, although to be fair it has no pretensions to being that. There aren't any stunningly rococo linguistic oddities; the closest it gets to a stylistic tic is using "was" when "were" would be better, but we can defend that as Higson writing in the vernacular of teenage boys. Although these are public schoolboys, so I would expect them to know better.

Then again, it's a public school in Kent. Standards aren't so high in the Garden of England.

It's a zombie story, so people keep getting killed and/or eaten. This makes for a doleful existence for most characters, although Higson is brave/vindictive enough to keep killing them off, so you don't have any feeling of security for the (apparent) protagonist's future.

It's also a zombie story set in Kent and south London, my (un)happy hunting grounds, so I punctuate reading out this story to point out to my fiancee that Ashford is a shithole/Maidstone is a shithole/south London is basically a shithole, possibly enhanced by the onset of zombification.

And there's a whole is it/isn't it subplot about the mystery meat in a cooler box, potential cannibalism and a French teacher with a plank nailed to his head. What's not to like?

Here's the thing: my fiancee has an aversion to zombies that borders on an allergy. She couldn't face 28 Weeks Later, she's never seen the Resident Evil films or the Dawn of the Dead remake. As for Walking Dead, forget it. Now, you might suggest that's a good thing for her (she's not had to watch the even-numbered Resident Evil films, which are all shit, or 28 Days Later, which I thought was horribly pretentious) but it has been something of a gulf between us in cultural appreciation. Yet she's quite happy to listen to me reading out the story of children vs zombies in south London, even if it does make her squeak in fright. Thank you Mr Higson.

Next I'll read Full Whack to her, and see what she makes of that.


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