(2009) Adam Roberts, Gollancz, £7.99, hrdbk, 153 pp, ISBN 978-0-575-09154-2
Ebenezeer Scrooge is worried. It is not so much about the riches that he has accumulated over the years but the banging downstairs. His front door is being hammered by a throng of relentless zombies…
I have to say that usually I am not a huge fan of the SF comedy parodies that abound and nor have I been overly enthusiastic about A. R. R. R. R.'s other genre comedy books: A. R. R. R. R. being Adam Roberts' pseudonym for when he usually writes comedy books. Rather than comedy parodies, I prefer novelists who have an innate funny bone and who have honed their humorous skills through dedication as opposed to occasionally turning to comedy while mainly engaged with other forms of writing. However in this instance I am delighted to report that for me at least I am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas is actually rather good! What's more this time Adam Roberts is offering us a comedy under his own name: perhaps this is signalling something?
The story, as by now you will no doubt have realised, is a lampoon on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and more specifically it is a science fantasy. Perhaps this is why I like this parody as it is based on a very well known if not loved, and a brilliantly crafted story from a master writer. Also, it takes the modern genre trope, itself now firmly established, of zombies. So this parody has structure and rules. What Adams has done rather well is to marry the two. Yes, zombies apart, he has changed some key elements of the Christmas Carol (cf. Tiny Tim) but this is easily excused as it is done to great effect.
The story progresses with aplomb, and we are presented with some rather neat SFnal scenes. Aside from zombies walking the snow-bound, Dickensian streets at Christmas, the ghost of Christmas Future shows the zombies of London have spread throughout the British Isles and that, despite mainland European coastal defences, complete with zeppelins, the zombies are heading through France. It is all rather steampunk. And, delightfully, along the way we bump into H. G. Wells and his time machine.
I will not spoil matters for you by going into further detail. This story is short and at 153 pages barely more than a novella: this is decidedly a plus point. Simple, but more than fit-for-purpose, line illustrations are provided by Zom Leech. (Possibly this is a pseudonym of Roberts himself(?) and, if so, it is surprising to find an author who can effectively draw as most such attempts I have seen in the past are really poor. cf. the recent example of Twisted Metal.) The book is paperback-sized (hooray) even though it is a hardback (again hooray) at a paperback price (mouth silently opens in amazement). What is more an ingenious use of spot varnish on red thumbprints makes it look as if it has been handled by a bloodied hand.
So, yes, I do recommend this book, but not just that, this particular edition. Now here is some advice. Christmas may well be a long way off, but why not buy two copies of this edition? At this price you really can afford to. One copy you can put aside to give away as a Christmas present: even though paperback-priced giving a hardback will not make you look so cheapskate. This edition will make an excellent present for any genre fan and, being short, it can be read while digesting the turkey. Every zom knows this makes sense…
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