Zombies vs. Unicorns

[openbook booknumber=”9781416989530″][rating:4/5]

Which is better, the zombie or the unicorn?

Justine Larbalestier says that zombies are our own walking deaths. Funny, grim, and terrifying, they cannot be escaped. Unicorns are sparkly and pastel and fart rainbows.

Holly Black says that unicorns are healers, arbiters of justice, and, occasionally, majestic man-killers. Zombies drool and shed and probably carry diseases.

Some of today’s finest writers have chosen their side, creating dazzling stories about both creatures. So read on, and decide for yourself:

Are you Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

Just for the record I am Team Unicorn all the way. I have loved unicorns since I was very small. I had stuffed animal unicorns, my little pony action figures that were unicorns, even unicorn wallpaper on the walls of my bedroom (oh yes, there were rainbows too, why do you ask?). I was a huge fantasy fan even then. Zombies have been a much more recent addition to my life and while I do find them frightening intriguing frightening, but in an intriguing way, I don’t normally get much enjoyment out of reading about them.

With this attitude I cracked open Zombies vs. Unicorns, a short story anthology edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black. The purpose of this book is to have a show down between short stories about zombies and short stories about unicorns to see which one would come out on top. Some of the best YA fantasy authors contributed to this collection and it shows. Even the stories that weren’t as powerful as some of the others still had a shine to them that I appreciated and I didn’t feel that there was a dull one in the bunch.

Holly: Seriously, you don’t like unicorns? What kind person doesn’t like unicorns?

       Justine: What kind of a person doesn’t like zombies? What have zombies ever done to you?
       Holly: Zombies shamble. I disapprove of shambling. And they have bits that fall off. You never see a unicorn behaving that way.
       Justine: I shamble. Bits fall off me all the time: hair, skin cells. Are you saying you disapprove of me?

There was a short introduction talking about zombies and unicorns and their relative merits and then each of the twelve short stories contained a short preface by the editors arguing for or against their specific champion as regards to the story presented. For the most part this was written humorously and sometimes with amazing insight into the story itself. On an occasion or two it skittered dangerously close to being degrading to the story or author and not just to the zombie or unicorn the author was supporting. Perhaps I was misreading intent though because the bickering did get a bit tiring by the 11th and 12th round as they started to run out of things to argue about.

While all of the stories were very well written and each brought up great points in their own way my two favorites were “The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn” by Diana Peterfruend the author of Rampant and “Bougainvillea” by Carrie Ryan the author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth. So, basically I liked a unicorn and a zombie story respectively each expanding on the respective worlds the authors had built in their novels with these short stories.

The unicorn stories both poked fun at their own ranks with tongue firmly in cheek or used the unicorn in increasingly creative way to examine different aspects of humanity. In “The Highest Justice” a princess uses her purity to bring a unicorn to her aide and see justice be done. I wanted this one to be a full blown novella because I wanted to read more after it came to a close. I thought that both “Purity Test”, a story about a unicorn that is willing to be lenient on the concept of virginity if it means he gets a competent heroine, and “Princess Prettypants”, a story about a girl that wants a car for her birthday but instead gets a unicorn, were laugh out loud funny and I enjoyed them very much. “A Thousand Flowers” ended up being more sad and introspective than I expected, as a unicorn leads a man to find a princess bloody and half naked in the woods. Finally, I think “The Third Virgin” is a must read as it shows the addiction to, and pitfalls of, seeking attention and pity when you deserve neither.

The zombie stories, interestingly enough, spent more of their time not being traditional zombie stories than otherwise. Most of them actually turned out to be a zombie romance! In “Love Will Tear Us Apart” a zombie struggles with his condition and with his feelings for another boy at the same time. In “The Children of the Revolution” the generation that comes after the zombie apocalypse decides to rebel in the way each new generation does best, by becoming that which their parents hate. In “Inoculata” we examine crazy celebrities, their fascination with staying forever young, and their strangely sinister and secretive religions. “Cold Hands” is another zombie love story with the living and the dead risking everything for love. Finally, “Prom Night” was the first truly sinister zombie story in the bunch and will leave you chilled to the bone.

If you are a fan of either zombies or unicorns (or even both!) I think you will really enjoy this book, bickering and all. For fans of Rampant or The Forest of Hands and Teeth this is a must read for the new back story and world building that those authors add in their short stories in this collection.

One Response to Zombies vs. Unicorns

  1. Teresa Thomas Bohannon
    8:24 am on December 10th, 2010

    Although my level 80 warrior mage on WOW is a female zombie named Deathsong, I have to admit to being firmly in the Unicorn camp. But, either way this sounds like a wonderful collection of stories that I will certainly enjoy reading.

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