This review contains SPOILERS for both Zom-B Underground and the previous books. If you would like to read the other reviews you can find them in the Zom-B series tag.
“I can give you two words,” I tell him. “The second is off. Can you guess the first?”
In a way, this book and the first one, while being arguably very different, are both introductions to the series. Zom-B introduces us to our main character B and got the ball rolling when it comes to the zombies (and mutants). If you think of that book more as a preface then Zom-B Underground is really the start to the series. You do need both to fully prepare yourself but the first book is more like the calm before the storm in a lot of ways and Zom-B Underground is the start of the actual storm. The pair of them connect really well and it definitely feels like the pacing and structure is going to be good across the entire series and not just during the individual books.
That being said, Zom-B Underground takes place in one location which is incredibly similar to its predecessor but it still works. Right now, the world doesn’t have to be that big. It’s a long book series and there’s plenty of time to explore. For now it’s easy enough to just sit back and enjoy the slow, albeit interesting, pace the story sets. Throughout Underground, we have plenty of time to get to know the new B as well as how this new way of life works. We’re introduced to a whole new cast of characters as well as seeing some old faces. Already, from seeing them, and based on the big reveal at the end of book one that B is in fact a girl, it’s safe to say that you can’t always make assumptions or trust the details when it comes to the Zom-B series. It’s definitely going to make for an entertaining ride knowing that there are twists and turns around every corner.
Going back to B, there’s definitely a shift in her. You can see that she’s consciously trying to be better than she was in her previous life. The fact that she slips up on occasion – having racist thoughts and saying racist things – goes to show that she’s not done a complete one-eighty. She’s still got a lot to learn and definitely a lot to make up for. The way she sees zombies and how she reacts at the end of the book when she sees what’s happening to Mark prove that she has a heart (metaphorically of course) and she truly is capable of caring. There’s definitely evidence that she’s willing to change and even can which is a good sign. It works that she’s not magically a saint and has to work at earning forgiveness (not that she’ll necessarily get it) and at becoming a better person. At the end of the day, she’s actually trying and we see that in the ways she constantly corrects herself every time she slips back into her old ways.
Speaking of pasts, Billy Burke was the best surprise ever! I vaguely remembered him being in more than just the first book and regardless, it was still really great to see him again. He was definitely one of my favourites in book one and I absolutely adored reading his interactions with B during Zom-B Underground. Even the new characters are pretty great. All of the Zom Heads were completely different and while they didn’t exactly last very long, it felt like we got to know the lot of them pretty well. Mark’s story got me just as much this time as it did the first time. I’m used to characters I love dying in Darren Shan books but boy, it still hurts.
The scientists and the soldiers and whatnot were also interesting additions to the story. My favourite has to be Josh because I mean, come on. He instantly stood out to me and the ending (as well as some moments throughout) showed that he had a bit of heart in him. Like I said, I’m not trusting anything when it comes to this series but I, at the very least, wanted to know more about him and the feeling pretty much goes for Riley as well. Something in general that Zom-B Underground proved is that you don’t need much to find these characters interesting and to instantly want to know more. They don’t even have to be good for you to like them, in fact, they you don’t even have to like them at all to enjoy reading about them. Every single character is so different that it never feels like you’re just reading carbon copies. I mean, the Zom Heads could have very easily been copies of B’s previous friends or the people she tries to survive with at the end of book one (they’re both fairly large groups of people) but they’re not at all.
Now, having re-read the first two books in the Zom-B series, I can safely say that I’m (some what) prepared for the journey ahead. Both books somehow manage to be a cushion that provides comfort as you’re eased into the story while also pulling some pretty dark twists along the way. As someone who loves zombies, this series already feels like a breath of fresh air.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ /5