Well, it’s been a while since I read a zombie novel (I think the last one I read was Weston Ochse’s excellent “Empire Of Salt“). And, a week or so before I wrote this review, I was looking for books online and I happened to stumble across the “Zombie Apocalypse!” series.
Although the main series didn’t interest me that much, several of the spin-off novels caught my eye. So, I ended up ordering a second hand copy of Alison Littlewood’s 2015 novel “Zombie Apocalypse! Acapulcalypse Now”.
So, let’s take a look at “Zombie Apocalypse! Acapulcalypse Now”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.
The novel begins in Acapulco, where a new luxury hotel called the Hotel Baktun is getting ready to open. The mysterious multi-millionaire who built the hotel has also paid to have an ancient Mayan pyramid moved to the hotel.
Whilst a waiter called Iktan (who, to his annoyance, is pushed into using a western name by the hotel’s British staff) starts his day, the first guests begin to arrive in preparation for the grand opening ceremony. In addition to ultra-rich celebrities, music promoters etc.. a poorer family has also won a trip to the hotel in a competition too.
Whilst all of this is going on, the hotel’s new head of security – Stacy Keenan – is arrives from London too. She doesn’t think that it will be a particularly eventful job. But, unknown to her, an armed gangster sneaks into the hotel in order to carry out a mission for his boss.
And, of course, it isn’t long before strange things start happening. A cruise ship is quarantined near the hotel, due to a mysterious illness. There are news reports about a plane being shot down, a historical plague pit being discovered back in Britain, America closing it’s borders etc.. It almost sounds like there could be a… zombie apocalypse.. about to happen.
One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it was wonderfully fun to read 🙂 It’s a good, traditional zombie story, with a rather interesting setting. Plus, like a lot of good zombie stories, it has the fast-paced intensity of a thriller novel and the unstintingly gruesome horror of a classic splatterpunk novel 🙂 In other words, this is a zombie novel 🙂
As for the novel’s horror elements, they work really well 🙂 In addition to the numerous grisly scenes of gory horror that you would expect, the novel also includes several other forms of horror too.
These include things like suspenseful horror, claustrophobic horror, character-based horror, body horror, mythological/supernatural horror, social horror, disease horror, bleak horror and psychological horror. Although the novel’s exquisitely grotesque gory horror is the most prominent type of horror here, the other types of horror really help to lend it some extra drama and impact too. This horror is also counterpointed with a few well-chosen moments of comedy too.
The novel’s thriller elements also work really well too. The novel spends the first seventy pages or so slowly building up suspense, which contrasts really well with the unrelenting action and drama of the rest of the book. And, yes, this novel is a fairly well-structured thriller. Not only are the few survivors outnumbered and under-armed, but there are several groups of them and the novel’s third-person narration switches between them in each chapter (in traditional thriller fashion).
This novel strikes a really good balance between these two genres, with both the thriller and horror genres complementing each other really well. Yes, a lot of the novel focuses on the survivors running, fighting and/or making plans but they are also constantly confronted by scenes of horror and are relatively under-armed and vulnerable too. Seriously, unlike some zombie stories, most of the characters don’t have guns – which really helps to add some actual suspense and creativity to the story 🙂
In terms of the characters, they’re reasonably good. Although you shouldn’t expect ultra-deep characterisation, there is more than enough characterisation and character development here to make you care about what happens to the main characters. Plus, even the novel’s more satirical ultra-rich characters will sometimes get a bit of characterisation too. Oh, and there’s a pirate zombie too. Seriously, the novel’s cover art is actually accurate about this 🙂
As for the novel’s settings and atmosphere, they’re really good too. The contrast between the luxury hotel and the poverty surrounding it helps to add to the story’s uneasy atmosphere. Likewise, the shiny new luxury hotel is also contrasted brilliantly with both the old pyramid and the grisly horrors that take place within such pristine settings.
However, one slight flaw is the fact that the novel includes several pages that are filled with greyscale photos. Although some of these are kind of cool (eg: you’ll turn the page and suddenly find a zombie glaring at you etc..), the photos of the resort are kind of annoying – since they will inevitably look at least slightly different to how you pictured the location.
As for the writing, Littlewood’s third-person narration is really well-written and it kind of reads like a more descriptive version of a modern action-thriller novel. It’s a bit like a modern equivalent of the old splatterpunk novels of the 1980s. The narration’s focus on characters and descriptions really helps to add to the horror of the story, whilst the slightly more “matter of fact” narrative tone helps to keep many parts of the story grippingly thrilling and fast-paced.
In terms of length, this novel is a reasonably efficient 309 pages long. This helps to ensure that the story never really feels too bloated or too abrupt. Plus, since it’s reasonably gripping and most of it is fairly fast-paced, the length feels absolutely right. In short, this story is pretty much as long as it needs to be 🙂
All in all, this is a very good zombie novel 🙂 If you want a thrillingly suspenseful, gleefully over-the-top and brilliantly horrific zombie story, then this one is worth checking out. Yes, it isn’t too different to other zombie thriller novels I’ve read (with the exception of the settings, characters etc..) but this is what makes the story so enjoyable to read 🙂 In other words, if you’re a fan of the zombie genre, you’ll have a lot of fun with this novel 🙂
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.