This is the most claustrophobic installment yet of Shan’s undead apocalypse saga. Set entirely in the underground lair of B’s nightmare clown nemesis Mr Dowling, there are no wide open spaces, and no natural light. The stink of excrement and blood is everywhere.
As well as the usual lashings of gore, this book has the general ‘yuck’ factor turned up to maximum. There are images to make you gag. I won’t dwell here on the toilet hygiene habit of Dowling’s mutants. Suffice it to say they don’t use Andrex.
When we last saw B Smith at the denouement of “Zom-B Family,” she was being carried off by the mutant babies to Dowling’s lair, having been rescued from the ‘Board’ and Dan Dan.
In this story, she learns of Dowling’s plans for her, and they are of a disturbing nuptial nature. We learn of the origin of the mutant babies, and some of Dowling’s origins, but there is a lot to sketch in still, as with the Dowling/Owl Man/Oystein triumvirate. There’s a suitably messy and violent final chapter and we can see the general direction the narrative will now take. It’ll be a relief to get out in the open again. That’s the main gripe I have with this book. The atmosphere and general stink is oppressive, like being locked in a fetid public loo. There is the usual wild Shan imagination at play, including some trippy scenes of B and Dowling’s mental bonding, and the story moves at its usual cracking pace. It also develops the arc from book one in a satisfying way, with very early scenes revisited and shed light on. This is not an arc which loses sight of its origins. It also prompts us to explore the motivations of its darkest characters. Do we feel sympathy for the Devil?
This isn’t my favourite book of the series, but it is still a wildly entertaining page turner. But if you are going to jump on to this ride there’s only one place to start, which is book one.