A novel I picked up in (surprise!) Iceland, Zombie Iceland is exactly what it says, no more and no less. It’s the tale of a group of survivors in Iceland after a mysterious gas explosion at a local geothermal powerplant turns the good folk of Reykjavik into Zombies, written by a journalist and comedian called Nanna Arnadottir. The book is billed on its official website as a kind of kooky travel guide, and certainly contains a lot of interesting information (in footnotes) about Iceland, which is cool. In addition to wanting to give foreigners information about her country, Ms. Arnadottir seems to have an excellent nerdish pedigree, according to her website:

The Nannasaurus is a small, bipedal nerdivorous dinosaur of the Theropoda genus native to Reykjavík, Iceland.

The Nannasaurus’ distinctive features include small feet, tiny nose, as well as a decent rack and a sizable brain.

The Nannasaurus’ diet predominantly consists of horror films, fantasy books, kókómjólk and whales tears.

It is widely agreed among respectable scholars that the Nannasaurus’ dream is to own a pet Taun Taun and make goats cheese in her basement.

Also she has a blog, though it doesn’t seem to be much in use.

The basic theme of the book is your standard zombie fare: outbreak happens, people have to survive. The particular points that make it interesting are that a) it is set in Iceland – particularly, in Iceland, so that individual streets and place names are given, and we even encounter a zombie Bjork – b) it sets the zombification in a particularly modern context and c) the lead character is self-consciously Zombie Aware: her childhood was spent playing a kind of zombie preparation LARP with her dad, so their house is basically set up for a zombie plague and she has prepared herself for the inevitable…

Which when you think about it is completely reasonable. There’s no chance of people in the modern world seeing the shambling dead in their street and not understanding the context: as a material threat, the zombie plague is not going to win through unpreparedness. So the lead character, Barbara, has a “bug-out-bag,” a kind of survival backpack; and she and her dad have stocked their basement with food and an old generator, and even considered survival tactics. Unfortunately, they haven’t factored in the behavior of her antisocial sister Loa, or her idiot brother Jonsi.

The book proceeds on this basis, and follows all the usual tropes, except that they happen in Iceland and are interspersed with a range of footnotes describing Icelandic life. There is also a moment of Icelandic cultural insertion, where one of the characters’ deaths is described in a classic Icelandic poetic form. But this book’s biggest contribution to the zombie genre is its incorporation of this self-referentialism into the story. Everyone knows what a zombie is, no one is going to be surprised by zombification, and there is a lot of debate about the particulars of zombie science. This is what I expect would happen. Furthermore, there is a chapter in which the zombie plague is tracked through facebook updates, which is exactly what one expects would happen in a modern plague. Google are no doubt already tracking flu alerts in googleplus, and I bet they’re keeping an eye out for zombie alerts too.

Unfortunately, these good points are somewhat impaired by the fact that the book is terribly written and one of the main characters, Loa, is completely awful. Kind of fun awful, but awful. This makes it kind of hard going at times. It’s a short book, however, and the zombie plague self-referentialism makes it interesting, as does the comedy aspect, so if you’re interested in spending 3000 ISK on a badly written book that has some interesting new ideas to add to the zombie-lite (Zlit?) genre, then I recommend it. Otherwise, you can probably skip it…

Advertisements