Night of the Living Trekkies (Kevin David Anderson): A Special Halloween Joint Review

CleverHandle’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Penguinhegemony’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
CH: I hate zombies.  HATE them.  With the exception of Shaun of the Dead, I have loathed every piece of zombie-related media I have ever encountered.  If you told me I’d be writing a five-star review of a “zombies at a Star Trek convention” book, I would have laughed (even though I’m a TNG fan).  I read it intending to provide a counterpoint to Penguinhegemony’s review.  And in a way, I was right: I didn’t like this book.  I LOVED it.  Anderson pulls you in right from the start, with likable characters and a humorous style.  The writing is excellent: Anderson does a great job of building tension, and during some of the more dramatic scenes, I could almost hear a soundtrack in my head.  The plot is fast-paced and engaging, the book is a page-turner (I read it in one sitting), and Anderson keeps you intrigued and entertained throughout.  You don’t need to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy this, but there are a lot of clever nods to the series throughout, including chapter titles borrowed from episodes of the show.  This is the best book I’ve read all year, and I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys humor, tension, and good writing — even if you hate zombies.

P: I generally like zombie apocalypse stories, but I wouldn’t consider most of them to be something I would recommend.  I picked up Night of the Living Trekkies (tag line: “They thought space was the final frontier.  They were wrong.”) thinking that it would a fun book to make fun of with a ridiculous, easily dismissible premise: zombies at a Star Trek convention.  As I read it, I had the growing realization that it was, to my horror, actually really good.  It solves most of the issues I have with the genre at large: the plot is fun and unpredictable, the characters are well developed and likeable, and the environment is interesting and believable.  Surprisingly, I have to heartily recommend Night of the Living Trekkies as a well developed, action packed read and not just yet another forgettable zombie thriller.

Greater Detail:
CH: Jim Pike is a bellhop at a Houston hotel which is hosting GulfCon, a local Star Trek convention.  All Jim wants is to slack off, but people keep disappearing, something odd is going on outside the hotel, and… what IS that smell, anyway? To solve this mystery, Jim assembles a crew of interesting, well-developed characters with whom to fight for survival and discover what the heck is actually going on.

P: I thought the combination of a Star Trek convention with a traditional zombie apocalypse story would prove cringe-worthy, but it is done very well and I really liked the fact that, by drawing characters from this eccentric setting, the author is able to assemble a cast of characters that is actually interesting instead of your standard cheerleader, policeman, misunderstood loner, etc.  I was also afraid that the Trekkies would either be portrayed negatively as a stereotype or overly positively as some sort of superior, more sensitive breed of humans, but the treatment overall felt quite fair and realistic, both acknowledging the oddity of the subculture and the fallibility of its adherents.

CH: Anderson does a great job of building tension right from the beginning; you wonder what is going on, even though you already know from the title that the answer is “zombies.”  Anderson is also gifted at sprinkling Chekov’s guns throughout the book in a way that is surprising and clever.  The characters are not stereotypes and are well-developed as individuals with inner emotional lives and motivations as well as enough backstory for us to feel that we know them; their interactions with each other feel very real, and you end up rooting for each of them, not just the group as a whole.

P: As for flaws, the opening character expositions are a little bit weak even though they improve later, and the conclusion is somewhat unsatisfying.  However, these flaws don’t detract much from the overall book, and I still very much recommend it.

CH: Part of what makes this book so wonderful is that it comes off as a loving homage and send-up both of the Star Trek universe and of the zombie genre; that can’t have been easy to pull off.  There are some Star Trek-related nods and jokes, but the book also borrows some of Star Trek’s main themes: individuals working as a team, science as solution (a little deus-ex-machina, perhaps, but science nonetheless), the value of relationships, and the worth of the human race.  The explanation for the cause of the zombies is as realistic as anything can be that ends in reanimated corpses.  This is an enjoyable read on many levels.

Comparisons to Other Authors:
P: If you are a fan of the zombie genre at large, I would recommend World War Z by Max Brooks as a straight treatment of a worldwide zombie epidemic, Ex-Heroes by Peter Cline as a fun combination of of zombie apocalypse plus superhero genres, and Rot & Ruin by Benny Imura as a post-zombie apocalypse coming of age story.

CH: As I said, zombie stories aren’t really my thing, so I’m not going to be a ton of help there.  (I have used this book as a second data point to create a new rule: zombies need to be in a comedy to be good, something like Shaun of the Dead.)  In terms of a similar writing style, I was reminded at times of Douglas Adams or Piers Anthony, though Anderson’s humor is more subtle than either of these.

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