Zombies invade Britain on a boiling hot day, unprecedented in the UK. Carrie desperately makes her way through London to get to her daughter, Craig is trapped on a motorway in Scotland with his parents, and Vincent is trapped in a castle in North Wales, with a bunch of tourists and the girl of his dreams. The novel shows us these three different survivors – and the people they meet – through the first day of the zombie attacks.
I was really excited to read this book. A lot of zombie novels are set in the US, at least the ones I’ve read, Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s always nice to read a book where you have a bit of a more solid idea of the places the book is talking about. Plus, well, I’ve always thought any kind of apocalypse would play differently, depending on what country you’re in. For starters, there’s less guns in the UK. And less open spaces. And just different types of people. All of which should have made this book different and exciting and unique.
Spoiler; it’s not.
Zombie Britannica reads like a typical zombie film. Don’t get me wrong, I love zombie films, but if I’m reading a zombie novel I want something different. I don’t just want gore and horror, I want decent characters and a good story and some depth. Instead, this book focuses on the gore, with the zombies crawling over everything and devouring people. There are parts where it feels like Emson is just going for a shock factor, but it doesn’t work. As for the guns…none of the characters seem to have any problem getting hold of them, no matter where they are.
As for the characters themselves, they’re 2D and flat, and I couldn’t really feel for any of them. Let’s start with the guys. Craig is a kid who has nothing really going for him, steals cars with his mates and makes trouble for his family. And…that’s about it. We don’t really get a stronger glimpse into him, when there is a lot that could be played with here. He’s heading to the airport with his family to go on holiday, and has to go with them because he’s on tag. He acts like he hates his family but when pushed he does show that he cares for them, really. Something everyone has read/seen before. Nothing different there, really. We get a few glimpses into his parents, with a few chapters dedicated just to them, but again they’re flat and even a couple of revelations – revealing that all three main characters are linked – don’t make them anymore interesting. Vincent, trapped in a castle in North Wales, tries to get himself, the girl he fancies – Holly – and the others he’s stuck with out of the castle. But with a few exceptions, we don’t really get a strong idea of what he’s feeling. It’s like he’s just going through the motions of what he should be doing because he’s in this situation, following in the footsteps of every other male character we’ve seen in countless zombie flicks.
As for the women…let me start by saying this. It is 2013. George R. R. Martin has already proved that men can write three-dimensional, complicated, in-depth women who have their own motivations and own lives outside of their husbands, children, etc. That’s what women should be in fiction and in film. In this book, that is not the case. Each woman seems driven only by her family. Carrie is a mother, and pretty much nothing more. Same with Craig’s mum. Holly wants a knight in shining armour, and seems pretty useless when Vincent isn’t there to hold her hand or fight back the zombies. The other women he is with in the castle are shown as weak, as whores, or religious fanatics (or easily succumbing to the religious fanatic in their midst). A girl who Carrie and Sawyer (the man she finds who, surprise surprise, is the only reason she survives as long) save is a messed up kid who tries to do anything to get her ex-boyfriend back. Carrie sleeps with Sawyer and then is full of shame for doing it. It gets really annoying after a while when there’s nothing else to these characters.
Overall, the writing itself isn’t that bad. But there isn’t too much of a plot outside of what we see in every zombie related thing out there, though other zombie books/films/series tend to have more going on, too. The characters really don’t have much to them. Shame, really. Not one I would recommend, as there are much better zombie books to be reading.