Zombies vs. Unicorns (edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black)

28 06 2012


I have never been a big short story anthology reader. There are many YA short story anthologies, many that are filled with big name authors. I have read some– Geektastic and Love is Hell to name two. But I rarely read these anthologies, and I’ll admit that the only reason I read the above two anthologies was based on other reviews.

But when I heard of the concept of Zonbies vs. Unicorns I was instantly intrigued. The idea was born from an argument on Justine Larbarleister’s blog, where Justine and Holly Black argued about whether zombies or unicorns were better. (Justine is Team Unicorn and Holly is Team Zombie.) The idea turned into a virtual internet meme, spanning other blog posts, more authors getting involved in the debate and choosing sides, and hit sites like Tumblr and YouTube.

Black and Larbaleister were invited to create a short story anthology revolving around the topic of “zombies vs. unicorns” and created “teams” of authors – 6 authors writing for zombies and 6 authors writing for unicorns. These teams include many big name authors such as Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, and Cassandra Clare. The short story collection shows the different stories with an icon – a zombie for the zombie stories and a unicorn for the unicorn stories – and before each story there is hilarious commentary from Black and Larbarleister.

I don’t often read short story collections so I had no idea what to expect when I began reading. Previously the short story collections that I had read had been fairly uneven: there were some great stories, some okay ones, and then some sucky ones. I expected the same with Zombies vs. Unicorns.

However, surprisingly and happily enough, I found the stories in the anthology to be quite top-notch. The stories that I didn’t enjoy as much – though I enjoyed them, I preferred some of the other stories – were still just as excellent. For this review I am going to list some of my favorite stories as well as my not-as-favorite stories (since I can’t particularly call these stories I disliked).

My favorite stories, surprisingly enough, were mainly from Team Zombie. But note that I am not segregating from unicorns: two of my favorites are unicorn stories. My personal favorites were: “The Care and Keeping of Your Killer Baby Unicorn” by Diana Preterfeund; “Princess Prettypants” by Meg Cabot; “Children of the Revolution” by Maureen Johnson; “Love will Tear us Apart” by Alaya Dawn Johnson; and “Prom Night” by Libba Bray.

Despite these stories being about zombies and unicorns, they are all incredibly different. Stories like “Children of the Revolution” and “Prom Night” deal with the after effects of zombies; Meg Cabot and Diana Peterfreund’s stories twist the notions of unicorns; and “Love Will Tear us Apart” deals with the personal story of a boy-turned-zombie.

These stories were all very well written, easy to follow, and pretty fascinating. I also loved how the authors made some very impressive endings; “Children of the Revolution” and “Prom Night” both have pretty gut-wrenching, shocking (but not surprising) endings that are hard to read but plain beautiful. The stories are also very humorous; “The Care and Keeping of Your Baby Killer Unicorn” is hilarious as is “Princess Prettypants” and the stories deal with a lot of very deep, rich themes. The authors are able to cover a lot of ground in short stories, and make some very interesting thoughts and commentary regarding themes of love, loss, hope, and tragedy.

Before I mentioned that there were some stories that I liked but weren’t particular favorites, so I’ll address those now. Cassandra Clare’s “Cold Hands”, Carrie Ryan‘s “Bougainvillea”, and Scott Westerfeld’s “Inoculata” were three of these stories. These stories I enjoyed but found that they had some issues. Clare’s story, for me, went too fast; I wanted to know more about the characters. By contrast Ryan’s story seemed bogged down in exposition; I wanted more plot. And Scott Westerfeld’s story was alright but I wasn’t very interested in it. However, all three of these stories were readable – I didn’t drop or not finish any of the stories in this collection – and despite these quibbles I enjoyed reading them.

The only stories I haven’t mentioned were by Garth Nix, Kathleen Duey, and Margo Lanagan, and these stories were all fascinating, if not my personal favorites.

Bonus points: the book also has a lot of diversity. There are three stories with GLBTQ characters and two stories with characters of color.

I very much enjoyed the stories in this collection and would highly recommend it. If you like short stories, debates, and panorama creatures, read this book. If you like humor and grossness gore, read this book. If you like frivolry and fanciness and no gore, read this book. Really there is something for everyone – everyone – in this short story collection.

And what I think my favorite part about Zombies vs. Unicorns is that in the end, no real victor is decided. The reader is allowed to choose who they think wins – zombies or unicorns, or, as I decided, make the contest a tie.




One response

4 07 2012
Leonard Marks

great post

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