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Zombies vs. Unicorns


Zombies vs. Unicorns

It seemed like a harmless enough question, the sort of debate hatched by a bunch of friends at an all-night diner: Which creature is superior: the zombie or the unicorn? But when young adult author Justine Larbalestier posed the question on her blog a few years ago, she had no idea just how passionately the war of words would be waged in the blogosphere. Larbalestier, an ardent zombie supporter, took issue with the devoted pro-unicorn stance of Spiderwick Chronicles author Holly Black, and the rest is history. Along the way, the two drew many other friends and writers into the fray, not to mention visitors to their blogs. Truly, the question of zombie vs. unicorn has become a debate for the ages.

Now Black and Larbalestier have gathered together a half-dozen friends on each side of the debate, each of whom has written a short story to illustrate the menace, power and/or romantic appeal (really!) of each side. Some revisit worlds they’ve created in their own novels, such as Diana Peterfreund’s creepy story of predatory unicorns and the girls destined to train them (which she has also written about in RAMPANT and ASCENDANT), or Carrie Ryan, who, as in her Forest of Hands and Teeth books, considers a world where the zombie apocalypse is becoming a distant memory for those who survived it.

Other writers might not write about zombies or unicorns in their daily life, but they all rise to the challenge. A unicorn metes out a particular sort of justice in Garth Nix’s contribution, and zombies fall in love in stories by Alaya Dawn Johnson and Cassandra Clare. Meg Cabot pens an ironic tale of a flower-farting unicorn who proves surprisingly adept at revenge. Scott Westerfeld writes about human teens, so bored by life in their zombie fortress that they’ll do anything to escape.

Some stories are truly creepy --- Maureen Johnson’s “The Children of the Revolution” in particular. Others are genuinely funny or surprisingly romantic. Libba Bray’s standout story, “Prom Night,” which wraps up the collection, captures a surprising poignancy amid impending doom. “When I was little and we’d go to the store, my mom would tell me that if we got separated, just wait for her,” one character says. “That she’d always come back for me. Always. Well, guess what? She did --- and it wasn’t because she loved me. It was because she’d become some…animal who would have eaten my brain if I hadn’t wasted her.”

Black’s and Larbalestier’s witty banter introduces each story and continues the lively debate, one that the anthology is likely to fuel even further, as you are asked to choose sides. With stories as strong as these, though, you’ll have a hard time settling on Team Zombie or Team Unicorn. And so the debate rages on, as eternal as zombies and unicorns themselves.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 21, 2010

Zombies vs. Unicorns
Edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

  • Publication Date: April 3, 2012
  • Genres: Anthology, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • ISBN-10: 1416989544
  • ISBN-13: 9781416989547