November 12, 2015
(+++) MORE (HO HUM) MAYHEM
The Zombie Chasers #6: Zombies of the Caribbean. By John Kloepfer. Illustrated by David DeGrand. Harper. $6.99.
The Zombie Chasers #7: World Zombination. By John Kloepfer. Illustrated by David DeGrand. Harper. $16.99.
As long as zombies remain popular – they are currently the go-to supernatural monsters, having displaced those so over that vampires – there will be authors available to, ahem, feed them. Or rather, to feed the young readers who, err, devour them. That is, devour stories about them. Well, The Zombie Chasers certainly fits in there somewhere. John Kloepfer and David DeGrand appear to be having a simply wonderful time with this extended series, in which getting unzombified is as much a plot point as getting zombified in the first place (which is, umm, kind of weird, since to get zombified you are supposed to have to be, like, dead, but in these books you just have to be reversibly infected, which makes as much sense as anything else here). This is as good a point as any to recap the story so far, since the sixth book, Zombies of the Caribbean, is now available in paperback after originally being published last year. In the sixth entry, the anti-zombie brigade has grown to include six kids – Zack, Rice, Zoe, Madison, Ozzie and Olivia – who head for the private Caribbean island fortress of a zombie expert who may be the only one who can help them. Unfortunately, other “only one who can help us” types have all proved less than effective, but maybe this time...but no such luck. In Zombies of the Caribbean, the kids do indeed locate an explorer named Nigel Black, who is as knowledgeable as they had hoped. But it turns out that he lost a leg in a zombie attack and therefore cannot help them on their latest quest, which involves hunting for a gigantic “rare breed of giant frilled tiger shark” that preys on a certain jellyfish that is needed for a new and improved zombie antidote. The kids are careful to bring Nigel up to date when they meet him, with Rice explaining, “I was a zombie for a while, too, because Madison mistakenly lost her vegan antidote powers to a piece of pepperoni pizza. But then I ate the Band-Aid in Central Park and was unzombified. Man, being a zombie was cool.” And now that that clears everything up, readers of the sixth book will find that the kids are, as usual, on their own in their latest adventure, facing down zombie vacationers, zombie spring breakers, zombie pirates (hey, it’s the Caribbean), and the usual cast of ridiculousness, at the end of which they (of course) do capture the elusive tiger shark and it turns out that (of course) that is not enough, so they have to go on an even longer voyage – to Madagascar – to find the really-truly-no-kidding last piece of the puzzle to get rid of the zombies once and for all. Maybe.
And that brings us to the all-new seventh book, World Zombination. Hmm, the whole world is a sort of “zombie nation” here, isn’t it? But that is not the point of the title, which is about world domination by zombies, hence “zombination.” Anyway, this is clearly a bad thing, which is why the intrepid kids are trying to prevent it. And they do prevent it, apparently once and for all, because World Zombination is – wait for it – the final book in The Zombie Chasers series. What happens here is neatly summed up at the end by Zack himself – and there are no spoilers in this, because what happens in these books has never been as important as how it happens. So, here is the story of the sixth and seventh books. These novels tell “how they had met Nigel Black and tracked down the giant frilled tiger shark. How they had flown to Madagascar and then to China in search of the mayfly larvae and the ancient ginkgo tree root to complete the super zombie antidote. How they had ambushed the super zombies in Florida with their antidote-filled Super Soakers and water balloons…and then how they had traveled back to BurgerDog headquarters…and remade the popcorn antidote that had reversed the first outbreak. …And how they had spent weeks unzombifying the undead masses across the globe.” Victory!! Well, really, what did readers expect? But, again, the fact of the eventual triumph matters less than the way it happens, and in this finale as in the other books, Kloepfer makes sure that a lot happens, while DeGrand makes sure to show as much of it as possible in as gross a way as will be acceptable to preteen readers. Among the highlights of the series finale are zombie lemurs, which are not nearly as cute as unzombified ones, and zombie mummies, which give Kloepfer the chance to create a new word: zummies. (“Zummies are yummy” is not, however, a statement here.) Another important element of the series’ conclusion, also carried through from the earlier books, is that the kids have no distinguishing personality traits whatsoever, because the point of this series is that the preteen group as a whole is heroic, and friendship is what matters when fighting zombies or doing, well, pretty much anything. And so all returns to normal and World Zombination does not, after all, occur, but enough things do occur in the book so that readers who have followed the series from the start will be happily sated as they consume the end.