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Worlds Without End Blog

1897: Aliens! Vampires! Zombies! by Sean Michael Welch Posted at 12:37 PM by Beth Besse


1897Is there anything better in this world than good zombie novel. With the dramatization of Max Brook’s amazing novel World War Z, and AMC’s mega hit “The Walking Dead,” itself a dramatization of Robert Kirkman’s amazing graphic novels, zombies have become “hip” again. Many authors have jumped on the band wagon with greater or lesser success. 1897: Aliens! Vampires! Zombies! is author Sean Michael Welch’s contribution to the genre.

The year is 1897 and aliens while observing the Earth, accidentally unleash a zombie plague on the northern hemisphere. Now these are not completely “inhumane” aliens, when they realize their mistake, they do their best to correct their error, this involves the help of revived figures from history and several 1897 contemporaries.

Zombie novels come in three general types. The first, are the true horror stories, these are the run, scream, bleed, run novels examples include “The Dead World” series by Joe McKinney, and of course World War Z by Max Brooks. When they are well written, zombie books of this type are a true horror story. They win awards and are touted as proof that the genre is more than mindless junk for the masses.

The second type is the zombie as the misunderstood monster. This is a relatively new route for this genre. Examples of this are Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion and The Girl with All the Gifts by Mike Carey. Zombies in these novels are blessed (or cursed) with human emotions and motivations.

Mr. Welch’s novel falls firmly in the third category, zombie comedy. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith is a prime example of this type of novel. These novels should be read with tongue firmly placed in cheek, and when well written are probably the most entertaining of the books in the zombie genre.

No one wants to feel like they are being made fun of, especially readers of a genre, such as the zombie genre, who do not get much respect even among other genre readers. Authors who write zombie comedy have to thread a very slim needle, making sure the reader feels they are in on the joke and not part of it. Go too far one way or the other and an author risks alienating their reader. 1897 threads that needle with flair and finesse.

When I first started reading this novel, my mind instantly went to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. This novel contains that kind of humor, smart and funny with just a hint of snark that all really good humor contains. Add in late 19th century manors of speech and dress and you have the making of a funny novel. But like Pratchett and Adams, the humor is dispersed with telling and serious moments.

After finishing this novel I felt my ribs were sore from laughing, but I was also a bit sad. I truly love zombie fiction in all its many forms. Zombie fiction can be a platform to express social issues in a way that can be easily accepted by the masses. I want good zombie fiction, although I have read and enjoyed my share of zombie books of questionable skill. When comedic zombie novels, even good ones like 1897, are released I worry about the genre being taken “seriously.” Let me be completely frank about that last statement. I know the difference between what is fiction and what is true. Climate change is a real concern; zombies are a fun diversion. I just want there to be well written diversions.

As for the story itself, Mr. Welch fills the novel with every science fiction, and fantasy character under the sun. Besides the aliens, vampires, zombies in the title, there are elves, robots, flying horses. About half way through the novel I asked myself well “where are the werewolves,” and the next page had them (sort of). In the hands of a less talented writer, this could have been an overly busy novel, but Mr. Welch was able to give the reader that wink and nod needed. The story ends in a cliff hanger, and this reader for one is looking forward to reading the next installment of the rousing comedic novel. (This book was given to this reviewer by the publisher, Permuted Press, for an honest review.)

3.5 of 5 stars

1 Comment

Glenn   |   07 Dec 2015 @ 21:21

When I read your description of the plot, it just came to me: isn’t that the plot to one of the acknowledged worst movies ever? – Plan 9 From Outer Space. It’s close. I wonder if that’s one of the winks the author is giving us?

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