Best. Concept. Ever. Stealing the blurb from the back cover, Zombies vs Unicorns is “a short story feud that pits horned beasts against the shuffling undead.” A great group of authors have contributed stories about unicorns and zombies to this anthology, with the aim of convincing the reader that either stories about zombies or unicorns are better. Editors Larbalestier (Team Zombie) and Black (Team Unicorn) punctuate the collection with commentary about the mythical origins and influences behind each story, while also arguing why their fantastical creature is far more entertaining to read about. The result: a hilarious, whimsical and poignant collection of short fiction.
I won’t describe every story in the book, the other excellent posts linked below have already done this and I’m feeling lazy today. But I think overall I enjoyed the stories about unicorns better than the stories about zombies. So I hereby pronounce myself Team Unicorn. My favourite short story in each category was:
1. TEAM UNICORN: Purity Test by Naomi Novik
I absolutely could not stop laughing when I was reading this one. A practical unicorn defies convention and seeks out a non-virgin, modern girl to aid him in his quest to rescue baby unicorns at risk of being sacrificed.
“”So what do you need a virgin for?”
“Do you see hands at the ends of these?” the unicorn said.
Alison cracked open an eye enough to see that yes, the unicorn was still there, and it was waving a silver hoof in her face. There wasn’t any dirt on the hoof, even though the unicorn was standing in the middle of a torn-up meadow.
“What does being a virgin have to do with opposable thumbs?” she said.
“Nothing! the unicorn said. But will anyone else in the herd listen to me? Of course not! They go off and grab the first thirteen-year-old who coos at them, and then it’s all, “Their purity will lead the way,” blah, blah, blah. Lead the way to a whole bunch of dead baby unicorns maybe. I want a little more competence in my heroine.””
2. TEAM ZOMBIE: Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan
I loved this story about the daughter of a dictator in control of the island Curacao, a settlement closed to the outside world that shoots down refugees in order to remain safe from the zombie infection. Fifteen-year-old Iza struggles with her father’s power over both her and everyone around her, before discovering that she can be a powerful woman in her own right. Iza’s loneliness and isolation dominates the mood of Bougainvillea, giving the piece of short fiction a moving quality.
In short, Zombies vs Unicorns is completely amazing . Thanks to it I now have a whole bunch of new-to-me authors to try out. And I’ve already ordered a copy to give to a friend for Christmas.