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Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: Blood of the Zombies by Ian Livingstone

Phillip Hynes

You may already be aware of the Fighting Fantasy “choose your own adventure” series of  books, they’ve been releasing books for over thirty years now and I can honestly say I’ve been a fan of the series for all of that time.

To date they’ve predominately been set in a medieval fantasy world, however Ian Jackson has decided to take the format in a new direction and has published Blood of the Zombies through Wizard Books. Set in a contemporary world, you the reader find yourself imprisoned in Goraya Castle by the megalomaniac Gingrich Yurr. Initially you must escape your bonds and the castle dungeon, the story then develops at a fast pace as you explore the Zombie infested corridors and uncover Yurr’s evil intentions and ultimately seek to stop his plans. Essentially a roleplaying game in book format, it does capture the imagination and I found myself deliberating over which way to go and what to open or not, with some unexpected surprises along the way. The combat system is simple and quick, although you can just ignore the combat by always taking the “if you win the combat” selection. The artwork throughout the book is excellent and It helps to bring Castle Goraya and her minions to life, if your familiar with the fighting fantasy books you’ll feel right at home with the familiar style of the artwork.
The story is captivating enough to entertain and keeps the reader wanting more; however it is a game rather than a novel and might disappoint the mature reader, who wants a story with complex character relationships and emotion.  I’d also say it is aimed at teenagers and young adults, but I’m in my forties and enjoyed the book, just read it with the expectation that you would when playing a computer game. I’d recommend it as a stocking filler Christmas present for any Zombie fan and will certainly keep them happy for many hours.

In short Blood of the Zombies is a welcome addition to the Zombie world and I do recommend it to fans of the undead….just remember to keep count of the zombies you kill, you’ll need to know at the end of the book.

I also had the opportunity to ask the legendary Ian Livingstone some questions, and just in case you didn’t know he is also one of the original creators of the Games Workshop franchise, as well as a celebrated author.

ZT: The previous Fighting Fantasy books are predominately set in a fantasy world and have a varied assortment of monsters and villains to choose from, did setting a book in a modern day zombie apocalypse present any problems when it comes to variety of encounters?

Livingstone:No, not at all. It was intentional to make most of the adversaries zombies in Blood of the Zombies. Hundreds of them! Hopefully that’s part of the appeal.

ZT: Have you always been a zombie fan and what influences - either from film or books inspired Blood of the Zombies?

Livingstone: Everybody loves zombies, me included! And like a lot of people in my industry, I was inspired by zombie films, books and video games.

ZT: Can we expect further Zombie themed Fighting Fantasy books?

Livingstone:There is always that possibility if Fighting Fantasy fans ask for it. I really enjoyed writing Blood of the Zombies.

ZT: Have you considered your own personal zombie outbreak survival plan and do elements of this plan make it into Blood of the Zombies?

Livingstone:I’m training to run as fast as Usain Bolt whilst carrying a Browning machine gun!

ZT: Deathtrap Dungeon was made into a video game, can we expect to see any further collaborations with between Fighting Fantasy and the video games industry?

Livingstone: I would be delighted if Blood of the Zombies was made into a beautifully animated video game for consoles. In the short term people will be able to play Blood of the Zombies on their iPhone, iPad or Android device when the smart phone version comes out late September from Tin Man Games. But cheating will be challenging!

ZT: I've been a huge fan of Fighting Fantasy books since reading The Warlock of Firetop Mountain around thirty years ago and I've recently introduced my Son to the books. Was the move away from the fantasy based adventures to Horror / zombies inspired by the current fashion for zombies or do you have a personal interest in the subject?

Livingstone: I’ve always wanted to write a Fighting Fantasy book with zombies as the main adversaries. Most of my books were set in a medieval fantasy world and when I started writing Blood of the Zombies I set it in the world of Allansia as usual. But having worked in video games for the past twenty years, it seemed only right to set it in modern times. But I couldn’t bring myself to go the whole way, so I set the adventure inside a medieval castle but gave the reader access to essential zombie-stoppers such as shotguns, grenades and machine guns.

A big, festering Thank You to Ian Livingstone and Icon books for this great opportunity. Pick up your own copy of Blood of the Zombies in the UK at your favorite retailer, or for those of us on this side of the pond, there's always Amazon.

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