Review: Zombies vs. Unicorns

Review: Zombies vs. UnicornsZombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black, Justine Larbalestier
Published by Margaret K. McElderry on September 21, 2010
Genres: Anthologies, Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Short Stories
Pages: 418
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

It's a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths--for good and evil--of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

Today, I’m going to do something a bit different. Having finished this short story collection, I am going to give the stories awards to convey the best and the worst.

Funniest Story: “The Highest Justice” by Garth Nix- I have not been a Garth Nix fan, much to my own disappointment, but I though he did a great job with this story. It’s absurd, but in a way that I found entirely comical. Nix does not take the whole thing too seriously and keeps up the comedy throughout. Win. Also the only story to feature both zombies and unicorns, although it is ranked with Team Unicorn. Honorable mentions: “Princess Prettypants” by Meg Cabot, which started off a bit lamely, but got to be laugh-out-load funny at parts; “The Purity Test” by Naomi Novik- a unicorn who gives up on finding a virgin in NYC enlists a hungover girl on a park bench, which is funny all on its own.

Most Terrifying: Tie between “A Thousand Flowers” by Margo Lanagan and “The Children of the Revolution” by Maureen Johnson- Which is worse: bestiality or zombie children? Lanagan’s unicorn story is absolutely disgusting; she tries to sell some sort of warped interspecies romance, but I’m not buying. Blech. After reading that one, you will want to cleanse your brain with soap. Through some folly or evil prank on the part of the editors, “The Children of the Revolution” is the next story in the collection. This one is more out and out horrifying, mostly because I am a bit terrified of kids to begin with. Also, I am now haunted by Sponge Bob.

Most Romantic: “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Alaya Dawn Johnson- Philip’s a zombie, but, brain-eating aside, he’s a pretty good one. None of the rotting and he has great taste in music (like the Arctic Monkeys). Just as he is arranging his next meal of mac n’ cheese (i.e. human), his prey starts getting more and more appetizing, only not in an entirely food-like manor. Can Philip hold back his zombie urges enough to make it work with Jack? Also, I have to mention, major props to this collection for representing gays and lesbians, who feature in Scott Westerfeld’s story; I love seeing young adult fiction become more open-minded. Honorable mention: “Cold Hands” by Cassandra Clare- another zombie story, but I suppose the category above proved why the unicorn tales don’t feature much romance.

Why Come Up with a New Idea When You Can Recycle?: “Bougainvillea” by Carrie Ryan- Really, Carrie Ryan? You can’t right anything not set in your world that bears an uncanny resemblance to The Village? Not to mention that many of the themes of the stories are in every single one. God forbid a heroine find any amount of happiness or ever seem like a real person. Although not part of this category per se, I also must comment on the fact that her choice to alternate between past and present did not tell the story very effectively. Honorable mention: “The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn” by Diana Peterfreund- a good story and definitely not the same as the Astrid books. Still, it might have been nice to see Peterfreund do something different with the unicorns.

Weirdest: “Love Will Tear Us Apart”- Although, as I mentioned above, this story has some good points, it’s also one of the most oddly constructed pieces of fiction I have ever read. It jumps around in time and is told largely in second person. Honorable mention: “Prom Night” by Libba Bray- the story didn’t feel complete to me at all, so it just left me confused and unsatisfied.

Most Depressing: “The Third Virgin” by Kathleen Duey- A unicorn bothered by its past wanders around trying to commit suicide makes friends with a suicidal virgin. A regular barrel of laughs.

The Story I Most Wish Were a Book: “Inoculata” by Scott Westerfeld- Although rather reminiscent of the recent film Zombieland and with a common theme to The Dead-Tossed Waves, Westerfeld has done some interesting things here. The story felt a bit like a teaser; when it was over, there was a lot more I wanted to know.

Team Unicorn or Team Zombie? While I like both, on the basis of the stories here, I declare myself a member of Team Unicorn. Partly because the unicorn stories were better overall, since a couple of the zombie stories really failed to impress me, but also because I got sick of Justine Larabalestier’s (leader of Team Zombie) snide comments at the beginning of every story.

5 responses to “Review: Zombies vs. Unicorns”

  1. This also had been on my wishlist since..well, I dunno. Your review only makes me want to read it more!

  2. Emma B. says:

    This is my favorite short story anthology ever! I read every one twice, except the bestiality one which I didn’t read.

  3. Gea Bridged says:

    this is one of my wishlist last year.. to read a comical book/novel like this.hmmmm..i just love fairy tale stories of unicorns!

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