Book review: Zombies vs Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

A book with the title Zombies vs Unicorns is pretty much guaranteed to be made of awesome, and this is indeed made of awesome: not only because of its subject matter, but also because it’s edited and written by some of the foremost members of the YA mafia.

So the premise is basically that Justine Larbalestier prefers zombies while Holly Black prefers unicorns (Team Zombie FTW, btw), and they’ve each gathered writers to their cause to prove, once and for all, that one supernatural beastie reigns supreme over the other.

I reckon Team Zombie has the edge here: there are some fantastic (in both senses of the word) stories by Cassandra Clare, Scott Westerfeld, Maureen Johnson, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Carrie Ryan and Libba Bray, who writes ‘Prom Night’, perhaps the best entry in the whole book (though it’s a tight race).

That said I have newfound respect for Team Unicorn thanks to the stories of Margo Lanagan, Naomi Novik and Meg Cabot.

Unusually for a short story collection, there aren’t any stinkers in Zombies vs Unicorns – though some entries waver on the lengthy side, the majority of the twisted tales are haunting or funny or both.

Not to be forgotten is the bold, brillmazing cover art by Josh Cochran: it depicts a gory, bloody, deliciously cartoony scene of zombies and unicorns locked in a battle to the death (or the afterdeath, or whatever it’s called when you kill the living dead). It kinda reminds me of a really violent Where’s Wally scene. I’d happily buy a print and put it up on my wall. (It turns out you can buy a print at Cochran’s website. Hmm. So tempting…)

There must be a sequel. Pirates vs Robots, perhaps?


Book review: Liar, Justine Larbalestier

Liar, Justine LarbalestierI just finished reading Justine Larbalestier‘s latest book Liar, and: wow. It was awesome.

The slippery story is narrated by Micah, a 17-year-old New Yorker and high-school student who’s a compulsive liar… or so it would seem. Her boyfriend has been brutally killed, and because you can’t trust anything Micah says it’s tricky to get a clear picture of the incidents that led up to the murder.

The first half of Liar is really compelling, but there’s a huge twist midway through that I did not see coming – one that totally shifts the tone of the whole story. It’s brilliantly done. I’m not going to reveal what it is, because uncovering it yourself will drop your jaw all over the floor. Suffice to say you should avoid all spoilers if you intend to read this book.

There’s tonnes of interesting stuff going on here about identity, sexuality and the nature of truth and lies. I’ve only read one of Justine’s other books (Magic or Madness; I started How to Ditch Your Fairy, but it was a bit young for me), but Liar was just on a whole different level.