Standort: / Meldung: "Zombie Iceland: High Literature, It's Not."

Johnny Bliss

Disorderly artist, journalist, and late night moderator, with a fetish for microphone-based hooliganism.

31. 10. 2011 - 10:36

Zombie Iceland: High Literature, It's Not.

But it is a good tourism brochure.

"The smell of the brine as it flushed onto the black Icelandic sand was unmistakable, the smell used to be clean enough to punch you in the face. Now a smell of rot and decay polluted the crisp air. The sky was so vast over the horizon it threatened to swallow up the earth, just like the zombies up ahead threatened to swallow her intestines. Barbara scowled."

Zombie Iceland

Zombie Iceland

Iceland does quite possibly the most intelligent and sophisticated marketing of any small island in the Atlantic, in the entire world.

From the Iceland Wants to be Your Friend campaign, to the personal invitation to come and eat pancakes with their President, they have found a niche in extreme quirkiness and made an inspired run with it.

This is the essential problem with Zombie Iceland.

As a tourist, when I saw the book cover, I knew immediately that I was not leaving Eymundsson's (the local corporate book chain) without making at least one purchase. Written by an Icelander (Nanna Árnadóttir), the book is nevertheless existing only in the English language. This should have been a red flag for me, but I'm a sucker for zombies.

If you've never been to Iceland, it's perhaps a not-altogether-bad introduction to the country. For one thing, the book comes with a playlist of local alternative Icelandic bands, including Gus Gus, FM Belfast, Reykjavik!, Retro Stefson, and many others. You go to a website- which unfortunately requires registration for extended access- and you can listen to mostly decent Icelandic music for well over an hour. Some of the songs are appropriate for a Zombie Apocalypse. Others, well, not so much.

Unfortunately, Ms. Árnadóttir doesn't stop with the island's fantastic alternative music scene. As you get into the book, you realize pretty quickly that nearly every other page comes with liner notes which would not seem out of place in a tourism brochure. Here are a few examples:

"Reykjavik airport is a small airport in the centre of Reykjavik. It primarily handles domestic air travel though also serves flights to Greenland and the Faeroe (sic) Islands. [...] You can book tickets to most domestic Icelandic destinations year round and Greenland and the Faroe Islands during selected months of the year."

"EVE Online is player driven persistent world massively multi-player online role-playing game by Icelandic game developer and publisher CCP Games. [...] Players pilot space ships that are customisable through a universe compromising of over 7,500 star systems [...]. It is cool."

"In 2006 the English paper The Guardian voted this hot dog stand to be amongst the top five European food stalls."

And so on. Nothing gets you out of the "undead horror" mood like getting whacked over the head by blatant advertising every other page.

Next problem: the book is not very well-written. For one thing, very little happens in the book. The characters are very seldom in any actual danger from zombies, and when they are, it seems tacked on almost as an after-thought. The first zombie death seems so contrived, you could almost picture the author saying to herself, "why don't we put a zombie here in this room?". Never mind that the characters have been in this room for long enough and would have certainly noticed a zombie standing there. Never mind that the zombie would have certainly made some sort of move for their brains earlier (during a less convenient scene), and never mind that the entire backstory justifying a zombie being there at all is utterly contrived - it's time for a character to die, so boom! Instant zombie.

Unfortunately, nearly every zombie action scene suffers from the same problem: you can't see the zombies, or feel them getting closer, they're just sort of there whenever it's convenient. With each death you get the sense the author's just like, "OK, let's kill this person now".

Hugleikur Dagsson

Hugleikur Dagsson

Hugleikar Dagsson, the book's comic illustrator

Also the characters lack any sort of character arc, or in fact any sort of character. For example, an American tourist named Victor, he's just sort of there, pencilled in and that's it. You have no sense or idea about who he is or what motivates him, and when he dies an absurd, half-hearted death, you feel no regret.

Characters you spend the entire book with fare little better; no one seems to develop or learn anything, and when the book ends, it just ends; there is no proper climax, nothing. It's just over.

This is not to say the book is without its qualities. Some of the playlist choices are quite inspired, and there are ideas that could have been totally awesome, if only they'd been developed. For example there are lesbian heroines- one of whom is diabetic and needs insulin. If the idea hadn't just been tossed out and thrown away, the protagonist character would have had a dangerous mission and we would have had a reason to care.

Björk appears briefly as a zombie. This is good fun. Meanwhile, the appearance of a mob of school children-turned zombies is sufficiently chilling. On the other hand, the relentless toilet humour and blood-and-guts jokes keeps one from ever starting to care... and there was really no need to make one of the main characters as annoying as Jar Jar Binks.

Here's hoping Z-Day doesn't take place in Iceland. 2/10.