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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse by Jack Strange

My holiday reading - courtesy of Mr Strange
When I was asked by author Jack Strange to review his novel I was at first a little reluctant to do so due to of my lack of knowledge, and more importantly, lack of love, of his book's subject matter. No, I'm not talking about zombies obviously, as I and the rest of humanity have been overflowing with the escapades of the annoying little undead buggers for the last few years, and quite frankly it's not a public obsession that seems like abating in the near future either. Not that I'm necessarily complaining mind you, as anyone who knows me and my own particular obsession with The Walking Dead for example.

No, the lack of knowledge that I speak of relates to the subject of 'celebrities', 'chefs' and especially 'celebrity chefs'. The thing is that I have to be careful here, because there are some things that will automatically ramp up my 'rant-meter' to the point of ranting on a near-olympic gold medal rant level. I think you may catch what I mean. Believe me, you really don't want to get me started on how much I despise (and frankly don't understand) the contemporary obsession with all things reality TV and celebrity related, ahem, entertainment. I know I may well be in a minority if national obsessions like the Great British bake a cake off thingy are anything to go by. But watching people on a television, whether they be those, ahem, wonderfully warm and non-egotistical chefs, or the, er, equally wonderful members of the public who are on a "magical journey to explore their passion" whilst at the same time supporting their poor blind quadriplegic mother  - well, I would rather be doing something else...... anything else.

See what I mean? Apologies for the mini rant. 

Anyhoo......... I after a little consideration I advised Jack that I would be happy to read his book, in fact it would be a welcome addition to my little break away in the Scottish Highlands just in case it rained which meant I would need some holiday reading. Of course, it did bloody well rain....... a lot. So on the one hand I don't get so see much of this beautiful land during those few days away, though it did mean that I got the chance (being a famously slow reader) to read this book. And boy did I enjoy it.

Firstly, let me throw your way a little ol synopsis.....

"Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse is the story of the dead celebrity chef Floyd Rampant, who rises from his grave aiming to create a zombie army of chefs who will rule the world, using the human species as the main ingredient in their cordon bleu meals."

Jack's habit of stealing peoples books in coffee shops and
writing rude messages in them continues.
As you will see from the brief description, this is a zombie horror novel that comes with a fair dollop of humour. There is a saying that horror (films, tv, books etc) tend to reflect the society of the moment - and if that's not a saying and I've just made it up, well I hereby claim it for my own. In other words, we get the horror output that we deserve. Perhaps this may explain the proliferation of zombie related material over the last few years, in that every Zombie apocalypse written about is simply a metaphor of the gradual disintegration of the social world that we live in. The argument may indeed have some merit, because when one looks at just what is going on around us (not just here in the UK,  but around the world) it's safe to say that things are a little complicated. In fact I think that the psychological and sociological term is that 'we're all fucked'. 

So in order to deal with this impending social apocalypse we currently dress our fears, hates and prejudices up in Zombie lore. This seems to work when done on a dramatic level, but does it work when one infuses the lore with a healthy dose of biting (I'll get my coat) political and social satire as Jack strange does with Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse? Well yes it does, and some.

There may be some out there in the horror loving community who may be disappointed in the lack of genuine in your face descriptive horror in this novel. However there is still enough blood and guts to satisfy many of us and in truth this will certainly appeal both to horror and non-horror fans alike in that it wears it's funny bone well and truly on its sleeve - as it were. This is certainly a comedy horror book for adults rather than a horror comedy, and something I would wager that Jack fully intended.

The creation of Floyd Rampant (who my wife expertly informs me is based upon the notorious celebrity chef Keith Floyd) is quite simply a work of genius. Whilst some of the supporting characters may feel a little 2-dimensional, Rampant is instead a fully blown in-your-face larger than life character complete with laugh out loud dialogue as he begins to force his vociferous appetites (both culinary and sexual) on an unsuspecting public. I kid ye not, there are moments when I read this in the confines of my rain-sodden Highland cottage and the place echoed to the sound of my unrestrained laughter.

I must admit that I never thought I would ever write this next sentence in a blog article, but special mention too should be given to the creation of Henderson, the cat turned into a vicious cat-zombie. I know, I know, the concept sounds ludicrous but believe me it works! The much neglected sub genre of Feline zombies finally gets the poster boy that its been crying out for with the rightfully creative ways in which it despatches it's human victims. Inspired writing.

Jack is a founder member of the
Phil Collins impersonators society.
Yes, there are some areas where the story doesn't quite work; for example the introduction of the Lazarus machine, the equipment responsible for bringing the dead back to life, feels too rushed and would have benefited from a more detailed consideration and back-story. Indeed, some of the descriptive narrative at certain points during the novel is occasionally overly basic and lacking in depth, as is the depiction of a couple of the lesser characters.

However, these are just minor quibbles because there is far more in Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse to praise than to criticise, whether it be the masterful creations of Rampant & Henderson, the wonderfully piercing commentary of societies attitude to celebrity or the extremely funny satire of the political elite and their views of the cultural divide on the north and south of the country. Indeed, the gobsmacking Government response to the zombie epidemic could have come straight out of many a classic British satirical comedy.

All in all I would highly recommended this debut novel from an author who displays a confident line in exquisite satirical humour. There may may be some who are offended by the occasional swear word, sex scene (not that explicit to be honest) and occasional bouts of flesh eating violence. Well don't get me started on the modern habits of those in society just waiting to be offended by anything and everything, because that's a rant for another time.

You can buy Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse RIGHT HERE

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