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Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Author:  Michael Logan
Series Title:  APOCALYPSE COW    
Plot Type:  Comic-Horror Fantasy 
Ratings:  Violence5; Sensuality3; Humor3 
Publisher and titles:  St. Martin's Griffin 
        Apocalypse Cow (5/2013—U.S. printing)
        World War Moo (6/2015U.S. printing)

     Here's the inventive world-building strategy that forms the basis for this wild and crazy series: Start with the HIV/AIDS and SARS pandemics. Keep the parts that include the sexual transmission of AIDS and the animal-host origin of SARS, but make Patient Zero a cow instead of a human or a bat and place the action in Glasgow, Scotland, instead of Africa or Asia. Now add the bare bones of a men-in-black thriller. What results is a wild splatterific ride, fueled by black humor and driven by ironic twists. As the publishers' blurb warns: "Forget the cud. They want blood."

     In an online interview, Logan is quoted as saying that he relies on gallows humor to balance life's violence. He goes on to explain that his book deals with "the fragility of human society, and how quickly people can retreat from the cooperative systems we have built to the basic instincts of individual survival in the face of a threat. We are essentially the same animals as thousands of years ago and can, once the rules governing civilized society no longer apply, easily revert." Call it a bovine Lord of the Flies response to survival.

     In 2011, Apocalypse Cow won the inaugural Terry Pratchitt Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now first novel award. The author plans a sequel to this novel entitled Cruel Britannia, publication date TBA. (Note: There is a second book, but with a different title. See the publisher's blurb at the end of this post.)

     Just a nit-picking note: Although both the author and the publisher refer to the diseased cows as “zombies,” the animals aren’t truly zombies in the classic sense because they don’t rise from the dead. I will admit, though, that they fit a more informal zombie definition: “totally lacking in independent judgment; automaton.” Whether they're zombies or not, though, these cows moooove us along on an entertaining literary ride.

                       NOVEL 1: Apocalypse Cow                       
     As the story opens, life in Glasgow is sluggishly normal for a group of  eccentric citizens. Geldorf Peters is a horny teenage boy who moons over his sexy, math-teacher neighbor while his vegan/pacifist/hippie/New-Age mother and his perpetually stoned father make his life a nightmare. Geldorf's mother forces him to wear hemp clothing, to which he is scratchingly allergic: "Non-hemp solutions were unacceptable to Fanny Peters, environmental campaigner and humongous pain in the arse. Leather and suede, by-products of the meat industry, were forbidden in the vegan household. Nylon was out because it was part of 'humankind's relentless march away from Mother Nature' and denim was deemed too mainstream." In an amusing, but stomach-turning scene, Geldorf's very first carnivorous act occurs when he catches ashy flakes from the funeral pyres of diseased cows on his tongue and swallows them down, glancing furtively around to be sure that Fanny doesn't catch him in this rebellious anti-vegan act. Meanwhile, the math teacher's boorish, meat-loving husband is glued to TV sports, and her two thuggish teenage twins fight rough sibling battles in their upstairs bedroom when they're not bullying Geldorf. 

     At the Glasgow Tribune, Leslie McBrian is an inept female reporter with a famous, war-correspondent father. She spends her time stumbling through a series of TSTL moments all the while bemoaning the fact that she has yet to write a front-page story, while her rival—an arrogant, misogynistic bully—seems to be on the verge of cracking the story of the century. Meanwhile at the local slaughterhouse (aka abattoir), Terry Borders ruminates about his non-existent love life, believing his problem to be the stench of meaty death that clings to his skin no matter how hard he works to scrub it off.

     The catalyst that sets the story in motion is the fiery destruction of that very slaughterhouse, just after the cattle turn violently against their killers. Oddly, the animals hump their prey before disemboweling them (remember...sexual transmission). Early in the story, we learn that the cause of the cows' violence is a government-developed virus developed by a scientific team that was tasked to come up with a bio-weapon that would kill animals—the food chain—but not humans. Gradually, the virus jumps to other animals, and the infection quickly spreads out across Britain. Chaos reigns as Britain is completely cut off from the rest of the world. Survivors are forcibly evacuated into primitive camps; soldiers with itchy trigger fingers roam the countryside with automatic weapons; and rampaging hordes of animals—from cows to rats—wreak havoc on the population.

     The early chapters provide the back stories of the main and secondary characters and set up the conflict. Midway through the book, most of these characters are thrown together in the Peters' vegan household. Some die, but others try to escape to France with proof that the British government is at the center of the catastrophe. Their escape is complicated by the fact that Mr. Brown, a sociopathic government operative, will do everything in his power to stop them. Here is Terry's description of Mr. Brown: "Behind wire-rimmed glasses, he had the eyes of a man who would strangle his own mother in order to get his hands on the inheritance early. Had Terry met him under different circumstances, he would have assumed he was a banker." (p. 56) Throughout their harrowing adventures, the characters are a source of black humor as they take turns reflecting on their vastly changed lives. 

     Logan does a great job with characterization, stretching stereotypical characters into absurdly eccentric individuals. In an online interview, the author says, "What I enjoyed the most was taking extreme characters with stereotypical traits—the militant vegan versus the staunch meat-eater—and creating ridiculous situations in which they could butt heads and develop as people." Geldorf is the most fully developed, as we first watch him scratching continuously under his hated hemp clothing, choking down his mother's awful vegetable concoctions, and plugging his ears to keep from hearing his parents' constant love-making. Later in the story, though, he views both parents in a new light after a series of heart-breaking experiences. Geldorf is really the heart of the story, demonstrating all of the coming-of-age angst of a typical teenage boy, but with an intelligent, if cynical, voice that centers the story. 

     If you're looking for a different approach to post-apocalyptic zombie fiction (although these are not truly zombies) and if you don't mind losing a few of the good guys on the way to the climax, this book deserves a place on your summer reading shelf. Click HERE to go to the novel's page where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.

     Here's a teaser for the sequel novel: Cruel Britannia. Several months ago, the author held a Facebook contest for people to get their names included in Cruel Britannia. Here, in the author's words, is the list of the winning names, including his who's who list of the characters assigned:
Ruan Peat: One of the four main POV characters, a young female survivor who enjoys shooting sheep and the taste of Pedigree Chum Fish Oil with Chicken. This name just fit the character perfectly, so thanks Ruan!
Scott McDonald, Hannah Campbell, Eva Gilliam, Tom Dixon: Members of the resistance commune practicing combat yoga.
Glen Forbes, Tim Roast: Members of the pretty bloody useless inner council of BRiT (Britons for the Rights of the InfecTed), which is making a hash of ruling the post-infection Britain.
Jack Spencer: A representative of the British government-in-exile, who is involved in long-winded UN discussions on exactly what to do about the UK, particularly which type of large, deadly bomb to drop on it.
Andy, Scholz, Mick Sailor, James Anthony Hilton, Peter Abraham: Mercenaries all. One South African, one Irishman, one posh Englishman who does it for fun, and former SAS guy who needs the money to support his three ex-wives.
     Back in March, Logan wrote on his Facebook page that he was "18,000 words into the first draft of Cruel Britannia and realizing it is going to be significantly sillier than Apocalypse Cow, with a more complicated plot and loads more action." I can't wait! Click HERE to go to the author's Facebook page.

                    NOVEL 2: World War Moo                    
     As it turns out, Logan's second book in this series is not entitled Cruel Britannia after all. It is called World War Moo. Logan did, however, keep his promise to name his characters after the people who won his Facebook contest. This is the final book in the series. Following is the publisher's blurb. 

     It began with a cow that just wouldn't die. Yep. That's right. They're still un-dead, and now the disease has spread to humans. The epidemic that transformed Britain's bovine population into a blood-thirsty, brain-grazing, zombie horde...err...zombie threatening to take over the globe in Michael Logan's World War Moo.

     And there's not much time left to stop it. All of Great Britain is infected and hungry. The rest of the world has a tough choice to make. Should they nuke the Brits right off the map―men, women, children, cows and all―in the biggest genocide in history? Or should they risk global infection in a race against time to find a cure? With hungry zombies attempting to cross borders by plains, trains, boats, and any other form of transport available, it's only a matter of time before the virus gets out. And if it does, there's only one answer. This means war.

Click HERE to go to the novel's page where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.

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