Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan

June 10, 2012

When scientists with warped imaginations accidentally unleash an experimental bioweapon that transforms Britain’s animals into sneezing, bloodthirsty zombies with a penchant for pre-dinner sex with their victims, three misfits become the unlikely hope for salvation.

Abattoir worker Terry Borders’ love life is crippled by the stench of death that clings to his skin from his days spent slaughtering cows; teenage vegan Geldof ‘Scabby’ Peters alternates between scratching furiously at his rash and baiting his overbearing New Age mother; and inept journalist Lesley McBrien struggles forlornly in the shadow of her famous war correspondent father and the star journalist at the Glasgow Tribune.

When Britain begins a rapid descent into chaos and ministers cynically attempt to blame al-Qaeda, Lesley stumbles upon proof that the government is behind the outbreak. During her bumbling quest to unveil the truth, she crosses paths with Terry and Geldof, and together they set out to escape a quarantined Britain with the evidence and vital data that could unlock a cure for the virus.

Standing in the way are rampaging hordes of animals, a ruthless security agent and an army ready to shoot anybody with a case of the sniffles on the off-chance the virus has mutated.

Three losers. Overwhelming odds. A single outcome: the world is screwed.

There is a theory that postulates that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter for an infinite amount of time will eventually type a given text, the complete works of Shakespeare being the oft used example. I have developed a theory with a similar premise. If an author is going to write a novel that has a cheesy pun in its title and features zombie enhanced wildlife then it is only a matter of time before I’ll read it.

First things first, there is absolutely no getting around the fact that the plot is incredibly silly. That being said, there is a good chance you’ve already figured that out just by reading the title alone. Once you have accepted that, then the good news is that you will be in for a bit of treat.

Blending horror and comedy has always struck me as being an incredibly difficult thing to pull off successfully.  The author takes the sensible option and has all his characters play the whole situation entirely straight.  Though the initial idea of zombie wildlife starts off as an amusing notion, as events unfold the plot gets darker and darker.  Like the bookish equivalent of Shaun of the Dead, things are a great deal of fun right up until the moment where you realise that no one is safe and some of the characters are destined to be dispatched in a variety of gruesome ways.

A personal highlight for me is that the vast majority of the action takes place in and around Glasgow. There is nothing better than reading about the apocalypse when it is taking place in the city you grew up in. Scattered throughout the novel, there are a number of small references that any Glaswegian would easily pick up on, this Glaswegian certainly did.

Apocalypse Cow is a difficult novel to compare to anything else. The best I can come up with is think Night of the Living Dead meets Countryfile and you are about half why there. I have to admit, the novel’s end does leave some tantalising questions left unanswered. Like the best zombie stories, there is always a suggestion that there is more to learn and that if you think things are bad now they can always get infinitely worse. Overall a fun debut and I’ll be looking out for more of Michael Logan’s work in the future.

Apocalypse Cow is published by Doubleday and is available in both paper and ebook formats now.

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