Review: Sick / Author: Tom Leveen / Publisher: Amulet / Release Date: October 1st
A bunch of swaggering, cocky American teens find themselves trapped in the drama department of their High School when a nasty viral outbreak turns friends and colleagues into ferocious, calcium-hungry zombie-monsters whose flesh is turning into crystal even as spinal corruption causes them to double up and run about like carnivorous killer monkeys. Young Brian Murphy, trapped with his terrified chums, determines to rescue his young sister and his estranged girlfriend, lost and separated in the chaos of the outbreak…
It’s interesting to note how teen horror fiction, having taken the bite out of vampires and pretty much tamed werewolves, has turned its attention to zombies to provide some grisly thrills for the youngsters. And whilst this is resolutely ‘young adult’ stuff – the violence is bloody and gory and the kids’ language is ripe – there’s no real attempt to humanise the zombies (beyond the idea that the virus could be curable and the infected returned to normal, generally a forlorn hope) or turn them into pallid, romanticised fantasy figures. Sick’s ‘zombies’ are ruthless and deadly killing machines; they take no prisoners and, in the end, Brian and his gang have little choice but to slice and dice when the chips are down.
Sick is a loud and proud adventure romp. None of its lead characters are especially likeable – their dialogue rarely rises above the level of ‘freaking awesome, dude’, ‘douche bag’ and ‘asshat’ which is initially vaguely irritating – but, by the time the story proper kicks in (and it doesn’t take long), all bets are off. The kids are trapped inside a locked-down high school and the tension becomes palpable as the survivors try to understand what’s going on and how the hell they’re going to get out. Sick has no ambitions other than to tell a rattling, page-turning modern horror story and Leveen’s prose is fast, no-nonsense stuff packed with edge-of-the-seat action and populated by irritating smart-ass American kids. Great literature it ain’t, but then that’s hardly the intention. This is a whip-crack speedy read that you’ll get through in two quick sittings and is actually quite likely to leave you hungry for more – and there’s certainly plenty of potential for a ’what happens next?’ sequel. Guilty pleasure fun.