5 Zombie Books Set In The UK That Bring The Undead Frighteningly Close To Home
If I challenged you to name a zombie novel, what would you go for? Max Brooks' World War Z, perhaps. Colson Whitehead's Zone One. Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, or Stephen King's Cell. The common thread? They're all American. The same goes for zombies on screen: whilst the UK can proudly lay claim to Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later, it's Dawn of the Dead, or I Am Legend, or The Walking Dead that spring to mind first. Which might lead you to believe that there's an absence of British zombie fiction — but these five zombie books set in the UK will prove you wrong.
Recent British authors have taken classic zombie tropes and twisted them into something original. M.R. Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts centres around a child zombies with a genius IQ, for instance, while Charlie Higson's young adult novel The Enemy depicts a Lord of the Flies-esque, child-run society — except all the adults are zombies. More interested in the cultural background of the zombie? Look to Roger Luckhurst's thorough research in Zombies: A Cultural History. Just one warning: after reading these books, you'll no longer be able to reassure yourself, post-nightmare, that the zombie apocalypse will remain on the other side of the Atlantic.
1. The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey (2014)
After the worldwide spread of a malignant fungus, England is almost completely overrun by zombies, or "hungries." But some retain human intelligence — like Melanie, a 10-year-old child genius. At the military base where Melanie and other child hungries are held, some, including teacher Helen Justineau, feel compassion for the children; others, however, seek to brutally experiment on them in order to find a cure for the fungus. Carey also wrote the screenplay for the 2016 film adaptation, starring Sennia Nanua as Melanie and Gemma Arterton as Helen Justineau.
2. Pride And Prejudice And Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (2009)
If there's one book you've heard of on this list, it's surely Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which spawned a 2016 movie adaptation, a clothing collection, and a whole host of classic novel-modern horror mash-ups. Grahame-Smith takes Austen's original text, Bennets and Darcys and all, and injects a zombie apocalypse plotline. Honestly? Just go with it.
3. 28 Days Later: The Aftermath by Steve Niles (2007)
So you've seen Danny Boyle's apocalyptic 28 Days Later, and hungrily devoured its sequel, 28 Weeks Later. But what happened in between? Steve Niles' graphic novel comprises four short stories, each filling a gap left by the movies. Want to know exactly where the Rage virus was developed? How it made its way to London? How the virus was contained? Look to Niles' deft, visceral interpretation (which you might have to obtain second-hand).
4. The Enemy by Charlie Higson (2009)
Don't assume that The Enemy's young adult categorisation means it's short on scares. Higson told the Guardian that he intended his zombie series to be as frightening as possible, saying that "kids should have nightmares, they should be scared of things." And The Enemy will certainly provide nightmares: it's set in a post-apocalyptic London, where everyone above the age of 14 has become a zombie, and the remaining children must scavenge, fight, and kill to survive. Adult readers looking for a gentler — but not too gentle — take on the zombie phenomenon might find it in Higson's novel, the first in a seven-part series.
5. Zombies: A Cultural History by Roger Luckhurst (2015)
I'm cheating a little with this one: it's neither fiction, nor primarily set in the UK. But it was written by British professor Roger Luckhurst, who teaches at Birkbeck, University of London, and so I maintain its inclusion is valid. Luckhurst traces the history of the zombie in media, from racist, colonialist American interpretations of Haitian folklore, to the zombie cinema of the 21st century. "It's hard to imagine a significantly better book on the zombie phenomenon," the London Review of Books says.