by Walter Greatshell
Reviewed by Steve, added on Jan 1 2005
January. A virus dubbed Agent X has spread to every city on Earth. Only afflicting women at first, its turns them into savage, blue skin ghouls. Not seeking to feed on the few survivors, instead the zombies wish only to "convert" them. Only a few pockets of humanity are left. Governments have fallen. Economies have collapsed. What little is left of civilization clings together. And through it all Lulu and her mother travel from one secluded spot to another. Totally unaware of what has happened to the world.
First things first, these are not you're normal run of the mill zombies. These are the new 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead (2004) zombies. Fast and ferocious. This is also not the usual "zombie bite human, human become zombie" deal either. EVERYONE on Earth is already infected with the virus. It just takes death or the "embrace" of a xombie to trigger the transformation. As said above, the virus initially only affects adolescent women (for reason I won't go into right now. You'll have to read the book.) Lulu however, who is seventeen, is spared by a rare medical condition. She meets a group of boys working on an escape plan. Of course all of the boys hate and fear her because they have all seen their mothers, sisters, and aunts degenerate into xombies. Its rightly described by another author as "28 Days Later meets Lord of the Flies".
The xombies in the books are also a lot more intelligent than usual zombies. They are often portrayed hunting in packs and splitting up to cover escape routes for their prey. Some even have the capacity for speech and emotion. Xombies may recognize their prey as a friend or a family member. Someone they once loved. Of course that doesn't matter since when the book takes you inside the mind of a xombie, you learn that the xombies themselves see their transformation as a favor. A favor they intend to pass on to others willing or not. At one point the "xombie mentality" is almost described as religious. The xombies are also a bit more alive than most others. Very much so in fact. The virus doesn't kill you so much as bring every cell of your body alive with independent thought much like the monster in The Thing, as illustrated by a scene in the book where Lulu stumbles upon a barrel filled with entrails and assorted xombie parts. The parts begin to twitch violently towards her as if reacting to her presence.
All in all this was a great book. I'd much rather see this made into a movie instead of a fourth (fifth?) Return of the Living Dead. This book has it all, action, excitement, a subtle love story, a bit of comedy, and even a really cool part where the story is told from the point of view of a xombie for a few chapters. The book is even left open for a sequel. I'll keep my fingers crossed.