by Evelyn Lafont
Hereward L.M. Proops
I bought this book on a whim. Perhaps it was the title? Maybe it was the fact that I'm currently devouring (no pun intended) as much zombie-related fiction as possible in anticipation of the upcoming re-release of the novelisation of George A. Romero's “Dawn of the Dead”. Perhaps it was the fact that this sweet little novella has not yet been shown much love on Amazon's UK website and I had a good feeling when I read its tag line “Not everyone who survives the zombie apocalypse should”.
Sorry... did I call “Are We Still On For Tonight” sweet? That should have read “brutal”.
Evelyn Lafont's little novella is a first for me. I've seen countless novels of the zombie apocalypse before. I've seen zombie survival guides, novels told from the point of view of the zombies, even seen Jane Austen's world overrun by the undead. “Are We Still On For Tonight?” is chick-lit with zombies.
The novella's central character, thirty year old Rachel Finnikin, is one of the least likeable characters I've seen since Tom Cruise's Maverick in “Top Gun”. She's vacuous, utterly self-absorbed and unashamedly materialistic. Her total lack of self-awareness, mean-spirited nature and blinkered world-view also means that she provides the book with an enormously funny narrative voice. When the zombie apocalypse kicks off, triggered by a toxic gas spread by an unnamed foreign power, Rachel is less concerned with the survival of the human race than the possibility that her dream-date with a good-looking doctor is going to be cancelled.
With an utter disregard for anything and anyone who gets in her way, the repellent Rachel embarks on a cross-town journey to the restaurant where she hopes her date is waiting for her. Funnily enough, her determination to bag herself an ideal husband gives her the inner strength and resourcefulness to stay alive in a city overrun by the living dead. She proves surprisingly adept at killing zombies with whatever tools are close to hand, whether they be letter openers, umbrellas or works of modern art. Rachel also discovers that there are advantages to a zombie apocalypse too. There are no queues in the museum and she can go shopping in all the best stores without spending a penny. Indeed, her shopping spree midway through the story is one of its funniest moments as she gushes enthusiastically about her new shoes and clothes without once wondering whether there will be anybody left alive to see them.
Of course, a zombie apocalypse wouldn't be a zombie apocalypse without lashings and lashings of gore and “Are We Still On For Tonight?” has an abundance of the red stuff. Rachel describes the horrific slaughter of her co-workers with a pretty dispassionate tone but she goes totally ballistic when she gets some blood on her high heels. It's the incongruity of Rachel complaining about a broken nail whilst stabbing an ex-colleague through the eye socket with an umbrella that makes this novel so laugh out loud funny.
Any complaints? Well, just one. It's too damn short. At less than 17,000 words, “Are We Still On For Tonight” is more of a novelette than a novella and readers should be aware of this when purchasing from the Kindle store. I could quite happily have read a lot more of Rachel's adventures and whilst the ending made me nearly drop my Kindle because I was laughing so hard, I couldn't help but feel that her character could be taken on a more satisfying character arc in a longer story.
Despite its brevity, “Are We Still On For Tonight” is tremendous fun. Laugh-out-loud funny, shockingly violent and very, very silly. It won't last long, but fans of splatter-horror, zombies and luxurious camel-coloured Donna Karan cashmere leggings are guaranteed to be heartily entertained.
Hereward L.M. Proops