Dear reader, Bailey and Laura absolutely, positively promise to never ever ever subject you to a review of this shocking length ever again. Bailey and Laura felt that the magnitude of this fiction Anthology warranted a longer review, so that each story could be given its due. We solemnly vow never to expect , force, encourage, or bribe you to read a review of this length again. Unless Laura gets her way and writes reviews of double this length every week.
Laura: Should we ask the obvious question? Yeah, I think we should. We kind of have to. So…
Bailey: Which are you…a Zombie or a Unicorn?
Laura: I told you I would reserve comment until you’d finished the book…and now you FINALLY have. Despite my utter and complete respect for Team Zombie, my adoration of Maureen Johnson, my near-obsession with Carrie Ryan’s story…I am TEAM UNICORN.
If I were stuck in an elevator with a zombie or a unicorn, I would pick unicorn. It would smell better, there would be less rotting flesh on the floor, I wouldn’t be worried about pressing buttons that the zombie had already pressed that would be ooze-covered...I have thought this through. Picking a side was really hard, but the way the book is set up, you must pick a side. Just look at the cover. This is a war!
You haven’t told me which side you’re on, not since you finished the book—Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?
Bailey: I feel I should make the statement here that I finished ZvU a whole 4 days later than scheduled. Much to Laura’s chagrin. That being said...
I came into this anthology knowing zombies and wondering, “What the heck could anyone possibly write about a stupid, shiny, smelly (albeit, good smelly) unicorn?” I am leaving this book--with continued respect for all the Team Zombie authors-- but I am leaving this book firmly on the side of TEAM UNICORN.
But no worries, the hours of debate and review between Laura and I was completely fair and equally judgmental of both sides.
Laura: Especially since we both have our essences trapped in jars and cared for by Maureen Johnson (it’s what happens when you follow her on Twitter). Really, it isn’t creepy at all, and it’s totally painless. Everybody’s doing it.
FLOWERY FARTS, OR THE UNICORN STORIES
Laura: I think I will reread Naomi Novik’s Purity Test the most. It was hilarious. I forced my brother to sit through “story time” in which I read most of Purity Test to him. He said, “Laura, I can read it to myself.” I reluctantly handed over the book. But he is 24; if he couldn’t read by now, I would worry about him.
Really, I think it was Purity Test that won me over to Team Unicorn. But Meg Cabot and the rainbow-farting Princess Prettypants and Diana Peterfreund’s venom-dripping flesh-tearing unicorns played a huge part in that too. Goodbye Lisa Frank, hello Flayer.
Bailey: Flayer (the aforementioned venom-dripping flesh-tearing unicorn as imagined by Diana Peterfreund) was the unicorn that tugged on my heart-strings and made me stand firmly with the unicorns. Yes, I sided with the unicorns because of the demon-spawn murder-machine. I think if Justine Larbalestier were here she would tell me this meant my heart was secretly longing to remain sided with the zombies. Not to put words in her mouth, or anything.
However, it was Cabot’s Princess Prettypants that I actually read snippets of out loud OVER the football games last weekend. I told the boys, “You are going to sit here and listen to the hilarious mockery of the iconic unicorn.”
Laura: The only stories that kept me from running right out and buying a Team Unicorn jersey were A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan and The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey. You know how I feel about The Third Virgin. Nothing like a psychotic unicorn serial killer to make you sleep through the night. That unicorn was an angel of death! It was killing people to feel a rush of power and control—someone put him in a maximum security unicorn PRISON before it is TOO LATE!
I’m stopping myself right now. You don’t want to get either the Serial Killer Unicorn Rant or Bestiality Acorn-Baby-Making Unicorn Rant started.
Bailey: I am actually quite partial to Lanagan's story. I’m just going to say, I have never trusted a unicorn. It has a giant spike coming out of its forehead. What is to trust there? At least with the zombies, you know the evil you’re getting: brain eating.
But don’t doubt the creative genius of the authors on Team Zombie. Those folks did more with brain eating than I would have thought possible. And there is something about brain eating and love stories that go better hand-in-hand.
MAC AND CHEESE ANYONE?, OR THE ZOMBIE STORIES
Bailey: I adored Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson. It was all the nerdy, science-y goodness that makes zombies. The best part of that story for me is this: my boyfriend always talks about kuru and mad cow disease, and I have NEVER understood what he was saying before. But put these diseases in the context of zombies and human brain cravings? It all clicked.
Laura: I get the science-love. Who wouldn’t love to sit down and have a good chat about Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease? But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat macaroni and cheese again in my life after reading that story.
Bailey: I LOVE mac and cheese. I can see why the zombie ate people if they tasted like mac and cheese.
Laura: We’ll just call you Brain-Eatin’ Bailey from now on.
Brain-Eatin’ Bailey: Maybe it’s because your food of choice is not mac and cheese? Maybe if he had described brains as something else?
Laura: Yeah…I don’t see that making a difference. Maureen Johnson used juicy cheeseburger-brains in Children of the Revolution and that didn’t help much either. I haven’t had a cheeseburger since I read MJ’s story.
Brain-Eatin’ Bailey: MJ’s was my favorite zombie story! Because children frighten me anyway and zombie children are kind of how I imagine normal children. It was this moment of, “See! This is what I am afraid a small child IS when I’m not looking at it!”
Laura: How would you even be able to tell if you had zombie kids or regular kids? I mean, sticky child hands could easily be sticky zombie-child hands, and I have been bitten by children before! I could be the first infected librarian! And then I will spread it to every restaurant within a thousand miles.*
Brain-Eatin’ Bailey: Thank goodness I live…wait, do I live more than 1000 miles away from you? I might have to check into whether or not I’m safe from Potentially Zombie Laura.
Potentially Zombie Laura: I think Bourgainvillea by Carrie Ryan was awesome. It was the one zombie story that terrified me more than any other, because the frightening part wasn’t what the zombies were, it was what the zombie plague made ordinary humans BECOME. Freaky.
Brain-Eatin’ Bailey: I LOVED Carrie Ryan’s story. I had one of the worst nightmares I’ve had because of a story…and that made me love it more. But I also had terrible nightmares after finishing Prom Night by Libba Bray. I have no idea if this has to do with you telling me I’d have terrible nightmares or what, but tunneling zombies? No, thank you.
Potentially Zombie Laura: I told you Carrie Ryan would give you nightmares. The Prom Night-induced nightmares were all you.
UNICORNS, AND ZOMBIES, AND METAPHORS, OH MY!
Brain-Eatin’ Bailey: Of course, this entire anthology was centered on the metaphors of zombies and unicorns, and both sides did marvelous things with metaphors. The nature of metaphors, though, makes it tough to discuss some of the stories without completely divulging spoilery material.
For Team Zombie, such stories are Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare and Innoculata by Scott Westerfeld. For me, Clare’s zombie story was the most haunting and most blatant metaphor of the entire anthology, while Westerfeld’s was the most intriguing metaphor. Though, I have to be honest and say I expected a lot more from his metaphor than I was given. And on the unicorn side, The Highest Justice by Garth Nix was also pretty straight-forward, but a good beginning to the anthology.
Potentially Zombie Laura: Mmm...I went from thinking that Cold Hands was my favorite ZvU parable to thinking that The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey was my favorite. It inspired enough of a rant on my part to make me love it. Arguing about literature is my favorite hobby. I could go into literary analysis mode now, or share my Psychotic-Unicorn-Serial-Killer Rant with you, but Bailey told me I need to keep myself under 10,000 words for this review. It’s all her fault. Feel free to tell her what you think about word count limits down below in the comments.
Bailey’s Witty Ending:
Though, if we are both TEAM UNICORN, I just have to ask how, by the end of this review, I have become Brain-Eatin’ Bailey and you have become Potentially Zombie Laura. Perhaps the war continues.
Laura’s Even Wittier Ending:
Yeah, I said it. Even wittier. And if you read along, you can tell exactly how we got our nicknames. See, you were talking about wanting to eat brains because you love them so much, and I was afraid I would perhaps maybe become a zombie because I work in the children’s section of a library. It really makes perfect sense. And it’s our fear of the zombie hordes coming to kill us in our sleep that spawned the nicknames. Aren’t you afraid, Bailey? Aren’t you?
Brain-Eatin’ Bailey: Not with Princess Prettypants and Flayer protecting me, I’m not.
Potentially Zombie Laura: Who says they’re protecting you? I’ve got room for them to live in the woods next to my house and plenty of apples, sweet hay and neighborhood livestock for Princess Prettypants (a.k.a. Gloria) and Flayer to eat. Can two unicorns with violent tendencies live in your apartment?
And in what will surely become an epic battle in the future for the Last Word (and it will probably always go to the final editor) both Brain-Eatin’ Bailey and Potentially Zombie Laura say:
* Laura travels for good food, thus the wide angle of zombie disease spreading. And if she will travel for good Chicken Parmesan now, she will certainly travel for brains later. Mmm...Chicken Parmesan... (Bailey would like to add here that Laura has just discovered what food would induce brain eating for her. Victory.) (Laura would like to add here that she would not eat Chicken Parmesan Brains unless they were cleverly disguised as Normal Chicken Parmesan, like with actual cutlets covered in mozzarella cheese with tomato sauce and actual noodles made from the stuff noodles are made from on the side, preferably covered with garlic Alfredo sauce. Is Brain-Eatin’ Bailey going to cook up some Chicken Parmesan Brains as part of her master plan to make me turn zombie? I don’t think so.)
** Thanks, Maureen Johnson, for THAT creepy sign off line.
Finally, if you made it this far, please click the cover image to go to the awesome publisher promotional site for Zombies v Unicorns. It's totally freaking cool, I promise. It's like a special reward for reaching the bottom of this review!