Why We Love Zombiestan

I have never been a hardcore zombie fan. I am not repulsed by them, but I do not particularly seek them out either. They have sometimes come my way, courtesy films and the occasional graphic novel, but zombies or other forms of the undead–I can take ’em or leave ’em.Which was why, a few months ago, when I got the manuscript of Zombiestan from the nice people at Westland, I was not exactly skipping around. Once I started reading it though, I was completely hooked. And then I read Alice in Deadland in one gulp, and then  Through the Killing Glass in another gulp. I am not sure whether I am a convert to zombie lit, but I am addicted to Mainak’s zombies (reading another one these days!).

So why do I, as an editor, like Zombiestan?

Firstly, because of my secret agenda: we believe that there is not enough good fiction in a wide enough range of subjects to interest Indian readers, especially young adult readers. Unusual subjects, where the stories are told really well. And well, fighting zombies in India–how much more unusual can you get, especially with protagonists like aging history professors and three-year-old boys!
The story is completely gripping. From the time that I started reading it, I read it at one go, and I was enthralled. The struggle of good versus evil, done well, never ages as a theme, and how much more relevant and real can it be than zombies in today’s Delhi? The characters were compelling and believable, and the sense of urgency which infuses the book makes it unputdownable.
The other thing of course, is that these zombies are a bit different from your typical garden-variety zombies. I am not a zombie expert, but from my acquaintance with the species, they tend to be quite mindless. Here, the zombies come with their own set of characteristics and agendas–and I do not want this to be a spoiler so no more! But in an age of innovations, I think these zombies fit in!
I have read almost all of Mainak’s books, and for reasons I would rather not explore too closely, I think it it is with zombies that he truly finds his voice. I am glad that this species of the undead have found such a powerful teller.
I have always been a zombie non-fan. I hate the idea of rotting flesh, the look and smell of it. It horrifies me. So it was with great reluctance that I started reading Zombiestan. Sayoni had loved it and wanted it to be one of the first books from Duckbill. Ugly undead people walking around? Really? I thought.I’m still no zombie fan. But I’ve read Zombiestantwice and I found it riveting both times. Never mind the rotting flesh – what a good adventure story needs are interesting people, tight plotting and nail-biting situations. So I found myself rooting for young Mayukh and feeling protective of the little boy who is the world’s only hope against the zombie invasion. And wishing that the women would get more proactive. Which they did, towards the end. In other words, the book did for me what good books should do, whatever the genre–it transported me into its world.So like Sayoni, I guess I’m a fan of Mainak’s zombies.But I have a confession to make: I was horrified by the cover of the book. Which probably means it’s a kick-ass cover!

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