Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Julie Larbalestier

Published: 21st September 2010 (print)/21st September 2010 (audio) Goodreads badge
Margaret K. McElderry Books /Brilliance Audio
Pages: 415/11 hrs and 45 mins
Narrator: Ellen Grafton, Nick Podehl, and Kate Rudd
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Anthology
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

It’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths–for good and evil–of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

What started as a discussion on a blog between Black and Larbalestier turned into an anthology where the merits or zombies and unicorns are discussed and explored. Both sides are given weight as the authors explain the good of their own choice and the bad of the other.

I listened to this as an audio and it was an amazing experience. The introduction alone was a delight as a serious, dramatic voice over explains how this anthology came into existence. Before the stories begin each author of the anthology is introduced with their side of the debate and I have no doubt wrote their own introductions because they sound exactly on point for each person. I loved the serious tone the introduction took because while the content was less serious the discussion was Very Important. The author introductions also add why each author likes their chosen subject: Scott Westfield invented the Zombie proof cravat, Kathleen Dewey brought up on a unicorn farm and learnt you can’t trust them, while whose unprecedented career as a land pirate could not have been achieved without her unicorn drawn pirate ship. The sound effects are fantastic and the fact that between each story Black and Larbalestier offer their opinions on the upcoming stories and the previous information provided add some great banter. There was even a sound effect to warn listeners that a story was coming so no unwary zombie fan will start listening to a unicorn story, or vice versa.

Even though Zombies vs Unicorns doesn’t seem like a theme, these authors have interpreted these subjects in incredibly creative ways. What is actually a zombie? What is a unicorn, really? Are they both as innocent or a menacing as we’ve led to believe? There’s stories that take a scientific approach to what constitutes a zombie, as well as the effects of having a unicorn in the modern day. I loved the modern zombie tales and I loved how there were dystopian stories that weren’t horror, but were still wonderfully creepy and zombie suited. The same can be said for the unicorn stories; they are often in the magical realm, though a few are in the real world and seeing the two collide was intriguing.

My favourites had to be Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot, Purity Test by Naomi Novik, and Children of Revolution is such a Maureen Johnson story it’s hard not to delight in reading it. From the start I assumed I would be Team Unicorn because I have never quite enjoyed zombie stories but after seeing the unique ways that these authors have interpreted the concept, I am coming around. Looking from a stats perspective based on the stories I enjoyed and ones I didn’t, I am in a stalemate. I enjoyed four unicorn stories, four zombie stories, didn’t enjoy three and one I was undecided about. Where does that leave me? The ones I didn’t like were two zombie stories and one unicorn story. Does that make anything more solid? I really don’t know.

You can purchase Zombies vs. Unicorns via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible


Newcastle Writers Festival 2013

I have gone to a few author and writers events in the past few years, not as many as some I’ll admit, but those that I have gone to have always been very useful and motivating, not only in learning about why the speaker may write, but where their ideas come from and how they themselves find inspiration. Over the weekend I attended the inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival and for their first year, it was fantastic. Unfortunately I did forget to bring my camera so rather poor quality phone camera images will have to suffice, but I wasn’t just there for the photos, I took pages and pages of notes, each little thing being soaked up from these established, and new authors lucky enough to have broken into the field I aspire to be included in.

I attended the festival with Jess from The Never Ending Bookshelf, and no doubt she will have brilliant summaries of her own; she attended an additional event to me as well so keep an eye on her page for her own thoughts, eloquently written as so many of her thoughts are. I have so much to say about the three seminars I attended I am planning on spreading them out over the next few days so as not to bombard you with a lot of excitement, but also so I can give each author and talk a well earned review.

This is the first time Newcastle has hosted a writers festival, and I must say they did an excellent job. Volunteer organiser and Herald journalist Rosemarie Milsom did a lot of work with all of the amazing volunteers, as far as I was aware the festival went off without a hitch, people were being turned away because practically everything was sold out or full. There has been a multitude of press and radio interviews surrounding it and it is all worthy. I have yet been able to attend any of the past Sydney Writers Festivals (I am aiming for this year however), but there was a distinct cosy and inviting feel with the Newcastle festival that made it seem like a friendly gathering of people rather than a daunting event where people might feel intimidated to approach their favourite authors. In the time I was there I saw many people casually chatting with authors who they had just seen speak in a seminar, and key speakers like Miriam Margoyles were just walking through the festival like everyone else, she too probably had her own seminars she wanted to attend.

I went to three sessions on the Saturday and one on Sunday. I was unable to attend opening night which was a shame, there was talk of an audio going up of Miriam’s speech, if that happens I will post it up. I was also unable stay long Sunday because I had tickets to see The Script in Sydney. But I can’t really complain about that being a reason, they too were amazing. But for those sessions I was able to attend, in each of them I discovered more about the act of writing, becoming published, and just as wonderful: the inspiration of writing. More about those sessions tomorrow!

Before we had even gone to our first session we were eying the array of books that MacLean’s Booksellers had set up; stocked high with all of the novels, the poetry, memoirs, historical books, all the works of all the authors who were attending the festival. I found myself recognising a lot of authors who I have had as creative writing lecturers in the past at uni, a few I had seen at previous writing conferences, and naturally a vast many who I had not heard of. A lot of new books and authors were added to my reading list that day, unfortunately funds meant I could only buy two, but they were the two I really wanted: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan and The Weight of a Human Heart by Ryan O’Neill. On the festival website there is a list of all the authors who attended, and I assure you I will be raving about those that I saw and met next time.

I have already pencilled in the dates for next year (April 4-6 2014) and given the success of this year there is no doubt it is going to become a popular event frequented by authors and readers alike. Below are a list of the sites and articles to start looking into information about the festival, all have additional information about the weekend’s proceedings. If you did not go this year there is plenty of time to start planning for next year, though how can you really look ahead when you are still basking in the amazing that was the weekend.

Newcastle Writers Festival

Newcastle Writers Festival Facebook

Newcastle Writers Festival Twitter

Newcastle Herald Article – Authors enthrall fans at festival

1233 ABC Newcastle – Writers Festival a success