Pickles vs. the Zombies
Pickles vs. the Zombies
"Shh ...," I replied, dropping down into a flat crouch. I heard mammals approaching. Hannah flattened beside me and Helios hushed his peers inside the train car. Seconds passed and we heard the grounds of zombies, as they dragged themselves our way.
I turned wide eyes towards Hannah, and she returns the stare, her whiskers twitching a message of panic. I sent matching signals back. I didn't know what we should do, or where we could hide. Would we be safer inside the train car?
They slouched and groaned their way towards us, a group of four, of varying ages and stages of decay. I still have no idea what attracted them, was it smell? Sound? Jazz music? As predators went, zombies seemed to function under very different parameters. Whatever it was the drove them, the train car called their attention and they turned towards it, glazed eyes locking on it.
"What do we do?" Hannah's whiskers communicated.
"No idea," I tried to communicate back. Out of our many methods of communication between cats, the whiskers were the third most effective, followed only by the twitching of the tail, which was really only useful in communicating mood.
Zombies slammed against the train car with more violence than I expected from such slow-moving beasts. I cried out an alarm, drawing their attention our way, but not enough to stop their assault. They glanced up as us but groaned at the train car, shoving, pushing, and grunting. despite the fact that they had no organization or communication between them, the smell of the horses within seemed to be enough to compel them to continue their efforts, and we could feel the train car starting to tip.
Pickles vs. the Zombies mimics many of the beats of conventional zombie stories, with the novel beginning on the day the zombie plague starts to overtake the city, and readers then follow a group of characters as they try to escape the city and find sanctuary with other survivors. What makes Pickles vs. the Zombies different is that, instead of following a group of humans as they fend off zombie attacks and search for a safe place to rest, readers follow Pickles, a housecat, and the comrades she collects along the way. The novel begins when Pickles and Wally, a pair of indoor cats, realize that their “pets” (i.e. their human owners) have not been home for an unusually long period. After watching the zombies from the window and receiving a visit from a more street-smart outdoor cat, Pickles comes to realize that her pet will probably never return home and that, if she ever wants to see him again, she is going to need to find him. Pickles starts out on her quest and collects friends along the way, including more cats and a racoon who has lost his family.
While zombies are often fodder for horror, Pickles vs. the Zombies is more humorous than scary, though it does have several suspenseful parts where Pickles and her friends find themselves facing both zombie and non-zombie foes. The novel is well-written with a good balance of plot and character development. While the characters move from once exciting challenge to the next, they also grow and change. Pickles goes from being a timid and sheltered indoor cat to a leader who knows to trust her instincts, and the motley group of species she finds comes to learn that sometimes you need to make your own family out of loyal friends. Pickles vs. the Zombies is a fun read that takes a typical zombie narrative but tells it from the perspective of the pets left behind.
Tara Stieglitz is a librarian at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.