Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Brisket anyone?

A story before we begin this. On a previous library run, I ran across a display title named World War Moo. I examined it, and found out it was actually book 2 in a series, which leads me to today, wherein I get to tell you all about Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan.

A few notes before we really dig in to such succulent, tender subjects. Evidently this won the Terry Pratchett Prize at one point, and Pratchett did indeed write the forward for it. And, honestly, much of the humor is straight out of early Discworld. I almost expected a Rincewind cameo at one point.

Mind you, the book isn't afraid to wallow in tropes like a pig would.

We start at a suburban abattoir outside Glasgow, Scotland. Something is amiss, as the place is burning to the ground. Someone mentions seeing something getting away in the shadows, but no one seems to think there's any real risk. Really, much of this conversation is straight out of Return of the Living Dead. 

We then switch to Geldof, a 14 year old boy named after noted bleeding heart Bob Geldof by his very militantly vegan mother Fanny. Fanny insists on everyone being completely vegan in her house, including Geldof wearing all hemp clothing, despite him being allergic to the stuff. Geldof's father, James, spends most of the book in a pot induced hazed. Geldof is being harassed by the neighbor twins (Malcolm and Tony), while secretly fantasizing about their mother Mary. Mary's husband, David, won the lottery prior to the beginning of the book, and delights in baiting Fanny about her dietary habits. The twins, using bully logic, are convinced that Fanny's dietary habits and PETA style activism are behind the deaths at the abattoir that killed their cousin, and convince Geldof to go cow tipping with them to avenge humanity on the bovine killers.

Before that happens, we meet Lesley, a journalist at the local paper. Lesley, in fact, is about to get fired, since she's not a good journalist. She also loathes her coworker Colin, who seems to be the star reporter. After Colin goes out for a few brews at the pub as a business lunch, Lesley intercepts a call meant for him from a recorded voice offering proof that the virus was British created, and not part of a terrorist conspiracy. Having no idea what the heck the voice is talking about, Lesley records it anyway and prepares to investigate to annoy her editor and coworker.

Then we meet Terry, who managed to escape the slaughter at the abattoir. Terry is confined to a bed in some kind of facility by one Mr. Alistair Brown, who wants to make sure Terry can't incriminate anyone.

Finally, back in the cow pasture, Geldof, Malcolm and Tony meet the first bovine monstrosity as they attempt to go tip a normal cow. For those of you who have seen 28 Days Later, it seems that the animals have been infected with something akin to the Rage virus, causing them to want to copulate and infect the other animals. Mind you, cows are herbivores, which just makes them eating people more painful.

At any rate, as the book progresses, we eventually find everyone in the same place, namely Geldof's house. This leads us in to the tropes of what do survivors who really don't like each other are forced to live together. And find food.

Followed by the inevitable escape sequence... Since the virus is limited to Great Britain, the group tries escaping to France via the Chunnel while being pursued by Mr. Brown. They also briefly wind up in a refugee camp. Along the way, the party whittles down a bit, as happens in these situations.

As is normal also, there's some social commentary thrown in different places. Part of the virus is an urge to copulate, thrown in by the male scientists. David spends mush of his time whining about the lack of meat and insulting the French for stopping British beef imports. Frannie is convinced the military evacuation is the start of the government enslaving its citizens and remains convinced that the virus is punishment for people eating animals and her veganism means the animals won't eat her. When we get to the French border, one character takes great offense at being called English, while the French guard (who owes much of his dialogue to Monty Python and the Holy Grail) takes offense to being called German.

While the book is not exactly original, it is funny in places and quite readable. It's much less nihilistic than say Brian Keene, although the humor is less Pratchett in places and more Wayans Brothers. But yes, I look forward to checking out the sequel.