Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Deadlands by Lily Herne

Deadlands is not currently available outside South Africa, although that should change. Until then, the booklounge in Cape Town will ship internationally. You can email them at booklounge@gmail.com

Published by Penguin Books

Click here for Blurb

A fast-paced zombie book, with the inclusion of modern-day societal and political issues. And all set in Cape Town. Who would have thought!

Thank you to Penguin books, in particular Candice Wiggett, for allowing Kelly and I the opportunity to hold a package like we were carrying a new born. One of our first YA book review copies and-better yet-this one is set in South Africa AND written by a South African. The news got even better when Kelly said that I could read it first. In fear that she would soon change her mind and that a battle to the death would ensue, I grasped the book between my hands and walked (i.e. pulled a roadrunner run) back to my desk. Being a Friday afternoon, I vowed that Kelly would have it by Monday, secure that this book promised the reason for cutting into studying time ‘just until the end of this chapter’.

Do you have your cup of coffee ready? Knees up by chin? All lights on? Yes? Good, then you are ready to read this book.

I will admit from the start that I am that person who heard ‘local YA fiction’ and my initial reaction was both one of surprise and “oh dear”. Thankfully-and rightfully-I was proven wrong. Deadlands is a great piece of YA fiction and I personally think it could be used in future school setworks, something similar to The Wave by Todd Strasser. I look at what I have just written and think, ‘What are you writing Tarryn? A book that is about moaning zombies and the eerie Guardians, and (what good YA book would be without) the heroine must have two hunky men who both think she is gorgeous and will kill for her, even with her terribly mean attitude and general anger towards life itself and yet you still think this book would be a good setwork?” But yes, I do.

I mentioned above that this book offers more than just a thrilling read for teens, but also a look into parts of South Africa’s socio-cultural dynamic. As I go along, I will draw in some of the comparisons to modern-day society in South Africa. In a way, this book is the written District 9 meets Avatar, with the thrills of Dawn of the Dead.

The main character, Lele, is a teenager, struggling with the recent death (and ultimate zombification) of her grandmother with whom she had been living from the days of ‘The War’. It is unclear what happened to provoke ‘The War’ and why the zombie situation occurred, but if we were to look at it more closely, the ‘zombification’ of civilians could be seen as conforming to what the government (The Guardians, the supposed ‘saviours’ of those who have survived the zombies) say is the right way forward, dictating how people should act and removing free will and thought from the people, making them merely shells for their propaganda.

Lele is now staying with her father and step-mother and her little brother, Jobe who has stayed a trapped-toddler since The Guardians (in my head, they look like those Dementors from Harry Potter) took him away and brought him back in his mentally and physically ensnared state. Again, a relationship can be made to current South African administration where some government schools have been affected by poor education and lack of teachers, stunting the pupils in their mental growth.

It has been ten years since the war began (starting in 2010 during the World Cup) and small groups are starting to wake up to the fact that maybe there is something more sinister to The Guardians than collecting the dead before they ‘turn’. These people start a group called The ANZ (anyone noticing something here?). This could be viewed as representing the similar uprising of the ANC during the apartheid era in South Africa.

Lele is sent to an exclusive high school, Malema High *cough cough* where she is introduced to the charming and rebellious Thabo, where, of course, there is a strong chemistry between them but at a Lottery Ball (you’ll have to read the book to know what that is about), things go completely off the plan (as one must in a good book) and Lele is taken by The Guardians, with the intention of sending her out to the zombies. SPOILER ALERT: Thankfully, Lele is the heroine and things couldn’t end with her being eaten by the ‘dead alive’, so, to prevent from divulging too much, Lele is sent on a whirlwind of an adventure on the outskirts of the city, including the meeting of Ash, the enigmatic character who, if played in a movie, would probably walk in slow motion and have the stare that would undoubtedly make me (and other females) slowly slide from the cinema chair onto the floor, twitching every now and then.

What YA book would this be without a love conflict, and Lele is torn between Ash and Thabo (I see Team Jacob vs Team Edward t-shirts taking a backseat), but with the impending strength of The Guardians and ‘newbies’ (new zombies), Lele has to battle with more than love if she is to survive.
I could continue drawing on the similarities between what is in the book and what is, what the guardians are and what the government was and is today, but you are not reading this review in the hopes that this will offer you your next English essay topic; this is a review. And so I shall give you that much *insert dramatic speech music, Tarryn lifts fist slowly to the sky, side profile*.

Deadlands is a fantastic YA fiction, and I add one more star simply because it is local. Lily Herne took on this not-so-easy task of writing a book for teens that was about zombies and set in Cape Town. The first of its kind, and Herne did a sterling job. From the first layer, it makes for a fast-paced read and South African readers should enjoy a book that puts Zombies in spots that we know, such as Table Mountain (never looking at the Cape landscape in the same way again). Taking a deeper look, I took pleasure in analysing how parts and characters of the book took on shapes of modern-day South Africa and its social and political structures. I know that I could very well be over-analysing the book, and if that is the case, I still think it is well-worth the Saturday read it will afford anyone who is looking for a YA book with a difference.

Read excerpt

To meet Tarryn in Cape Town (she has since run away, screaming, from Kelly) meet her at the Deadlands book launch

- Review by Tarryn Talbot
Follow Tarryn on Twitter


thebookfairyhaven said...

*Wails* You're going to be at the Deadlands launch Tarryn?(Kelly, when are you coming to Cape Town?) Now, I'm definitely sorry I won't be able to make it. *Sighs* Must ask cousin to reschedule her wedding so I can attend the book launch. *ok, not really, but sigh...*

Fantastic review of Deadlands by the way. My copy is sitting on my desk waiting to be read this weekend. :) Very intriguied by your commentary on the parallel between "zombification" and the government. I'll definitely be reading it with this in mind.

P.S. It's good to be back - I've missed being on the blogs too.

Bookish Brunette said...

I can't find this book to buy anywhere! :(

Lu said...

Oh wow another South African book blogger :)

LindsayWrites said...

hey there! new follower on GFC! follow me back?! love your blog and i'm excited to read more, and i SOOOO want this book!

today on my post, choose which YA cover you like better. two gorgeous ones! =]


BookGeek said...

I remember discussing this book with you WAY back on our attempt at a #twibkclub and still want to read it! I may have to wait until my TBR pile diminishes and my wallet size increases, but I am still keeping this on my wish list. Great review!

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