Tuesday, 22 January 2002

Sharyn McCrumb: Zombies of the Gene Pool (1992)

Edition: Ballantine, 1992 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 1048

From the title alone it is quite clear that this is going to be a sequel to the hilarious Bimbos of the Death Sun. Once again, James Mega gets involved in SF fandom, when he and his partner Marion discover that one of the English professors at the university where they both teach is actually one of the Lanthanides, a group of fifties fans who turned out to include several now famous authors. (He wrote under a pseudonym, which is why this is not obvious.) Before they were published, they lived on a farm in rural Tennessee and there they buried a time capsule, containing manuscripts of their stories and several pieces of SF memorabilia. Soon afterwards, the valley containing the farm was flooded to become a reservoir, but now it is to be drained temporarily for maintenance on the dam. This provides the opportunity for a reunion to dig up the capsule with a great deal of publicity and hold a publishers' auction for the rights to the stories.

However, the capsule is not the only thing which is dug up, as revelations of group member secrets lead to a murder. The tone of Zombies is more sober than its predecessor's, something which is at least in part due to the greater age of most of its characters. (This doesn't stop there being some funny moments, such as when John W. Campbell Jnr's letter in the capsule is read out.) It is informed by the same knowledge of SF fandom as the earlier novel something which doesn't seem to me to be as "obscure" as some of the quoted reviewers believed (typical examples are discussions of Fredric Brown stories and of artist Richard Dadd). Even if not obscure, it is fascinating viewed just as a picture of a subculture. In no way does it demand an interest in fandom, however; it can easily be appreciated simply as a mystery novel.

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