Great Geek Debate? — Zombies vs. Unicorns

Hacking the Holidays

Zombies vs. Unicorns

Ah, the age-old question: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn?

Wait, age-old? Until I ran across this poster at Comic-Con this summer I confess I hadn’t ever given it a thought—but I immediately knew I needed this book.

Holly Black, author of the Spiderwick Chronicles, and Justine Larbalestier, author of How to Ditch Your Fairy, started debating Z vs. U a few years ago. (Geek point: the debate was actually sparked by Larbalestier while she was blogging about John Scalzi’s blurb-writing policy, and it’s worth reading the original post and scrolling through the comments, which include Black, Scalzi, and Cherie Priest, among others.) Larbalestier made a few derogatory comments about unicorns in her post, and Holly stepped up to defend them. And somehow this became a debate about zombies vs. unicorns.

Holly quickly posted a response on her own blog: 8 Reasons Why Unicorns Are Better Than Zombies, but let’s face it: it’s kind of weak. Only eight? And #3 is hardly something that distinguishes unicorns from zombies.

Three years later: Black and Larbalestier rounded up the troops (other young adult writers) and formed Team Unicorn and Team Zombie to bring you this inspired collection of short stories: Zombies vs. Unicorns. The book alternates between zombie and unicorn stories, introduced by a little conversation between Black and Larbalestier defending their team and mocking the other.

Zombies vs. UnicornsObviously I’m biased—you might argue it’s because I’m a guy and unicorns have never really been marketed to guys, and maybe you’re right. But zombies just seem more interesting in so many ways: they work as a metaphor for many different things, and you can appreciate them at face value or with ironic detachment or as satire. Unicorns? Mostly I can only appreciate them ironically. And it’s unlikely that GeekDad will have Unicorn Week anytime soon.

But I did read all the stories, and it’s a fun bunch regardless of where you fall in the debate. The stories run the gamut from funny to tragic, and you never know what you’re going to get. There are deadly killer zombies and there are not-so-dangerous zombies in love. And there are deadly killer unicorns and … actually, there are a lot of dangerous unicorns in the collection, not so many nice pretty ones, which is kind of odd. Some of my favorites were Maureen Johnson’s “The Children of the Revolution,” Scott Westerfeld’s “Inoculata,” and Naomi Novak’s “Purity Test.” There were a few that felt a little flat to me, but most of them were quite entertaining.

I should mention that this is not intended for young kids. It’s marketed for teens and many of the characters involved are teenagers, but there is a good bit of language and sexual situations, probably a PG-13 or a little higher.

If you like zombies or unicorns (or both), Zombies vs. Unicorns is a volume worth getting. You might not like every story in it, but you’re sure to find several that you like.

Oh, and before I forget: head over to the Zombies vs. Unicorns website and take the poll there. When last I checked, Unicorns were slightly ahead—Team Zombie, represent!
Take the poll!

Disclosure: I picked up an advance reader copy of the book at Comic-Con.

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