Coldbrook – Review by Mary Donnelly
In a CERN type experimental laboratory in the Appalachian mountains a “breach”, a door between worlds, is opened, all living things that come through are zapped by the eradicator for study. The first human to come through isn’t living and well, you can’t kill something that’s already dead. So begins Coldbrook, a fast paced zombie apocalypse/sci-fi/action thriller by Tim Lebbon. This weighty tome manages to successfully combine a number of genres and makes for compelling reading.
We follow several well drawn key characters as they deal with the consequences of the opening of the breach and the release of the rapidly spreading zombie plague. Focus moves from the various scientists involved to people in the outside world, (one of whom may be the key to combatting the plague), to the people in the paralell universe on the other side of the breach, which has been decimated by a plague of its own, and culminates, for one character, in a journey through a number of worlds in the multiverse. Lebbon is very good on characterisation so you really do care about the struggles of the protagonists and hope they make it to the end, even minor characters make an impact.
I found the scenes in Coldbrook itself and in the world we know to be most effective, the entire action takes place over about ten days and most of the world is infected so you get a real sense of urgency as the plague spreads. In a change to usual zombie lore, these unpleasant creations are not too bothered with pedantic things like brain eating, they just want to bite, spread the infection and move on, like any smart virus should.
The scenes within the laboratory are incredibly claustrophobic and unsettling, one isolated character having to put down a number of his former colleagues all the while being stalked by an ominous figure from another universe. It’s this figure, and the world he comes from, that I think lets the book down a little, it becomes a much wider thing which I found took away from the more intimate and more interesting stories and ultimately causes the book to be a bit overlong. It’s a minor quibble in an otherwise successful narrative and given that I’m not the biggest fan of the sci fi genre, may be more coloured by my personal tastes than anything else.
With zombie fiction in all its forms having nearly reached saturation point, it’s refreshing to come across a new take in the genre. It reminded me of epic Stephen King books like the Stand and, to a certain degree, the horror thrillers Dean Koontz wrote in the late eighties and early nineties. I hadn’t read anything by Tim Lebbon before but I certainly would again.
Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon is out now in paperback and is published by Hammer.