First published back in July of 2000, Tim Lebbon’s zombie novella ‘Naming Of Parts’ was released by way of a special signed edition limited to just 300 individually numbered paperback copies, as well as 200 individually numbered hardback copies.
The book begins with a short three page introduction by fellow horror author Steve Rasnic Tem, which describes how he first encountered Lebbon's work in a small London bookshop where he picked up a copy of the author's debut novel ‘Mesmer’ (1997). Tem proceeds to shower Lebbon’s work with unreserved praise, ultimately whetting the reader's appetite for the delights that are to come with ‘Naming Of Parts’.
In an isolated rural spot, young Jack Haines is awoken in the night by the eerie sounds of intruders outside the family cottage. His father, Gray Haines, fires his shotgun out of Jack’s window which appears to end the troubles for the night.
However, the next morning, Jack and his parents depart from the cottage in their car in somewhat of a hurry after their neighbours are spotted lurching towards their home through the fields that surround the property. And it’s not long before Gray and Janey (Jack’s parents) disclose to Jack that news reports have been coming in during the night detailing this new apocalyptical state of affairs.
Upon arriving at the village of Tall Stennington, their car has its brake cable cut by one of the undead. Luckily the family manage to escape the immediate vicinity and subsequently make their way on foot to the town of Tewton, where Jack’s sister, Mandy, has managed to inform them that she is safely residing at.
But on their arduous trek to Tewton, the Haines family will not only have to come to terms with the enormity of this suddenly dying world, but also the struggling sanity of the other remaining survivors. The bloodthirsty undead are all around, aimlessly wondering the landscape. They remain cunning in their ambushes towards the living and are still capable of bursts of fast pursuit, as the family are soon to learn.
Jack manages to keep himself struggling on by dissecting his fears until he can name each part that makes up that particular fear. And this sudden nightmarish change in the world will bring Jack fear after fear to pull apart over the ensuing days. His one hope keeping him going is to see his sister again; but Tewton seems a long way off when danger is lurking around every corner...
Although Lebbon’s ‘Naming Of Parts’ is a relatively short tale, the author has managed to cram in a complex and emotionally charged story surrounding Jack Haines’ forced coming of age, whilst the world around him collapses.
Lebbon subtly inserts the idea that only certain blood groups are immune to the virus that has not only killed off the majority of humanity, but also all other life on the planet as well. The landscape gradually loses more of its magnificent colour as the tale progresses, with the Haines family struggling to survive the first few hours of this unforgiving new world.
The characterisation of the three family members is second to none, with a real sympathy and love quickly established for Jack in particular. Lebbon intersperses snippets of emotional flashbacks throughout the tale, showing conversations between Jack and his sister Mandy, that help to firm-up the relationship between the two.
Lebbon parts with the gory nature that is often associated with zombie novels; only a couple of times throwing in some brief scenes of cannibalistic gore. Instead the reader is treated to a carefully constructed and beautifully written tale of the upward battle against a constant barrage of fear for one young boy to somehow cope with.
The tale draws to a quietly calculated conclusion that leaves the reader with a strong heart for the character of Jack. Lebbon maintains a constant cloud of tension throughout the storyline, with no real let up from the fear of attack or demise. This keeps the reader in a state of unease from the beginning, which only goes to compliment Jack's desperate predicament.
All in all, Lebbon’s novella ‘Naming Of Parts’ is a beautiful yet slightly unsettling read that throws open a new angle to the already heavily saturated world of zombie fiction. An enjoyable read throughout, this quick and well-paced tale is a true breath of fresh area for the popular subgenre.
The tale runs for a total of 80 pages.
© DLS Reviews