What We're Reading

What We’re Reading – Apocalypse Cow

apocalypse-cowApocalypse Cow, by Michael Logan.

First, a confession. I’m not a fan of zombie fiction. Zombie romance positively creeps me out. Admittedly, I’m from the George Romero shuffling-zombie generation, and that might account for my anti-zombie stance.

And yet, a book I’m reading now puts me on the floor at least once every chapter (more like every page). Yes, you heard it here. Apocalypse Cow is a brilliant, funny, ridiculous novel about zombie cows on a rampage against humankind all over…Scotland (where else?). An experiment with a new biological weapon goes horribly wrong when tested on cows, so the government stages a mass slaughter. Well, except for the one infected Bossy who wandered out of the pasture and spreads the love among her species. Before long,  unsuspecting citizens are beset upon by hordes of rampaging cows determined to make up for every cow-tipping, steak-grilling, slaughterhouse-working human who ever did a cow wrong.

Which is a lead-in for me to talk about humor. I write a lot of humor into my novels. My characters almost always know how to make fun of themselves, or at the very least recognize when they’ve gotten themselves into an utterly ridiculous situation, which seems to happen with alarming frequency. (Alarming for them; I kind of enjoy their predicaments.)

But humor is a subjective thing. I snicker every time the hero of Apocalypse Cow, a geeky teen named Geldof (named after the politically active lead singer of the late, great ’80s band The Boomtown Rats) gets called “Gandalf” by the bullies in his school. And I’m amused by the fact that he desperately wants to eat beef but his aging-hippie mom has forced veganism on him. The humor hits a home run for me because I’m a geek who adored Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats and have been known to say “You Shall Not Pass” to my co-workers in a deep and imposing Sir Ian McKellen tone. A hundred other people might read this book with a “meh” or a “huh?” But it’s the funniest thing I’ve read in ages.

Humor is hard to write. It’s hard to get right. There’s a fine line between snark and such smartassitude that your character becomes unlikeable. There’s a fine line between over-the-top funny and just-plain-silly. There’s a fine line between self-deprecating humor and wallowing in self-pity or whining.

So not everyone will love Apocalypse Cow as much as I do. The humor is dry as Scottish Highland dust and subtle as a flying mallet, but if you’re a fan of one of my favorite urban fantasy authors, Simon R. Green, you might want to give it a try. It might just make you laugh. (Note: I am reading an ARC of Apocalypse Cow; it will be released on May 21 by St. Martin’s Griffin.)

Do you like humor in your paranormal reads? I still laugh aloud when I think about Harry Dresden riding down Michigan Avenue on the back of a reanimated dinosaur skeleton, or fighting off the hedge monsters in a suburban Walmart. What’s made you laugh recently?

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36 thoughts on “What We’re Reading – Apocalypse Cow

  1. i do love some humo yes, like you did so well in your books but i’m not a fan of zombie at all so i still have some reservatiosn about this book^^

  2. I’m not a big fan of Zombies, but now this book intrigues me as I do enjoy Simon Green’s stories. I think Mary Janice Davidson and Darynda Jones write humor into their stories very well. When one of characters described her apartment as the size of a Cheezit, I burst out laughing since this is a favorite snack in the family. An the TRex scene with Harry Dresden is awesome!

    • It reminds me of SRG’s Nightside world because it’s so brilliantly outrageous. I’ve heard really great things about Darynda’s Charley Davidson books but they’re still on my TBR pile for now. (And that Dresden scene is one of my all-time favorites!)

  3. I love when a book can surprise us like this! I’m not a zombie fan either, but Avery Flynn asked me to read her upcoming zombie riff on Jack and the beanstalk and it was hilarious. Apocalypse Cow looks like another great read. Never say never, huh?

  4. With a title like ZOMBIE COW, it’s hard to pass up the chance to read it. I know what I’m pre-ordering today. Like you, I’m not into zombies, but I love books that aren’t afraid to take risks. And this story definitely sounds like one of those.

    As for humor in stories, one of my all-time favorites comes from Lynsay Sands paranormal romance, BITE ME IF YOU CAN. There’s a scene in the book where the hero, an ancient vampire, is first viewed by the heroine. This tough-as-nails, no nonsense immortal is in the most positively unflattering and completely hilarious get up. It was the first book of hers I’d ever read and I was hooked. I’ve since read everything in her series. And laughing.

  5. Will totally have to tell my boss at the bookstore to get this–totally fits with our store! I love humor too and I try to inject it in mine as well, but it is hard to write, I agree. And it means you take a greater risk, I think, in people not liking it, but I think the payoff is better. Speaking of humor, have you read the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne? We usually recommend it to folks who’ve read Butcher and want more…

    • Yay, another 80s pop fan! After writing this post, I had to go and listen to “I Never Loved Eva Braun.” 🙂 I haven’t read the Kevin Hearne series but it’s high on my TBR pile because so many people have told me I’d love it.

  6. Great post, Suzanne! It strikes me that a lot of humor is also being “in the know.” It’s fun to feel like we’re in on the joke when it hinges on some sort of special knowledge. I have great respect for people who can write humor well. I like to use just a smattering of it; I leave the full-on funny books to the pros. 🙂

    • Definitely agree on the “in the know” part. If I hadn’t known who Bob Geldof was, or that he’d given his kids these bizarre names like Fifi-belle, some of the jokes would have flown over my head. Still funny, but not AS funny!

  7. Humor is pretty subjective, but I like have a little humor in my PNR/UF. I admit that I’m not a big fan of zombie books either, mainly because of the squick factor, but I really like Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie books – they’re really great!

  8. Sounds like a fun book. 🙂 I love humor in my books, especially paranormal. I confess I’m not a huge fan of things that are super dark and angsty with nothing to relieve all of that, like a wise-crack or slip of the tongue. And absolutely, you’re right about humor being so subjective. Even how funny something qualifies as – where the line makes it zany and fun, or just bizarrely unreadable – is such a personal thing, and a careful balance. Thanks for the post. And the suggestion – I’ll have to look that book up.

    • Totally agree. My own books are dark, but they have humor to lighten them up, even if it’s just a character’s turn of phrase or “oh crap, here comes the demon again” interior dialogue.

      • And see, it’s that little touch that makes all the difference. If I don’t have a chuckle or two in a book, I’m usually disappointed. Doesn’t mean the book wasn’t good, it just wasn’t for me.

  9. Suzanne, great post. This sounds like a hoot. One of my favorite funny writers is Carl Hiaasen–since I grew up in Florida, his sense of the state’s particular absurdities feels spot on to me. I am one of those people that makes myself laugh in my own head. And I crack myself up writing all the time. My characters also get cracked up fairly often. When writing scenes where my characters are tickled, I do wonder how they feel to the reader if the joke doesn’t land for her. Does it just need to believably land with the character? I guess that’s just one of the many important uses for beta readers 🙂

  10. I love humor, whether it’s sly and witty or zany and over-the-top. Love the gentle humor in Georgette Heyer’s Regencies, and belly laugh at Janet Evanovich.

  11. I read Apocalypse Cow last year when it published in the UK – I loved the idea of cows getting their own back!! There is something about mixing horror with comedy that works for me – films like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland are both fantastic thrills that get the balance right and when books can do that as well, it just gives me tingles! 🙂

    • Yay, another fan! Yes, this definitely has a gross-factor to it, but I was reading some more on it last night, just guffawing. It’s great–nice to find another person who’s read it. I honestly don’t how much the US audience will go for the offbeat humor, but I hope it does well.

  12. Very glad you are enjoying it, and also that it has prompted a discussion about humour in books. It’s a tough thing to do, particularly when you are flipping between light-hearted and rather gruesome scenes with related negative emotions. I’m treading the same line in my next two books, and it’s very easy to veer too much the wrong way. Humour is definitely a very personal thing: some people who read my book did not find it funny in the slightest. As long as it is funny to those who share my sense of humour, I’m very happy!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Michael! I’ve been trying to read your book slowly (as opposed to inhaling) because I think it is SO funny and I want to savor it. In the chapters I read last night, the foul-mouthed Mr Alexander going after Nicolas Sarcosi and the French had me in the floor :-). Totally agree that humor is hard to do, and the blend of horror and humor even more so. But you do it very, very well!

  13. Fun post, Suzanne. I like a little humor in my paranormal reads. Kresley Cole does this so well with her badass and hilarious Valkyrie (Immortals After Dark). I like how Larissa Ione’s characters also bring on the humor in even the darker apocalyptic battle scenes (Wraith of the Demonica Series is a particular favorite of mine).

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