Zombies vs. Unicorns: An Age Old Dispute

I feel like this book misled me, which is a shame because I was so sure there was no way it could be anything less than totally awesome. Here’s the cover:

Zombies vs. Unicorns


But what I first saw was the spine with ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS glaring at me from across the library. Of course I’m going to check that out, it’s not even a question.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Wait, no, I do; I was expecting zombies and unicorns battling to the death with humans looking on as the unlucky, occasionally gored/eaten bystanders. Then I realized it was a book of short stories edited by Holly Black (Team Unicorn) and Justine Larbalestier (Team Zombie). The stories are either about zombies or about unicorns (except for Garth Nix, who has both, which does not surprise me–you know he can’t get away from dead things–but they don’t even fight, so it doesn’t count). At first, I was impressed by the veritable YA lit author powerhouse they had assembled. The list includes: Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Carrie Ryan among others. But not even this could placate me for long about the total lack of zombie-on-unicorn action.

Also, admittedly, I have pretty high standards. Especially where zombies are concerned, being basically a Max Brooks-approved expert on the subject. Some of the stories were about the annoying, fluffy zombies who don’t try to kill people and mostly just make brain jokes and fall in love, clearly trying to lull us into a false sense of security for the impending zombocalypse. I disapprove in the strongest possible terms. In general, I also like unicorns to be ruthless, killing machines since–come on–they have a huge freaking weapon on their heads. If I had a horn, I would totally use it to maul people until they did my bidding.

I did kind of like Meg Cabot’s unicorn, clearly a parody, which farted a delicate floral scent and was named Princess Prettypants, and Naomi Novik’s, a shifty New York unicorn who doesn’t exactly play by the Unicorn Rulebook but, damn it, he gets results. On the zombie side, Carrie Ryan wrote an awesome, kickass-girl story in her Forest of Hands and Teeth universe, which I am already a fan of, and Scott Westerfeld went with the interesting idea of showing what teens growing up in a post-zombocaylpse world would do to be cool and distance themselves from the lame adults in their lives (hint: zombie virus is the drug of choice).

All these good points aside, I cannot get behind a book called Zombies vs. Unicorns that does not actually have zombies-fighting-unicorns action. I think it would look something like this:


I knew this was a bad idea the minute Francois was run through. As I watched that sharp, shimmering horn slide through his chest, I realized we probably should have never left the mall. Sure, I was sick of that fake muzak we couldn’t figure out how to turn off, and another gang of bikers was due to break in any day, but at least we were safe. I mean, besides the hordes of undead outside, clawing at the windows and moaning for our flesh, but that’s a given anywhere these days. The unicorns, though, they never try to get indoors. Not when there’s so much fresh meat outside.

Well, relatively fresh. Unicorns, for all their sparkly mystical powers, are not known for their discriminating tastes. Flesh-hungry zombie or scared-shitless human; they don’t really care which, it’s what’s for dinner. In fact, there’s been talk that they like humans even more because they usually have to chase us down first, and you know how they love showing off their billowy, glistening mane, bonus points if it catches the light of the full moon. Although that may have been just talk.

Still, after the unicorn that had gored Francois was busy licking up his blood, I climbed a tree. Unicorns can’t climb trees, right? I was less sure of myself when a few more showed up. Could unicorns fly? I knew they weren’t technically magic, having been created by our crack team of scientists to save humanity from the zombie horde, but, since THAT hadn’t turned out according to plan, I wondered what else was wrong. I tried to stay still, but they could probably smell me.

Luckily, at that moment, a faint moan wafted towards us on the breeze. The unicorns all perked up their ears, noses wet with Francois’ blood. Yes! I thought. Zombies! Maybe they’d followed us from the mall, or maybe they’d just caught my scent, or the scent of Francois’ unrecognizable corpse. Either way, maybe it would prove enough of a distraction to the unicorns that I could get away. Zombies were easy prey–but nothing about me has ever been easy.

Whenever I write example story-excerpts I like to give everyone French names because I think it makes everything sound more like a bad historical romance novel. The main character is called Antoinette.

Noted expert Rob McAuliffe actually included a zombies/unicorns link in the brilliant final he wrote for WIESS 101: Zombies in Fiction and Film, which is still on my desktop because reading it makes me happy. Since it includes such biting social commentary (read: is about real people at Wiess) I probably should not reproduce it in full (since Charles Lena would get pissed that his careful preparations do not, in fact, render him MVP). Here is the relevant excerpt from the end, however, when Rob and I are the only ones left alive from our class:

I begin to again crumple into a ball on the floor and prepare to die. Patricia tells me to get up, because she has one last plan. It, however, was going to require a great sacrifice, our soft hair. She explains that zombies could not possibly withstand our soft hair, and once we touch them with it they will turn into unicorns. We run back to Wiess shaking our hair at zombies along the way, filling the campus with bright sparkly pink unicorns. When we get back we cut off our hair and give it to the rest of the survivors. We are able to run around campus turning all of the zombies to unicorns. Unfortunately, unicorns it turns out also have a taste for human brains, and we are all eaten. (McAuliffe, R. 2007)

In conclusion, Rob and I totally could have written this book.

2 responses to “Zombies vs. Unicorns: An Age Old Dispute”

  1. Steven says:

    I’ve been wondering what would happen if I slapped a zombie with my coarse, coarse hair. The only possible conclusion is it turning into an angry badger.

  2. mom Ladd says:

    Finally getting caught up on my reading this weekend and this post totally makes me so happy. I love you and Rob and Steven, and bloodthirsty unicorns!

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