I am totally geeking out here everyone. I fully embrace that when it comes to the horror genre I’m a complete geek. I could care less about the Tom Cruises of the world; just give me Sid Haig, Doug Bradley, or Pascal Laugier and I’m a happy man. But the novel I just finished, NIGHT OF THE LIVING TREKKIES by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall, is perhaps the biggest geek merger of all time. Now I must say for the record that I’m NOT a Trekkie. I never really enjoyed the original STAR TREK series but have enjoyed various episodes of THE NEXT GENERATION now and again. So how does a novel that merges the universe of STAR TREK conventions and zombies work?
NIGHT OF THE LIVING TREKKIES is the story of what happens when a major zombie outbreak happens at a STAR TREK convention, the Fifth Annual GulfCon, in Houston, Texas. The pacing here is quick, the characters are very well developed, and we even get a different kind of zombie here. Jim Pike is a war veteran from the Afghanistan war and is a little shell shocked after failing to help save a few of the men under his command. As a result he has taken a job as a bellhop in a hotel in Houston; he wants no responsibilities and doesn’t want the job of ever having to lead others. Shelly Dumpkin, or as she’s known through the majority of the novel Princess Leia, is a strong, fiercely independent woman who’ll remind you of such other ass kicking female characters like Sarah Conner and Ripley. Surrounding these two main characters are a bunch of very creative, fun, and dorky STAR TREK loving people who get caught up in the zombie apocalypse.
The first thing that I was worried about as I began reading NIGHT OF THE LIVING TREKKIES was that most of the STAR TREK references would go straight over my head. But I must say that with the (very) little knowledge I have of the STAR TREK universe I was getting most of the references flying around the book (although I’m sure I missed a ton more that the hardcore Trekkie will catch). And to make this book even “geekier”, Anderson and Stall throw in tons of STAR WARS references as well (in fact, whenever the Princess Leia character gets scared she starts quoting lines from various STAR WARS films in her everyday language). STAR TREK, zombies, and STAR WARS … wow; geeks unite!!
But the authors don’t just use STAR TREK and WARS as gimmicks here; they weave a really solid plot around these two worlds and incorporate them into both the story and characters. It’s very well done and a lot of fun. The story opens with some creatures in a secret underground bunker escaping into the world. We really don’t know why they’re in that bunker but its a pretty good guess that these are the cause of the zombie outbreak. We then immediately join the Trekkies at GulfCon and start meeting the main characters. Anderson and Stall do a really nice job establishing the characters and slowly developing them throughout the novel. Some of the other characters include Rayna, Jim’s sister and huge Trekkie geek; Eli Sandoval, a Harvard professor and expert in the field of exobiology and on the possible existence of ET’s; Martock, a big geek who dresses like a Klingon, owns a sheet metal shop, and is a talented weapons maker; and Willie Makit, a member of the West Texas Red Tunic Club … a club that honors all the “red shirts” in the original series that would beam down to a planet and die.
Most of the action in the book focuses around Jim and Leia trying to make it to Rayna’s hotel room to save her and her friends and then get the hell out of the hotel. As the survivors group together they find themselves getting into deeper and deeper zombie troubles. Jim, meanwhile, tries to overcome his fear of leading people while at the same time knowing he’s the only one in the group of geeks who actually can lead them to safety. And this brings us to the zombies themselves. It would’ve been easy for the authors, who call themselves “lifelong science fiction geeks and proud of it,” to focus on the STAR TREK elements here and use the zombies simply as the enemy. But Anderson and Stall never forget they’re writing a zombie novel.
The zombies here are the typical slow-moving, Romero zombies but we actually get a different take on the zombies. Without giving too much away, the zombie outbreak originated in space and over the course of the novel we see that the zombies are kind of morphing/evolving into something more (the “third eye” is a nice touch). My only complaint with the zombies is that they’re a little too unthreatening. Unless you’re directly in their line of site, you’re pretty safe from the zombies. They can’t open doors, climb stairs too well, or even hunt down people all that effectively. But when you see where Anderson and Stall take the zombies, you kind of forgive the unthreatening early zombies.
What I also really enjoyed here is how self-referential the novel is. In the beginning when Jim is experiencing a lot of odd situations he says:
“I’m freaking myself out … But I know two people who were bitten today. One of them developed a really strange rash on her shoulder. And a lot of my coworkers are calling in sick. Isn’t this how zombie movies always start? With lots of minor, seemingly unrelated incidents?”
And then towards the end when they think they’re out of danger and Jim says to Leia, “It’s over,” Leia responds:
“It’s never over … Don’t you remember Aliens? Or Terminator? Whenever the main characters relax and the audience thinks its time for the closing credits, something else happens. You should know that.”
It’s passages like this that make NIGHT OF THE LIVING TREKKIES a really fun read. Add to this some original zombies, great zombie violence, great characters who’re nicely developed, excellent dialogue, and some great humor and you have one really fun read. You don’t need to be a STAR TREK geek to enjoy NIGHT OF THE LIVING TREKKIES but it helps (all the chapters are named after STAR TREK episodes). I could say something here like, “Set your phasers to ‘fun’,” but I won’t; but definitely check this book out!!
Authors: Kevin David Anderson & Sam Stall
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 4 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer