The somebodies in question here are Chris Pauls and Matt Solomon, authors of “Deck Z: The Titanic: Unsinkable, Undead,” a book that is as ridiculous and amusing as the overabundance of colons in its title implies. A credit to the ever-growing genre of monster mash-ups and alternative histories, “Deck Z” is an ideal follow-up to the books of Stant Litore’s Zombie Bible series or Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”
“Deck Z” tells the story of a zombie outbreak on the Titanic. More specifically, it tells of how said zombie outbreak actually led to the Titanic‘s sinking and the subsequent cover-up. Following the mysterious outbreak of a frightening crossbreed of the bubonic and pneumonic plagues (read: zombies), the German military seeks to harness the plague’s deadly power and use it against their enemies in Russia.
Theodore Weiss, a German scientist with a heart of gold, must race against time to keep the vial containing the zombie plague out of the military’s hands. He is pursued by a German agent with a tragic past and a vendetta against the Russians. Weiss decides to flee to America with the vial to continue working toward a cure for the plague, and the Agent follows him… right onto the maiden voyage of the world’s biggest ocean liner, Titanic.
The most delightfully fun part of “Deck Z” is the way it brings to life (pun intended) the historical figures involved in the fateful voyage of the Titanic. Captain E.J. Smith, ship designer Thomas Andrews, White Star Line president J. Bruce Ismay, and the actual crew members of the Titanic all play a role in responding to the zombie outbreak on the ship.
But there are fictional characters as well, most notably Dr. Weiss and Lou, a young passenger who is instrumental in the Titanic‘s fate. While it might be hard to sympathize with characters like Ismay or the wealthy passengers, Lou provides a much-needed human element to a book that is at times laugh-out-loud ridiculous in its historical irreverence.
The zombies of “Deck Z” are frighteningly contagious, and the outbreak spreads through the ship like wildfire. Fortunately for everyone involved, the heroes of the Titanic are armed with a creative assortment of weapons. First and foremost, there’s Captain Smith’s custom-made sword, Kabul, which he manages to wield with deadly efficiency even in the cramped confines of the belowdecks. And then there’s Thomas Andrews’s flaming squash balls. Yes, you read that right: in this book, zombies are vanquished with the improper application of an English gentleman’s sport.
All in all, “Deck Z” is an entertaining and quick read with an ominous modern-day frame. As last year was the hundredth anniversary of the Titanic‘s doomed maiden voyage, the book is as timely as it is irreverent. If you’re looking for your next alternate history story, this just might be it.