Shaun and Toby live in Honeywell Springs, the “Honey Bee Capital of the World,” which is something 13-year-old Shaun is not delighted about, having this “thing” about the buzzers. It is Founders Day where everyone dresses up like bees and wear black and gold but before the festival starts, Shaun must make a grocery delivery to Dr. Romero (get it?) who is doing secret experiments with bees. Dr. Romero’s genetically altered bees, being the size of chihuahuas, have escaped and are headed to the town’s festival. It’s up to Toby and the melissophobic Shaun to warn the town. Did I mention that the sting of these dog-sized bees turn people into zombies? Did I need to mention that considering the title of the novel?
Geared at the young adult and maybe slighter younger crowd, Night of the ZomBEEs by Kevin David Anderson is one of the funniest zombie novels I have read in a while. Anderson is no stranger to the satiric sci-fi/horror comedy having previously written Night of the Living Trekkies. In his major protagonists, he gives us two smart but picked-on nerds in Shaun and Toby and teams them with Samantha a.k.a. Sam. She is usually a bully to the two “dweebs” but Shaun has a secret crush on her. Shaun and Toby provide the very smart dialogue while Sam gives the team its tension. The dialogue is one of the best things about the book – it’s sharp but still sounds early teen. The adults are a different matter. Like many YA books of this variety, the adults are there as fodder for the disaster and a sounding board for the kids’ eventual one-upsmanship. It is no spoiler in a YA book like this to say the kids save the day. How they save the day is where the fun is.
As an adult, I found it quite amusing as long as I let my inner child wander a bit. There are plenty of references to chuckle at for both the adult and teen zombie movie fan. Remember Dr. Romero? I also learned how to play “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock” (Spock vaporizes rock but lizard poisons Spock). Since Shaun and Toby are James Bond fans, we also get plenty references to the secret agent as they argue if they are really brave enough, or stupid enough, to try what they are thinking of doing.
I can’t say that Night of the ZomBEES makes for any new territory; it follows the tried and true zombie format fairly closely. Yet there is a large measure of FUN in capital letters that makes this story work. There is violence of the B-movie zombie variety but it never goes into what I consider gore. Actually I would have no trouble recommending this to the tween category, which I suspect it was written for, rather than the broader 12 to 18-year-old age range. Night of the ZomBEEs is an imaginative romp through both the zombie and mutated animal genres that succeeds on wit and imagination. Recommended for all zombie fans, adult and teens alike.