Flu – a review

January 21, 2012

I’m currently vacationing in sunny Sri Lanka. To while away my time in the sun, I took a fair few zombie books with me. This serves the triple purpose of providing me with both entertainment and something to review and offering you something useful to read. First up is Flu by Wayne Simmons.

The concept behind Flu is very simple. It’s another flu (just like with the avians and the swine) that hits, first provoking the usual panic, jokes and cynical dismissal that these things tend to do. Only it starts to get a lot worse. There are quarantines, deaths and eventually re-animations. You know how it goes from there.

The book’s setting is an interesting one, as it’s set in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The place has a rough history of political division and internal strife making it an interesting backdrop for a story with or without zombies. Wayne Simmons has managed to incorporate strong elements from the setting into the story, and Flu doesn’t feel like yet another foray into the generic US city that frames most zombie novels. There are bitter enmities and deep regrets as well as historical references and the like. The writer manages to write these into the story without being too heavy-handed. When criticism is levelled, it feels done by the characters and not the author. Personally I hate having a political ideology, religion or anything similar crammed down my throat when I’m trying to enjoy some zombie action, so I was happy with the way Simmons handled his subject matter. They serve the story’s purpose and not the other way around. Simmons hails from Northern Ireland, and it’s apparent he knows what he’s writing about.

Another thing I applaud is Simmons’ writing style. He doesn’t waste his pages and there isn’t a lot of empty filler in the book. In roughly 280 pages he manages to tell a good story, introduce the reader to a handful of characters and include the above mentioned themes into the mix. He drops nice hints here and there about how things went down when the flu struck, and there are some excellent little details there that make it hit a little closer to home.

The characters are a nice collection, too. None of them feel like cardboard cut-outs. The story follows each character’s perspective at some turn, and you get a glimpse or their motivations and inner workings. Nobody’s perfect, nobody’s a complete mess-up. They feel pretty much human, with their good and bad traits. At times it feels like Flu might make a nice movie, probably a Guy Ritchie one. The reason for this is the combination of a tragic situation, some dark humour and imperfect characters. It works wonderfully for me.

There wasn’t much in the book that irked me. A pet peeve of mine raised its head a few times. What is it with zombie book authors and firearms? Seriously. Once I know it’s a Glock 17, it can be referred to as a pistol. Do I even need to know it’s a Glock 17? This isn’t to say that the book is brimming with gun information, thankfully. There’s just a bit too much needless repetition at times. Also, the military strand of the story could’ve been developed a bit more as it felt a bit detached. Apparently this is taken further in the upcoming sequel Fever, which is a welcome piece of news.

Overall verdict: Flu doesn’t really bring that much new to the genre. A lot of the usual tropes are there – the tension between survivors, hidden agendas and friction between the establishment and civilians. Normally I’d view this as a failing on the book’s part. A book with nothing much in the new idea department needs to be pretty good otherwise to float, and luckily writer Simmons pulls it off. Flu is an intense, compact book, and well worth your reading. I ate it up in two days, and am still hungry for more.

I picked up my copy of Flu at the Book Depository.

You can check out Simmons’ homepage here.


  1. Thanks for the considered and honest review, Mikko! Hope you enjoy FEVER just as much 🙂


    • Thanks for the comment and the wonderful book, Wayne! Always nice to have the author comment on a review in person.


  2. Sounds interesting.

    I also dislike having religion or political ideology too heavily mixed with my entertainment. Being a native of Southern Ireland I have been hearing about the Troubles and all things connected with it for my whole life, so I am doubly wary in this case.

    Still a zombie story set so close to home is more appealing than yet more stories in the US, so with your recommendation I will likely pick it up.

    Incidentally, I knew more or less nothing about firearms other than bits that I have picked up from video games and the like until recently. When on holidays in the US last year I went to a firing range with some in-laws and fired off a selection of pistols and rifles, the first time that I had fired any guns.

    Since then I am actually a little more interested in what pistol the protagonist in a story is using. I dont want anything too technical, but I like to know what caliber weapon and the like, just because I can relate a little more to it now.

    The Aran Islands off the West coast of Ireland turned out to be the origin of the zombie plague in The Zombie Autopsies. Flu now has a tale of zombies in an Irish setting. Heres hoping that these stories herald the start of a trend 🙂


    • Thanks for the comment, I’d love to hear your views about the book if you end up reading it. Doubly so since you’re from Southern Ireland, I don’t doubt for a moment you’ve heard lots, lots and lots about this. What I liked about how the subject was handled in the book (and in other similar cases) was the way opinions always seemed to be those of characters, not of the author. I’ve no problem with characters with strong opinions, as long as they’re counterbalanced somehow. I cringe every time there’s a protagonist/author that spouts an ideological argument that is not reflected on. To use an imaginary example: “Sometimes killing for greater good is simply necessary. This thought was in Bob’s mind as he…” is pretty bad, unless it has been stated why Bob thinks this way. If it hasn’t been, the reader is simply forced to accept that idea at face value, and still think that Bob is a hero for actually operating the way he does. In Flu statements like that aren’t made – rather there are some individuals with their own histories, views and agendas.

      You make a really good point about firearms. Maybe I really should simply drag my conscientious objector arse to a firing range to get some personal attachment to the subject. I don’t even know why it irks me so much, as I tend to moan and groan every time someone in a book gets a detail wrong when talking about say computers, pop culture or something like that. Maybe it’s a result of once reading some dreadful Resident Evil fanfic, obviously written by either a gun nut, or someone with a Firearms of the World book. Really. There were paragraphs of text that were nothing more than lists of what guns a character had and what they were loaded with. Yes, the ammunition for every single weapon. And there were loads, as in duffel bags full of guns.

      If the zombie plague ever kicks off, I sure hope it’s in Ireland. You’re a small island, easily contained. It would also really give the term “The Green Isle” a new meaning 😀


  3. […] this year I reviewed Flu by Wayne Simmons. Fever is a sequel to the book – or rather a prequel and a parallel […]


  4. […] the third Dawn of the Lead author interview, Wayne Simmons, the author of Flu and Fever, is put on the spot. Enjoy, and go check out his […]


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