Tim Lebbon – Coldbrook
Hammer, UK, 2012
Those who had the chance to read Tim Lebbon’s recent novel Coldbrook’s synopsis might have thought this is another zombie-related apocalyptic story. Indeed, this is the premise. But the novel succeeds where many others have failed.
Coldbrook is a complex subterranean laboratory, buried deep beneath the Appalachian Mountains. It is the creation of Bill Coldbrook, a scientist who sought to prove his multiverse theory. Only that something pushed him to end his life before the theory is proven right. Before the onset of the apocalypse, that is. For the breach finally created between our own universe and another parallel one makes a perfect door for a death-bringing being to step through. The only problem is that those who die after they are bitten by this creature don’t stay dead. They are brought back to “life”, and seem to have only one thing left in their cold brain—to spread as far as possible the virus they are carrying.
In the chaos that ensues inside the Coldbrook facility, two people manage to run free. The first, Holly, runs back through the breach, and the second, Vic, makes a run for his home and the family that awaits him there. If Holly’s escape will bring new knowledge – one in that parallel world, she discovers that the apocalypse has already taken place and finds out what could be done to avoid it – Vic’s escape is synonymous with the unleashing of the true apocalypse. Through the breach he thus creates (a continuation of the initial one) the virus reaches the outside and starts spreading at stunning pace.
Inside the facility there’s only Jonah left, the old scientist who helped the late Bill Coldbrook start it all up back at the beginning. From inside that metaphorical whale’s belly, Jonah will try to coordinate the (above-)ground operations.
For there’s a cure. A person is immune. The young Jayne, suffering from a rare illness called churu. She’s the one Vic, his family, and other good people try to save in a gesture—at least for Vic—of redemption.
The chase scenes are spectacular, the zombie army who overruns from entire highways to airports and cities are as terrifying as expected, and more than that, and the characters show courage but more importantly they show those weaknesses which only make them human.
In Coldbrook, the emphasis is exactly on this aspect, the humanity behind the horror. Contrasted with the zombies’ dehumanization, it is all the more evident. The religious aspect is also important here, the tribulations brought on by the idea of Creator versus creation. More than action and horror, Coldbrook make a turn for the universal story of humanity and redemption.
The undead may be the ones responsible for the apocalypse, but hope will always be the ultimate redoubt of those who feel human. And we all know that hope never dies. So, it can’t come back to eat us alive.