Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Land of the Meat Munchers by Nicholas Yong

Now this is the kind of stuff that I wanted to read when I started the SEAReadingChallenge . An ordinary zombie story but set in Singapore and by a Singaporean author. I started this yesterday so I guess this is why I had that zombie dream.

Slight digression: I don't know why, but when I search for ebooks (not print books - I assume the situation might be different there) set in South East Asia and by South East Asian authors, I see a lot of literary fiction and stories where the South East Asian protagonist moves to a Western country. Which is cool because we need all sorts of books, but why must SEAsian culture be so overwhelmingly written about in relation to Western culture? Can't we just have books about us without comparing us to other countries?

Or maybe the only reason why I see this phenomenon is because most of the books made into ebooks are these literary & cultural conflict type and there's a lot of other books line Land of the Meat Munchers that exist only in print (really hope this is the case).

/Digression over

Land of the Meat Munchers is a tale of zombie Singapore. A mysterious zombie virus hits Singapore, leaving Jim and other survivors alone to fend for themselves. Chased while out on a food hunt, Jim must make his way back to his group in Tiong Bahru MRT station, with only his new friends - Selina and Raj, for help.

I admit, it was initially weird to see Singapore and hear Singlish in a zombie book. Then I caught myself and realised that there is no reason for this to feel weird. If the US or the UK can be the setting for a zombie apocalypse, then Singapore (and Malaysia and Indonesia and Thailand and everywhere else) can be a setting too. It shouldn't be weird.

The setting was very Singaporean, which was great. At first, I was a bit worried that it would be like a typical zombie book, but with a few names changed. But apart from Singlish dialogue, the book also has Beng zombies, HDBs, the word "ponding" and much more, all well-woven into the story itself. This wasn't a zombie world with Singapore added to it, this was a Singaporean zombie world.

I also found myself really enjoying the fact it was set in Singapore and how Jim, Selina, and Raj were learning to work together. Each of them had their own traumatising past and seeing them learn to work together (or not) was something that I enjoyed reading. Although Jim is the main character, I felt that all three were equally fleshed-out and well-written.

I also liked the fact that the book considered the question of how a zombie outbreak would occur and why we would be isolated. Though the question was never answered because all communication lines and power lines were down, the fact that the characters wondered about this made the setting feel a bit more realistic. If there ever is a second book, I hope the question of why Singapore would be left alone would be answered (or if the zombies managed to travel the causeway)

If you're a fan of zombie books or just looking for fiction set in Singapore, I think you'll really enjoy this. A lot of thought clearly went into making this zombie story Singaporean (including a zombie all in white that continues to try to shake people's hands even in death) and I found this to be a really fun read.

P.s. There is some mature language in this book so it may not be suitable for kids.

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