Welcome to “Apocalypse Cow,” a comic-horror novel that publishes today in the United States (St. Martin’s Griffin; paperback, $14.99).
Once zombies overran Jane Austen, it was probably only a matter of time before we got a farce about mad cow disease. In Michael Logan‘s absurdist novel, zombie bovines ravage the earth, and the only thing standing between us and udder destruction is a teenager, a slaughterhouse worker and a journalist.
Watch out: The path from Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” to Logan’s debut novel is strewn with piles of steaming manure.
“Apocalypse Cow” was discovered back in 2011 when the manuscript won the inaugural Terry Pratchett First Novel Award. The prize brought $15,000 and a contract from Pratchett’s publisher to release the novel in England.
Now Logan is milking that success for all it’s worth.
But the world of sex-crazed zombie cows is a whole new field for this Scottish writer. For years Logan has been reporting on serious things in Nairobi, Hungary and Bosnia.
“Writing about violence is depressing,” Logan says via e-mail from his home in Kenya. “The one thing that keeps most journalists going in these situations is gallows humor, which is the essence of ‘Apocalypse Cow.’ ”
Beneath the comedy, though, lies a serious point about “the fragility of human society, and how quickly people can retreat from the cooperative systems we have built to the basic instinct of individual survival in the face of a threat,” he says. “We are essentially the same animals as thousands of years ago and can, once the rules governing civilized society no longer apply, easily revert.”
Logan says he was inspired to write fiction by the work of Christopher Moore, Clive Barker and Terry Pratchett. Now he’s working on a follow-up to “Apocalypse Cow” called “Cruel Britannia.” “It is not in any way a traditional zombie novel,” he promises. “And there is plenty of silliness involving combat yoga and suchlike.” (Is anything like “combat yoga”?)
Heed the book jacket’s warning: “Forget the cud, they want blood.”