Review by Matthew Tait
Zombies. They are everywhere in the genre at the moment. And like them or not, the undead are here to stay. The trick in fiction, of course, is to try and dig something new out of the sand – an original vision to complement what a certain director named George started all those years ago. Right off the bat, Paul Mannering has accomplished this with the setting: Australia. Not only is this the land of my birth, but its environs are almost unexplored in horror territory. It is only just now that we are seeing what this country is capable of producing – not only it’s hinterland potential … but also the writing talent that resides both here and in New Zealand.
Narrated in first person, Tankbread reads like the culmination of a life-time spent studying the horror terrain. Our raconteur is amusing, sarcastic, and has just the right amount of ‘everyman’ quality to appeal to a broad spectrum. A title that raises questions, we soon find out the cryptic meaning of the word: zombie food. In this apocalypse, the survivors’ have figured out a way to appease the dead … by cloning humans so they can feed. Not many of them know how this particular evolution came about – just that it is. By mollifying the dead with meat, not only do they leave humanity alone, they also employ them. There is just enough truce and co-dependency to warrant a world that’s survivable.
At times the book suffers the syndromes inherent with first novels. Paul’s voice doesn’t resonate particular confidence at the beginning … but he gains it as the tale moves on. When our protagonist hooks up with a Tankbread female named Else action figures predominately. You know you’re in Grindhouse territory when they escape on a motor-cycle from the Sydney Opera House and ride off into the sunset with a shotgun in tow. There follows a mission: to fix Else. Based on a hint, a suggestion, they will encounter a missionary of nuns, pig rearing eccentrics, and a plethora of the undead. Paul’s descriptions in that area are visceral … and more than once I was reminded of a certain author called Brian Keene.
Ultimately Tankbread is a tale that’s worth your while; zombie aficionados will gobble it up. Paul Mannering is a writer who knows his world. Someone, I anticipate, who will find a dedicated readership.