While the zombie apocalypse serving as the driving force of The Walking Dead has long confirmed the pandemic is indeed global, the popular franchise has confined virtually all of its action to North America. However, with the new novel Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Typhoon, written by Wesley Chu, the scope of the horror expands to of China, blending local culture and sensibilities with the franchise's signature elements.
Set some time after the outbreak has swept across the most populous country on Earth, Typhoon follows a trio of friends, Zhu, Bo and Elena as they struggle to survive and serve the remnants of the Chinese government. With a massive herd of walkers on a collision course with their settlement, the trio must question their loyalties.
Coming primarily from a background as a comedy and science fiction novelist, Chu effortlessly transitions into horror as he takes The Walking Dead into uncharted territory. The novel mixes the beauty of Chinese culture, folklore and cuisine without coming off as pandering, but rather enriches the story to make the inevitable tragedy of burning it all down all the more heartbreaking. Chu's use of Chinese tropes breathes new live into the venerable franchise through its local flavor: Not once are zombies referred to in the text as "walkers," the usual nickname through the franchise, but rather as jiangshi, the Chinese term for life force-consuming undead native to their folklore.
Chu takes the same approach with his characters, and more than only his three initial leads. Virtually every aspect of Chinese social standing, from the government and military to religious orders and remote villages, are woven into the story, each with a role to play as society attempts to adapt and rebuild. How a collectivist, totalitarian society reacts to the zombie apocalypse is an interesting contrast to other stories within the franchise, and Chu makes the novel perfectly accessible to readers who may never have picked up a Walking Dead comic or watched an episode of its television series.
That isn't to say the franchise's expected zombie action and horror aren't also on full display. Chu stages the first half of the novel as a bit of a slow burn while positioning the undead as an unrelenting force of nature, as hinted by its title. For the most part, the violence isn't quite as graphic as previous depictions in the comic book or television series, but there are moments when Chu goes for the jugular, literally, using it to shock the readers from preconceptions.
Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Typhoon takes the apocalypse global in a story that livens up the franchise. Chu blends heartbreaking pathos and his extensive knowledge of China in a horror story that celebrates the local culture before exacting the devastating fury that's expected from the hit property. Accessible to new readers and longtime fans alike, Typhoon shows there's plenty of life left in the long-running franchise.
Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Typhoon is written by Wesley Chu. It will be on sale Oct. 1 from Skybound Books and Gallery Books.