When Ah Beng zombies attack

When Ah Beng zombies attack
Interview with Nicholas Yong, who wrote a novel on a zombie apocalypse in Singapore

Question: If a zombie apocalypse happened here, would you:

a) Lock yourself up in your flat?

b) Seek shelter in your nearest NTUC, Giant or Sheng Siong supermarket?

c) Arm yourself with a parang to fend off the walking dead?

The characters in the book Land Of The Meat Munchers do all of the above - while running from zombies in Ghim Moh and Tiong Bahru. The zombie apocalypse tale, set in Singapore, is by Mr Nicholas Yong, a former reporter with The Straits Times, whose love affair with the genre started with the 2002 film 28 Days Later.

Now, he has written a 191-page paperback novel published by Marshall Cavendish, believed to be the first of its kind written by a Singaporean.

It will be launched tonight at 7.30pm at BooksActually in Tiong Bahru and is available at $19.90 at Times and Kinokuniya bookstores. Mr Yong told The New Paper that zombie stories are fascinating because they are not just about the horror but also serve as metaphors for the human condition.

The author, who turns 33 on Thursday (on Halloween itself, no less), also organises the annual Singapore Zombie Walk with his girlfriend, Miss Gillian Ang, 28, who works in the IT industry. The event took place at The Cathay this year.

He took a year to write Land Of The Meat Munchers. It is his first book and it started as a short story submission for a competition run by the Budding Writers League last year. The local organisation aims to help aspiring writers.

It took another year to develop the story into a tale of survival featuring three strangers: Undergraduate Jim, polytechnic student Selina (after 28 Days Later's Jim and Selena, played by Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris) and lawyer Raj, whose survival kit includes a bottle of Polo Ralph Lauren.

Singaporean-isms abound in the novel: jokes about public transport breakdowns, Hello Kitty toys and likening survival to being "outfield" in national service.

A spokesman for Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) said: "Land Of The Meat Munchers taps into the rise of the international zombie trend with local characters and settings. It is a fresh, humorous look into the Singapore psyche and the everyday issues that concern all of us. Readers will definitely be entertained."

Mr Yong, who is a big fan of the hit TV horror series The Walking Dead and touchstone zombie flicks like Dawn Of The Dead, has included many slash-and-smash scenes in the book as the characters face a variety of meat munchers, including politicians and a blond-haired "Beng Brigade" to politicians.

The novel, however, is also a bit of a love letter to Ghim Moh, where he and his parents have been living, in a five-room HDB flat, since 1997.

Mr Yong, a freelance writer and the creator of pop culture website geekcrusade.com, painstakingly retraced the route from the Ghim Moh market to Mount Sinai Drive multiple times for accuracy, making the book an eerie read for anyone familiar with the area. Although words like "lah" and "neh'mine" pepper the characters' colourful dialogues, there are many footnotes to help non-Singlish speakers.

julrasul@sph.com.sg


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