Spill Zone

  • Spill Zone
  • written by Scott Westerfeld
  • illustrated by Alex Puvilland
  • published by First Second Books (2017)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Spill Zone does something I don’t think I’ve seen before. It tells a totally dark, creepy, twisted story with a striking color palette saturated with vibrancy. Flipping through the book, you’d be excused for assuming the story is a lot more uplifting than it really is.

The book also pulls you in and compels you to keep turning pages, desperate to find some meaning to the madness that Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland create.

Addison and her little sister, Lexa, live just outside Poughkeepsie, NY, which is now completely off-limits and known as the Spill Zone. Po’Town is no more. A mysterious “event” occurred that basically destroyed the town, turned all of the people into floating zombies, and created a psychedelic version of Stranger Things’ Upside Down.

Venturing into the Spill Zone is verboten, and the entire city is surrounded by a military cordon, but the city – and its wonderfully bizarre attractions – are what pay Addison’s bills. After losing her parents to the event, Addison turns to her photography and runs suicide missions into the Spill Zone on her motorcycle to take pictures.

Of the mutated creatures that have no business existing. Of the two-dimensional images that will suck you out of this dimension. Of the swirling vortexes that seem to have a mind of their own.

But never of the people. The floating, lifeless zombies that don’t decompose but will eventually convince you that they’re speaking to you…and ultimately drive you crazy. That’s one of Addison’s all-important rules that keep her alive. Don’t get off the bike, don’t go inside any buildings, and don’t point the camera at the people.

She then sells her pictures to “collectors” for insane prices. But things, as they often do when dealing with questionable windows to other dimensions, quickly go south.

Westerfeld and Puvilland do quick and admirable work here of establishing a truly compelling world and spinning a mystery that sucks you in. You will be left wanting more. Spill Zone is the first book of a series, and it ends with several unanswered questions still lingering.

I hesitate to say Spill Zone is all-ages appropriate. If you’re coming to the book from the Free Comic Book Day sampler Spill Night, you might have that impression. However, the full book has some language and violent imagery (and a creeptastic talking doll) that might give the little ones the heebie jeebies.

I mean, if that’s what you’re going for, then have at it. But fair warning.

(Disclosure: First Second Books provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire, StarWars.com, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *