Full disclosure: I’m not one for zombie novels. Or zombie anything, really. And it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve seen The Walking Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, 28 Days Later and I Am Legend and I’ve read World War Z, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and various other zombie stories. Aside from a couple of chuckles and a healthy sprinkle of nightmares, I got nothing. But I think I may have pinpointed the issue. Zombie novels have no real thought behind them. Wait! Before you gnaw my head open for some juicy braiiinns, let me finish. The human characters in zombie books and movies have deep thoughts about their situation and the purpose of their horrific existence. But this is all in-between fighting thoughtless murderers (in the literal sense). I mean, in the canon of zombie literature, zombies are usually without a philosophy or desires other than to feed. And I can understand the logic behind that but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. That’s why when my seeester handed me this book and said that it was “not has good as The Hunger Games but better than Twilight,” I was not expecting much.
Plot. “R” is a zombie living in a zombie colony in an airport. And yes, he does what zombies do: hunt people and eat brains. But he also desperately wants to know his name. All he can remember is the first letter. And he wants to know his zombie friend’s name. And his zombie wife’s name, which is printed on a name tag pinned to her shirt which he can’t read because he lost that ability when he turned. He also wants to converse with his fellow zombies about their lot in life, about when they turned, about whether they still dream when they sleep, about their theories on how they came to be (plague? bombs? evolution?), hell, even about the weather. But he can’t. Stringing two coherent syllables together is his personal best and he’s the most articulate of the group. What “R” craves more than anything else is humanity. He wants nothing more than to experience and share and talk again. Which is why he loves eating brains. When he bites into a person’s brain, he becomes privy to their thoughts, fears and memories – things that he lost God knows how long ago.
And this is where “R” is when he goes hunting with his friend and comes across a group of teens/adults to NOM. “R” tackles some guy and busies himself with his brain when he sees a girl out of the corner of his eye. And since he just ate her boyfriend’s brain (with all the memories and feelings he felt for this girl), he feels inexplicably attracted to her. While the rest of his zombie gang busies themselves with devouring everyone, “R” rushes over to the girl, smears her with blood to camouflage her human scent, and takes her back to the airport. He keeps telling her, through stilted words, that he’s doing this to protect her. But it’s more because she awakens things in him that have long laid dormant. Also, she knows her name and can say it: Julie. Big advantage over the wifey there.
But “R” could not have chosen a worse person to kidnap. Julie’s father kind of runs the army for the human resistance living in the arena nearby. Also, everyone can kind of tell that she’s human. And the Boneys (the members of the zombie oligarchy at the airport) want her dead because she’s not one of them. And she represents a threat to their way of life. Self-actualized zombies with a clear philosophy on non-life?! If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is. Also, they look like this:
This is the tension in the novel: the human philosophy versus the philosophy of the undead. Which one will win? Who will defeat whom? Can they co-exist? Are they all that different? Can Julie and “R” hope for any sort of real life together given who/what they are? Also, “R” kind of ate Julie’s boyfriend. You don’t just get over that kind of thing. Right?
This book, guys! I try rullll hard not to be all “This book is AMAH-ZING! Read it!” because then people read it and they’re like “Calm yourself. It was only all right.” So I won’t tell you just how good I think this book is or how powerful the philosophical questions are or how it made me question how I live/want to live my life. I’ll just leave you with this quote from the book where Julie gives her theory on how zombies came to be:
‘I think we crushed ourselves down over the centuries. Buried ourselves under greed and hate and whatever other sins we could find until our souls finally hit rock bottom of the universe. And then they scraped a hole through it, into some…dark place.’ 221-222
4.5 out of 5 coffees. Read the book soon; the movie comes out this Friday. Also, the soundtrack!