Jack Barnes once was a college professor, but now he’s a zombie. A zombie who can think. Think, but not talk. He can, however, still write. So he keeps a memoir of his quest to gather other thinking zombies and bring their case for equality to their creator, the man who started the whole zombie outbreak.
I picked this up during the height of the zombie craze in the used book basement of a local bookstore for dirt cheap. (It looked brand new but only cost a couple of dollars). I’m glad I got it so cheap, because this book failed to deliver the sympathetic zombies I was looking for.
The idea of thinking zombies who challenge the question of what makes us human is interesting and is one multiple authors have explored before. It’s not easy to make cannibalizing corpses empathetic. Zombies are so naturally not empathetic that to craft one the reader can relate to is a challenge. Without at least one zombie character the reader empathizes with, though, this whole idea of maybe zombies are more than they seem will fail. And this is where this book really flounders. Jack was a horrible person, and he’s a terrible zombie. And this is a real problem when he narrates a whole book whose plot revolves around zombies demanding equal treatment. Jack is a snob, through and through. It feels as if every other sentence out of his mouth is him looking down upon someone or something. This would be ok if he grew over the course of the novel. If his new zombie state taught him something about walking in another person’s shoes. But no. He remains exactly the same throughout the book. He has zero character growth away from the douchey snobby professor who looks down on literally everyone, including those within his own circle. This isn’t a mind it’s fun or even enlightening to get inside of. It’s just annoying. As annoying as fingernails on a chalkboard.
The plot is ok. Jack gathers other thinking zombies and heads for Chicago to find the man who created the zombie virus and convince him to advocate for them. Their standoff is interesting and entertaining. But the ending beyond this standoff is unsatisfying.
It also bugs me that this is a memoir written by this guy but it is never clear how this memoir made it into the reader’s hands. With a fictional memoir, I need to know how I supposedly am now reading something so personal. I also had trouble suspending my disbelief that a slow zombie managed to have time to write such descriptive passages crouched in a corner at night.
Overall, this is an interesting concept that is poorly executed with an unsympathetic main character. Recommended that readers looking for a zombie memoir pick up Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by SG Browne instead (review).
2 out of 5 stars
Source: Harvard Books