Posts Tagged ‘brains’

Book Review: Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

October 28, 2014 1 comment

Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin BeckerSummary:
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

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Book Review: My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

October 3, 2011 9 comments

Punk girl with blood and guts hanging out of her mouth.Summary:
Angel wakes up in the hospital to discover she was found naked and overdosed on drugs on the the side of the road in her small town after a fight with her boyfriend, Randy.  Someone mysteriously drops off medicinal energy drinks along with a note that she must work loyally for at least a month at a job newly acquired for her at the city morgue.  A high school drop-out living with her alcoholic and periodically abusive father, Angel decides that she should seize this opportunity.  It certainly helps that pills and alcohol no longer seem to do anything for her.  As her oddly gloppy energy drinks start to run out, though, Angel finds herself having cravings for something found in the morgue–brains.

I bought the kindle edition of this book the instant it came out as a birthday present to myself for two reasons.  First, the title is amazing.  Second, look at that cover!  Yeah, the whole thing just screamed my named.  My instincts were right, too.

It’s been a long time since I read a book that hits all the elements I love in literature like this one–urban fantasy style horror, a setting that rings familiar to me, a completely relatable main character, and a fun love interest.  It’s a world that’s simultaneously familiar and special, which is what makes urban fantasy fun.  Angel’s world of trailers, beer cans, and nothing to do reminds me a lot of my childhood growing up in Vermont.  On the other hand, Angel has cravings for brains.  And she somehow manages to keep this a secret in a small town, certainly a monumental task.

Angel’s problems are a combination or fantastical ones (must find brains to survive) and completely real world ones (a history of an abusive mother and an alcoholic father).  Angel has a lot to overcome even before she gets zombified, but the zombification adds an element of distance that allows tough things to be talked about without that dragging down dullness often found in literary fiction.

Rowland reworks the zombie trope without completely removing the essentials of a zombie.  Angel can function in day to day life as long as she has brains once every two days or so.  If she doesn’t have them though, her senses slowly dull and she gradually turns into the lurching monster simply desiring brains that we all know from the classic zombie movies.  This really works, because it allows Angel to be a part of society, yet still be the monster we’ve all grown to know and love.

That said, I will say that I am getting a bit tired of the monsters surviving by working in a morgue trope.  I wish Rowland had come up with something a bit more creative for how Angel gets her hands on brains than that.  It’s starting to seem like the staff of the morgues in all of urban fantasy consist entirely of monsters and sociopaths.  Thinking more outside the box would have made me love the book instead of really liking it.

Overall, this zombie book gave me thrills, chills, and laughs galore, but it also brought me close to tears.  It’s genre fiction with a heart, and I highly recommend it to anyone willing to see zombies (or white trash) in a whole new light.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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