I’ll be giving a reading from Zombie, Ohio this coming Saturday, February 19, at 3pm, at the Webster Place Barnes & Noble store in Chicago (1441 W. Webster Ave.).
Kenemore’s debut is a darkly humorous depiction of one zombie’s struggle for enlightenment and redemption. When college professor Peter Mellor recovers consciousness near the wreck of his car, he finds himself in an apocalyptic landscape populated by desperate survivors and the walking and hungry undead. Soon Peter discovers that he is a zombie himself, albeit an unusually intelligent one, and that the crash that killed him was orchestrated. Determined to track down his murderer while dodging resentful breathers, Mellor struggles against his yearning to eat the brains of the living. His lapses are epic, even for a zombie, but nothing compared to the excesses of the living who see the apocalypse as license to indulge their worst impulses. There’s plenty to satisfy zombie fans who’ve come to expect some philosophy with their gore. (Feb.)
One of the best discoveries I made at ZomBcon 2010 was ROTTEN, a zombie comic set in the American West of the 1870’s. This is the best zombie comic I have encountered next to Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.
Whilst there are already several titles in the Zombie-Western genre, most of them feel like their creators hoped the novelty of the premise alone would sustain the entire movie (or comic, or novel, or short story). Examples of this are the disappointing The Quick and the Undead and Undead or Alive. (The latter is nearly saved by Brian Posehn’s performance as one of the best zombies ever [but, you know. . . isn’t.])
However, ROTTEN succeeds where others fail by (1.) taking the time to immerse readers into the details of the 1870’s Old West (and not just playing on stereotypes from Western movies), and (2.) by weaving a narrative full of plot-twists and surprises.
I loved the references to “Ruther-Fraud B. Hayes” and the contested election of 1876. (It made Bush v. Gore look neat and tidy. Read your history, people.) I also loved the points in the narrative where characters’ identities and priorities suddenly shift. (I can’t say more without giving plot points away!)
I picked up quite a few terrible zombie comics at ZomBcon 2010 (you know who you are, lousy comic book writers), but the discovery of ROTTEN made all of my disappointing purchases worth it. I’m excitied to continue exploring this awesome comic series.
“Zombie, Ohio by Scott Kenemore is a delicious slice of undead Americana. Funny, tragic and nicely weird–it’s Monty Python meets Night of the Living Dead. Definitely take a bite out of this one!” –Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and Patient Zero
“Zombie, Ohio is a great zombie book, and I don’t even normally like zombie books. It is zombies in the real world, if you can count academia as the real world. But then, what counts as the real world is kind of the point. In the pop-philosophical Peter Mellor we have, at last, the thinking man’s zombie, or the thinking zombie’s man, or maybe both. Either way, Zombie, Ohio is the zombie thing that stands out from all the other zombie things, so much so that it is not really a zombie thing, even though it totally is, because there are a ton of zombies in it. It would also make a great movie, if by any chance you’re reading this jacket because you’re looking for a zombie thing to make into a movie.” —Chris O. Cook, author of To Lose & To Pretend
“This story delves into questions of identity, purpose, and morality, without skimping on the requisite gore and action that zombie fans love. This will be one of the most unusual and satisfying zombie novels you read this year.” – Kim Paffenroth, Professor of Religious Studies and Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Gospel of the Living Dead and Valley of the Dead
What allows an audience to relate to a protagonist?
This, for me, was the central question raised by Tony Monchinski’s new zombie novel Eden: Crusade ($14.95, Permuted Press).
Many zombie novels (and horror/adventure tales) operate on the mechanism of creating likable characters and putting them into danger. (The more elaborate and interesting the danger, the better!) But it’s important that, as readers, we give a damn about the protagonist. If he/she might get eaten by a zombie, we need to be invested in him/her. There needs to be a reason why we don’t want that to happen.
And yet Bear, the protagonist who must navigate the harrowing zombie apocalypse wasteland of Eden: Crusade, is not presented as “likable” in the traditional sense. His foibles and neuroses are nonexistent. His metaphysical doubts are unknown to us. Instead, Bear is hewn from the rock of our most ancient narrative traditions. To find a similar protagonist, one must go back centuries to the Volsungasaga, Le Morte d’Arthur, or, indeed, to Beowulf itself. Like Sigurd or Beowulf, Bear endears himself to the reader only through his actions. He is not witty. We don’t like him for his personality. He does not have failings or amusing traits to which we can relate. Instead, Bear is a force to be reckoned with. No more and no less. He is resistance incarnate. His implacable determination to survive (and kill zombies) is his defining feature.
I am, perhaps, also moved to invoke ancient sagas because of Eden: Crusade’s propensity for elevated, archaic, and hyperspecific language relating to weapons and armor. For example, on the book’s first page alone–as Monchinski limns the physical form of his protagonist–we encounter “brume,” “aventail,” “atavism,” and “bymie.” (I had to stop and look up all but one of those. [I’ll let you guess which one.]) Whether or not dipping into the antedeluvian lexicon makes this zombie novel more enjoyable may be an open matter, but any reader should be ready for it if they buy this book. The narrative style is certainly distinctive.
In conclusion, Eden: Crusade is not the story of what Bear was like. Rather, it is the story of what Bear did. And if you are a fan of apocalyptic zombie survival novels– with well-wrought and plentiful zombie killings– you are likely to find that what Bear did is right up your alley.
And, who knows, you may even find yourself relating to him a little by the end of it.
A young lady who attended Kenyon College a few years after me has done a post-apocalyptic photo shoot with her husband-to-be to celebrate their upcoming wedding. My humble tomes have found their way into several of the pictures.
Here’s a new zombie-themed ad that Microsoft just bowed.
Clearly, the protagonist wants to get in touch with his “inner zombie.”
Sometimes I’ll talk to people (often they work in media/publishing) who see zombies as a “trend.” They’ll ask me questions like: “So, Scott, don’t you get the feeling that the whole ‘zombie thing’ is about through?”
And it’s like: “Um… no.”
I think zombies are consistently awesome, and will continue to be recognized as such and remain a cultural fixure alongside vampires. (Also, they will be used to sell computers).