I picked this book up because earlier this year the movie version of the story came out. Being that I'm a bit of a hygiene freak the whole zombie love thing disgusts me, but the trailer looked funny so naturally I thought the book would be a fluffy, funny read.
Man, I was so wrong.
While there were a few scenes here and there that tickled my funny bone ultimately this book's downfall was that it took itself too seriously.
From the very beginning this book had me scratching my head due to the illogical world building. The story is told from the first person perspective of ‘R’. R is a zombie who can’t remember his name, but apparently can very eloquently tell us his story. R claims that he always felt a bit different than his fellow zombies and this difference becomes more pronounce as the story goes on. From the beginning he tends to be more loquacious and a tad smarter than his counterparts, however he still has zombie hangups. For example, he rides the escalator to nowhere several times a day or stares at his Mercedes for hours because he doesn’t remember how to operate a car.
The problem with the world building is that it’s not very consistent and doesn’t make much sense. None of the zombies remember their name other than their first initial. They don’t remember anything of their past lives and tend to operate on a basic functional level based on desires and wants. According to R:
“No one I know has any specific memories. Just a vague, vestigial knowledge of a world long gone. Faint impressions of past lives that linger like a phantom limb. We recognize civilisation- buildings, cars, a general overview - but we have no personal role in it. No history. We are just here. We do what we do, time passes, and no one asks questions.”
However, this is not completely true because they’ve created their own society where friendships, school, church, marriages and adoptions exist. They form hunting parties and bring back food for those who can’t hunt. There is even a social hierarchy with the Boneys being the rulers. The bottom line is that for some seriously dumb fucks they are expressing many higher levels of thought.
Yet, R is supposed be a catalyst for change. He’s supposed to be different and his love for Julie is the spark. This never made sense to me because the Boneys, as head honchos of the society, showed high levels of intelligence. So much so that the Boneys recognized the danger Julie and R posed to their society.
The other problem is the narrative itself. Here you have R telling us how dumb zombies can be, but here he is perfectly articulating his story for readers. Maybe in third person narrative this story would’ve worked, but in first person it doesn’t make sense. The dialogue is written in one worded grunts and caveman like dialogue with many ellipses to show verbal struggle. However, the narrative is fluid and at times even pretentious. R uses words like foetal, auger and vertiginous. He even seems to be an erudite since he is familiar enough with biology to think “her zygomaticus major’”, architecture to refer to “the Stadium’s Escheresque cityscape” and Latin to quote “Quod tu es, ego fui, quod ego sum, tu eris.” And yet, this is the same guy that grabs his stomach and says “Feel empty. Feel…dead” to express his need to hunt again. Riiiiggghhht. (O_o)
If you haven’t guessed it by now this book is a zombie homage to Romeo and Juliet. If you don’t like retellings I suggest skipping this one. While I don’t mind retellings this one laid it on thick. Like, trying to spread cold chunky peanut butter on a dry ass piece of white bread thick. I kept trying not to roll my eyes for fear of getting a contact stuck, but when it came to the balcony scene I nearly threw my precious Nook down. It was just too much. Romeo and Juliet’s lust-lationship never made much sense to me and R and Julie’s relationship doesn’t either. I mean, their relationship is based purely on the fact that he didn’t eat her. How sad is that? He didn’t eat her so that makes him “different”. It’s never clear why he didn’t eat her. Is it purely R or is it because he inherited feelings from the brain he ate? Either way, their relationship develops as quickly as Romeo and Juliet’s did and the foundation of the relationship is just as flimsy.
It really annoyed me how quickly Julie dismissed her longtime boyfriend’s passing and how quickly she was willing to connect with R. We’re given a “well, Perry changed and wasn’t the same person I fell in love with, so it’s okay.” excuse. That just shows me how superficial Julie is. Yet, Marion kept trying to show us how deep Julie is. For example, here is Julie talking about music:
“Music is life! It’s physical emotion- you can touch it! It’s neon ecto-energy sucked out of spirits and switched into sound waves for your ears to swallow.”
Anyway, the bottom line with this book is that it was inconsistent and much of it didn’t make sense. As charming as R was in his own way, if you’re going to write a zombie love story it really helps when the love relationship is based on a solid foundation to overcome those minor issues like, you know…decomposition, stinkiness, and that small matter of eating people.