I’ll admit to shopping for Kindle books that are free, or nearly free. I’ll search “zombie” or “horror” and then I’ll sort the results by price. Believe it or not, free isn’t always a bargain, but sometimes my cheapness doesn’t bite me in the ass and I’ll find a gem. I’ve decided to review some of the horror and zombie books I’ve read, and I’m going to rate them on the Five Bucket Scale, which will represent how many buckets my sensitive friend Sandi Crowley needs to puke into when she reads the kind of books that my non-sensitive friend Jaye Manus and I enjoy. (Be sure to read Jaye’s blog about her field trip to the morgue.) Five buckets will be the highest rating a book can receive.
Zombies are my favorite monsters, but I’m a snob and an old fart about them. I consider George A. Romero-type zombies to be the only zombies that should exist. To me, the scariest thing about zombies is that they are us, but they are dead us. The disaster in a zombie story always spreads quickly because nobody realizes that dead friends and family are out to eat them until it’s too late. Zombies are mindless eating machines. They are what they eat and they eat people. I’m okay with them moving fast, under certain circumstances, but I prefer relentless shambling. I don’t like it when zombies talk. No talking.
I’ve been delighted by the fairly recent come-back of zombies, but I’ve found myself dismayed by lack of creativity in stories that I want to be exclusively about shambling, moaning cannibal zombies. Obviously, I want to have my zombie cake and to eat it, too. In my defense, zombie stories aren’t really about zombies. Zombie stories are about the people who are surviving the zombie apocalypse. Normally. Zombie, Ohio is actually about a zombie.
I bought Zombie, Ohio based on some good reviews and because it cost two dollars. I also think I bought it to prove to myself that I am open minded and cool, which shows how little I require of myself. But, I did buy a book about a talking zombie on purpose and I give myself points for that because it’s an easy way for me to get points.
Zombie, Ohio begins with professor Peter Mellor waking up beside a country road after a bad car accident. Peter can’t remember anything, including the facts that he’s a shit and that the world is in the midst of a huge zombie outbreak. Peter eventually discovers that he died in the car accident and that he is a zombie in addition to being a shit. He’s a damned smart zombie who can think and talk, and he seems to have become a part-time shit rather than a full-time one.
Peter goes from being a formerly shitty former person to being a disillusioned zombie after he makes a discovery about his own death. Peter’s time as the leader of a relatively large zombie horde becomes a bit tedious, but there’s gore to break it up. When he gives a military helicopter the finger and the government realizes that there’s a smart zombie out there, things pick back up. Scenes like the shock displayed by the military when a zombie gives them the finger make the book. There is a lot that’s funny about the first third of the book, and I wish that there had been more humor in the last two thirds of the book.
The book is deeper than your average zombie gut buster. It’s ultimately about one man’s (zombie’s) capacity for goodness and any man’s ability to change. Now, onto the stuff we all really want to know about. It’s Bucket Scale time.
If you like guns and soldier stuff, this isn’t the book for you. Kenemore did me the enormous favor of having Peter say immediately that he didn’t know anything about guns and didn’t care which gun was what. That was a signal that I’d get a welcome break from the page after page of descriptions of guns and general soldier stuff that has become a hallmark of zombie books. One zombie book in particular might as well have taken place on a military base instead of where it was set, New York City (which is the most interesting place to set a zombie novel ever…provided the author bothers to use it and the people who live there, Stephen Knight). There are some guns in Zombie, Ohio, and zombies as well as people are messily shot by them, so don’t worry that there isn’t any gun play. We just don’t have to read about it like we are reading a gun catalog. There are also swords, knives, a few inventive weapons, and hand-to-hand fighting, thanks to the fact that everyone doesn’t have to spend enormous amounts of time worrying about where they are going to get more ammo for the entire book. I give the fighting in Zombie, Ohio four buckets.
During a zombie apocalypse, the people are always damned near as bad as the zombies. Maybe worse. That’s another small failing of the book. Gangs of bad people do some bad things and hint that they’ll do worse things if they get the chance, but we don’t get to know them or their bad things well enough for them to be the force they need to be. The bad guys only get three buckets.
There is brain eating and a lot of decaying animated corpses. Peter is included in all of that because he enjoys eating brains and is not a whole lot more than a sack of guts by the end. Five buckets worth of brain eating and decaying corpses.
All in all, I give Zombie, Ohio four buckets. It is a talking zombie book that didn’t piss me off and it’s a smart new take on zombies. Thank you, Scott Kenemore!