Brains: A Zombie Memoir
Trade Paper, 192 pages, $13.99
Review by Sheila Merritt
Humor and zombies; a seemingly unstoppable combination in horror fiction. Can this glut of gore and guffaws bear yet another light weight snarky lark? Apparently, it can. In Brains: A Zombie Memoir, author Robin Becker treads into all too familiar territory. Her whimsy and stylish prose buoy up a narrative that plays to the clichés of this overcrowded subgenre.
When college professor Jack Barnes becomes one of the walking dead, he manages to maintain cognitive abilities. He can reason, has the ability to write, and mentally retains his knowledge and wit. He is so witty, that he becomes rather obnoxious; spouting literary and pop culture aphorisms and puns ad nauseam. The obvious irony of a brainy academic transformed into a brains consuming zombie, wears thin after a while. Musing on the culinary addictions of his kind, the scholarly flesh eater concludes: “The problem with zombies is they’re incapable of entertaining themselves. Leave them alone for a few hours and they become despondent and depressed, staring at the wall, dreaming of brains and guts and brains and guts and brains and brains and…”
Jack recruits a hodgepodge of like minded undead to try to bring peace between their kind and humans. This, of course, proves difficult considering the dietary issues. The professor’s intellect wages war with his recently acquired ravenous requirements. There is much banter and social discourse, and the interaction of Jack with his followers is often quite amusing. Philosophical reflections are also abundant: “We zombies are a collective, a writhing mass: ants carrying pupae across a puddle, bees working a hive, a pack of dogs hunting, humans assembling cars in a factory. The impulse to lose one’s self in the swarm, to abandon individuality for group identity, is strong. Flash mobs, soccer hooligans, Nazism. The greatest good for the greatest number…”
Robin Becker writes fluidly, and deftly toys with the absurdities inherent in the storyline. Brains: A Zombie Memoir shows her abilities and promise; hopefully, her next book won’t be one that follows a tired trend.