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Brains: A Zombie Memoir / Robin Becker

EOS / May 2010
Reviewed by: I.E. Lester

There have been a number of films offering a comedic slant on zombies over the last few years. Some have been good (Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Fido) while others have been truly awful (Zombie Strippers comes immediately to mind).

But humorous takes on the undead in book form haven't been all that common — beyond the current trend for re-writing classic literature or history and mashing it up with zombie gore that started with Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and has been followed by a cavalcade of similar titles such as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Robin Becker though has, thankfully, come to the rescue of anyone who finds the idea of shambling corpses chasing you and trying to eat your brains funny.

Jack Barnes is – or rather was – a college professor. When a zombie plague is unleashed upon the world, he becomes one of its victims. But Jack is different than other zombies. Undeath may have filled him with the desire to eat human flesh – most especially brains – but he's managed to maintain his intelligence and his ability to read and write.

And so he decides to do what any sane, rational human being might do after having been zombified: He writes a memoir of the whole experience. And through his writing we gain an insight into the zombie mindset — or lack thereof.

Along the way, Professor Jack notices he might not be the only zombie to have retained some human characteristics. He encounters a young boy who is still agile, a nurse who remembers her skills, a soldier who can speak, among others. Intrigued, he sets off on a quest to find the scientist responsible for their respective conditions.

There is only problem: While Jack and his cohorts may have retained their brainpower, only one can actually speak, while only he can actually read. So they have to establish a means of communication to enable them to work together and try to survive the attempts of the remaining humans to kill them.

This book is splendidly light-hearted, a romp with added gray matter, and packed full of reference to the horror genre and modern pop-culture. It's obvious throughout that Becker knows her stuff when it comes to dark fiction. With Brains: A Zombie Memoir, she's taken a friendly sideswipe at zombie fiction in a way that will alienate no one.

Brains: A Zombie Memoir is relatively short, clocking in at just under two hundred pages. When reading it, though, some readers may very well wish it had been even shorter. By halfway through, the jokes start to wear a little thin and the repetition of certain events (i.e. the zombie nurse repairing various characters' injuries) grow tiresome. And the shout-outs to modern media start to feel overdone, as if Becker is trying to reference her entire DVD collection before the story ends. But this is more than just joke after joke about decay and detaching limbs, and these slight faults don’t stop Brains from being a highly entertaining book. It's the literary equivalent to part buddy movie, part road movie, and part a tale of struggle against adversity — all very much tongue in cheek.

Great for refreshing the reading muscles between serious scares.

Purchase Brains: a Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker.

Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 01:45PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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