Saturday, April 25, 2009

Zombie Five: “The Age of Sorrow”,“Bitter Grounds”,“She’s Taking her Tits to the Grave”, “Dead Like Me”,“Zora and the Zombie”

“The Age of Sorrow” by Nancy Kilpatrick: This short story is a sort of a feminist take on the usual zombie survival mythos that a tough man would be able to trick death and its minions by the sheer force of his muscles, frame, endurance and instinct, all of which are part of the male mythos in culture. In case of danger, who do you look at: beefy brave guy, trying to save everybody or the considerably shorter and lighter girl, who is a screaming machine? Nancy asks “what if” and takes the idea for a spin, which results into a post nuclear war world inhabited by zombies, who fear the daylight, presumably because with the ozone layer almost vanished the UV rays can be harmful towards rotting flesh. The origins of this undead plague are microbes released from the completely molten ice caps. Presumably of course. And amidst all of this we have a sole woman in New Zealand or so she thinks, who managed to secure a compound and turn it into a fortress. Every page is etched with depression, loneliness and hysteria all bubbling inside as isolation for several years dissolves the heroine’s sanity. Nancy features extensive flashbacks that show the past, when the heroine was considerably ordinary and yet after those passages come the memories from dealing with every problem around her survival and succeeding. Every day she faces hell and being alone doesn’t help, until it builds and the insanity of living the same day in routine demands for a dramatic change. Reading this felt like watching a hanging bridge in the middle of a storm, wondering whether it would give or not.

“Bitter Grounds” by Neil Gaiman: If you have a flare for the Haiti branch of zombies, the special zombie powder and mysteries, then you will probably love this. I was pretty much left hanging in how I was to understand this concoction of ideas and bizarre occurrences. On one hand we have a nameless protagonist, who drives out for apples and instead journeys with no purpose as he has no life. At the beginning I get the idea that zombies will be metaphorically evoked, but then he arrives in New Orleans, fakes being an anthropologist and reads a left behind research peace on little zombie girls, who sell coffee. Pretty much after that I was lost and though the story was written beautifully and as a strange dream that defies reality I am still clueless.

“She’s Taking her Tits to the Grave” by Catherine Cheek: Though Miss Cheek declares the story explores the idea of what trouble and mischief an undead can cause, I find the topic of vanity in society hiding in this humorous piece. The reader is introduced to the newly resurrected Melanie, a trophy wife with a rich husband and energetic lover, as she navigates through the world of the living and seeing things from a different perspective. At first she tries to fit in back to how things used to be, but the people she knew and thought mattered to her showed their true color. At the same time her rotting flesh, a process which is irreversible and unsalvageable, teaches Melanie that no liposuction, lifting, facial or hair appointments matter anymore. From page one to the very last sentence we see Melanie go under a metamorphose as she exits the world of plastic empty people and shiny slick brands and goes back to nature, back to her childhood memories, when she was pure. By the end as her flesh has been stripped so has her vanity and she has come to terms that everybody gets old, everybody gets betrayed by their body and that despite being disgusting everybody rots away.

“Dead Like Me” by Adam Troy-Castro: I really loved this story despite it being the saddest one with a nameless protagonist, who is the most pathetic human being. Since I was old enough to understand what a zombie was I always asked the questions. Zombies are stupid; can’t we fool them by acting like them? In “Shaun of the Dead” this was done in a hilarious way and I ever since then hoped it would be done somewhere else. At the same time I also wondered how did zombies hunt, if they were pretty much dead and their eyes were always slack and unfocused? Mister Castro answers these questions in instructions directed to the reader, which aim to instruct a zombie apocalypse victim how to survive among so many of the undead. The recipe is simple and the worst possible for an individual: become a dead shell and you will fool the zombie into believing you are one of them. In the zombie survival genre people try to fight the dead, try to fight their personal demons, try to preserve who they are and the horror here is the opposite. The zombies aren’t causing the terror it’s the willingness to elevate doormat personality and generic face in the crowd to an art form, while at the same time you kill yourself is more blood chilling than any bloodbath I have yet to read.

“Zora and the Zombie” by Andy Duncan: Another weak link in the oh-so-powerful list of stories so far, mainly because it is for a smaller circle of people. I am not introduced to the life and work of Zora Neale Hurston and I am not particularly interested in the Haiti zombie legends either. The zombie powder mythology is not my cup of tea and with this story dragging I couldn’t finish it at all. Hopefully there will be people, who can enjoy it, but as it turned out I am not much into it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review.

daydream said...

It was my pleasure. :)

Carl V. said...

As you know, I love me some Neil Gaiman, but Bitter Grounds is not one of my favorite stories. It is okay, but not as fantastic as some of his short stories are.

daydream said...

I also have been exposed to Gaiman and this didn't sound like him much.

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