Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Zombie Three: “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves”,“Followed”,“The Song The Zombie Sang”

“Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” by Poppy Z. Brite: I am heavily relying on the author’s comment about the story itself to get in its nature and thank god it’s labeled as a freakish travelogue, because this story is not driven by plot and its goal isn’t to sweep you into a whirlwind of action and adrenaline. I guess it primarily aims to paint a surrealistic portrait of Calcutta with its living and its dead entwined together into a lazy, scorching and uneventful summer told by a very strange protagonist. In the Indian spirit, where beauty and the gruesome mix together in an irresistible and exotic experience, I was mesmerized by the picturesque prose and the high caliber descriptions with much imagination. What was even more impressive was the fact that the language was utilized into highly detailed depictions of zombies eating people and still manages to captivate me as a reader in a certain state of shock, disgust and at the same time magnetic awe. There is also a certain sense of mythology involved as the protagonist seems to be fond of the goddess Kali, who here seems to watch over the risen dead. My only disappointment came from the fact that the story just wandered into the nothing with almost no plot to tie the scenes together. Nevertheless my blood got frozen and so shall yours be as well.

“Followed” by Will McIntosh: I felt this to be an extremely interesting story world building wise, mainly for the way zombies are used as a device within the story. It would seem that the living dead are a common part of everyday life and people just try to ignore them, unless they are being followed by the zombies. The way I understand things in this story having a zombie on your heels would mean that you haven’t been living your life according to the norms and moral rules. This happens to our protagonist Peter, who is a generally good guy and a professor at a university, who falls into hysteria, when he is stalked by a creepy little dead girl. Peter’s emotional breakdown has been executed flawlessly and I personally felt a little nervous for quite some time after reading the story, like I have had too much coffee and anxiety was getting the best of me. At the same time with relatively less plot we are also given an interesting lesson about the sins we have committed and whether or not we can live and accept ourselves. A strange way to make a statement like that, but interesting nevertheless.

“The Song The Zombie Sang” by Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg: Again this is not horror, but at least it’s entertaining and very thought through and deep. The reader is introduced to a future, where the dead can be raised for a couple of hours and so is the case with the great pianist Nils Bekh, who is forced to play seemingly forever on concerts. Being a thing, neither dead nor alive, is torture for the artist, who feels wretched, used and just an instrument for show has lost his talent and ability to grow artistically. In a word, he is a player piano. At the same time Rhoda, who attended Bekh’s latest concert and is a talented and flawless musician as well, detaches herself from the world more and more and in a sense has become automated in her art. This is until both meet, when Rhoda decides to confront Bekh about the abomination he has become. It takes both sides, the living and the dead to experience music as an experience, as a powerful wave of emotions and power. Precisely this looking into the mirror and seeing the opposite, which is a part of the real object, is what happens here. I am not sure whether I am making any sense in how I perceive the whole picture, but I encourage you to read and judge for yourselves.

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