Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Breathers: a Zombie's Lament

S. G. Browne, 2009, Broadway Books

Death sucks, as Andy – a recently reanimated corpse – is discovering. Resented by his parents and reviled by a society that has revoked his legal and moral rights, Andy finds some small measure of solace in the company of his fellow Undead Anonymous attendees. Then Andy and his friends meet the charismatic Jay, a zombie who seems perfectly at ease at ease with who and what he is, and who introduces the group to the benefits of consuming ‘potted venison’. Only it isn’t really venison, of course. And that’s when things start getting interesting. And very, very gory.

As most zombie enthusiasts will be aware, there’s an absolute mountain of related fiction hitting bookshelves at the moment, and the majority of it seems to fall into one of two thematic camps: the ‘Romero’ tale, where mindless, flesh-eating corpses overwhelm society, and tales that paint zombies as a disenfranchised minority, highlighting the injustice and stupidity of bigotry in all its many forms. Breathers is a novel that falls squarely between the two camps: a dark, funny tale of the undead as unjustly persecuted outsiders, who find a rather unorthodox means of fighting back against their oppressors.

While I suspect that not all zombie fans – particularly those who prefer their mindless flesh-eaters – will appreciate Breathers, this is certainly one of the best themed novels I’ve read in a twelve-month period that’s seen more zombie offerings than have been released in some previous decades. The story successfully balances humour, horror, social commentary and a page-turning narrative to great effect. A great and worthy read.

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