Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Every Sigh, the End (a Novel About Zombies)

Jason S. Hornsby, Permuted Press, 2007

Ross is a fairly average guy: he runs a business with his best friend, producing VHS copies of public-domain zombie movies, has issues with his family (particularly his sister), and is cheating on his girlfriend with her best friend in retaliation for his belief that she is cheating on him with his best friend. In short, life sucks, but so what? Then Ross slowly becomes aware of people watching him: in the street, at parties, even in his own home. Or are they? Is his paranoia baseless? And what – if anything – do these watchers have to do with his friends and family? And why do the strange events leading up to New Year’s Eve 1999 – culminating in a deadly zombie attack upon the party he attends – seem so familiar? Is it possible that Ross has experienced these events before? And why, in the midst of a real-life zombie massacre, is a movie crew taping every move Ross makes?

Every Sigh, the End is a zombie novel that doesn’t just turn the genre on its head, but delivers a violent kicking to that head for good measure. There’s simply no way I can suitably convey just how surreal and genre-bending this tale – which involves zombies, government conspiracies, time-travel, alternate realities and universes, the apocalypse, and pirated copies of Zombie Apocalypse – really is, except to say that this is the sort of zombie novel Phillip K. Dick might have written, had his tastes run that way. In fact, labelling Every Sigh, the End a ‘zombie novel’ is almost unfair, because the zombies themselves don’t feature all that prominently, except as a vehicle to usher in all sorts of apocalyptic weirdness for our protagonist: take away the zombies altogether, and you’d still have a Bloody Good Novel, one that grips the reader from beginning to end (‘unputdownable’ is a horrible term, but I can think of no other in this case). In fact, I’d go so far as to describe Every Sigh, the End as a Great American Novel – that is, one which holds up a (in this case, very uncomplimentary) mirror to the American Way of Life – up there with Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird. Only with more zombies.

I’m declaring Every Sigh, the End a certified Must-Read. For everyone. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

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