Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: The Loving Dead

Amelia Beamer, 2010, Night Shade Books

Kate and Michael, twenty-something housemates working at the same Trader Joe's supermarket, find themselves thoroughly screwed when their friends start turning into zombies, infected by an STD that transforms sufferers into shambling, horny, undead killers. Thrust into extremes by the unfolding tragedy, Kate and Michael are forced to confront decisions they've made and fears of commitment - but can they stay alive, or even human, long enough to benefit from such insights?

There's been a great deal of hype over the sexualising of zombies in The Loving Dead, with many people describing the novel as zombie erotica; I was a little surprised, therefore, to find that Beamer's novel really only contains about as much erotic content as the average Mills & Boon - very little of which directly involves the undead - and certainly far less than the average paranormal romance novel. That's not to say there isn't a focus upon sex in the novel; the zombie virus, after all, is sexually transmitted. But full-blown erotica? Not so much. I can only assume that the presence of any erotica whatsoever in a zombie novel provides a convenient point of difference to market.

That said, The Loving Dead is a rather brilliant piece of work; a slow-burn creepfest that examines in uncomfortable detail exactly what motivates people during a crisis. Beamer's highly-realistic, post-modern, Romero-savvy characters don't run for the hills upon realising that the zombie apocalypse is coming, but instead take short-term steps to minimise the personal inconvenience the disaster poses. As might be expected, such behaviour does as much to drive the plot as the unfolding epidemic, and Beamer additionally cultivates a real sense of impending doom that nicely contrasts the self-centred and largely ineffectual behaviour of her characters.

Joining a growing list of recent zombie novels that focus more upon analysis of the human condition than upon gore-for-gore's-sake, The Loving Dead is an engrossing and memorable read, and one that any zomlit fan who delights in the continually-expanding boundaries of the subgenre should devour.

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