The book industry has gone Wild West and, as we all know, the outlaws are typically a lot more fun and enterprising than the law men, the only problem being where to find them. One of their secret hide-outs is Authonomy where authors showcase whole or part books (a minumum of 10,000 words) which you can freely read electronically and comment upon. I have decided that as I come across really interesting books on Authonomy, I'll blog my review here (I only review work I am recommending).
To read this fascinating work-in-progress, click here
Writing a book that combines humour and terror is not an easy matter although perfectly possible, as Adam Sifre proves (starting with the title) in vibrant, witty and mercurial style, ‘style’ being probably the most relevant word here.
The book at this stage is in bits and pieces with some of its flesh hanging off, rather like its more colourful subjects, but the jokes are definitely alive and kicking, as is the suspense.
The camera (this is as much a movie script in narrative form as a novel) zigzags across several locations tracking a pack of hand-picked representative characters. There is a relatively sympathetic and lovelorn zombie called Fred who I would guess will become the leader of the gangrenous ones, a young girl Karen being chased distressingly by her zombie of a mother, Stanley who has given his partner a good whacking as comeuppance for her belittling him for so many years, the clinically paranoid Ellen who soon learns the truth of that saying “just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you”, Mr. Potts the mailman who bites worse than a rabid Rottweiler and who has the honour of being the first zombie in his or any town, and Jon who has to battle the inexplicably voracious and mobile residents of an old people’s home to stay alive and who will no doubt end up as the leader of the breathing opposition, confronting Fred in a final showdown.
The zombies can mutter only one word, “brains”, however elegantly they may wish to express themselves, which cuts down on the dialogue, and they are always insatiably hungry which feeds the body count.
This pixelated approach to storytelling has many advantages and a few well-charted drawbacks. It allows Adam to build up a panoramic view of events, to incorporate a number of contrasting vignettes of American life and to switch narrative styles – he even slips into verse on occasion. It also adds a level of meta-suspense as the reader worries not only whether the heroes of this chilling chuckler will hold it all together but whether the author will manage it too. The drawbacks include that the empathy we feel for the predicament of any individual character is diminished, some momentum is lost in the story telling, and that we readers have to be willing to work hard for our free lunch tickets as we try to piece together what the hell is going on.
Mr. Sifre is not planning to complete this book for a while yet but my bet is that he will succeed in stitching it all back together again better than his zombies and that he will provoke some hysteria along the way. I haven’t split my sides yet but Adam and his deathless friends are working on it. I’ve grinned a lot though and I have even held my breath a few times. We don’t get turned into zombies by reading it too, do we? That would cap it all.