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Thursday, June 4, 2009

What I'm Reading: Breathers: A Zombie's Lament

Breathers: A Zombie's LamentI need to start with a exclamation...I LOVED THIS BOOK!

Okay, now that I got that out of the way, I will say something that actually helps you decide if this book is for you. Breathers by S.G. Browne is marketed as a romantic zombie comedy, or rom-zom-com for short. This is an effective description. The book opens in the middle of the story. Andy is lying on the floor of his kitchen staring at a refrigerator packed with the chopped up parts of his parents. If you are fine with the humor in this scene, keep reading. If this sounds repulsive to you, stop reading this review right now and do not pick up this book. Did I mention it is hilarious? It is, I promise.

Andy then goes back to recount how he got to the point where he is getting ready to serve his parents at a dinner party. He tells the story of how he became a zombie and evolved from trying to fit in among the living who resent, ignore, and pelt him with food, to fighting for equal rights for peaceful zombies, to finally becoming a human flesh eating (but still lovable), zombie. Along the way Andy find love with Rita, a fellow zombie. But really, he finds himself.

Breathers is surprisingly touching, but is also true enough to the zombie fiction traditions that even hard-core horror fans will like it.

Breathers is currently in development for a 2011 movie release. I think it has the potential to be better than Shaun of the Dead, the current humorous zombie movie gold standard.

Breathers reminded me of so many other books, and they were not all about zombies. In fact, this book is most like the Dexter books by Jeff Lindsay . Beginning with Darkly Dreaming Dexter, this series has a similar tone: dark comedy about death and murder. Dexter is a serial killer who kills serial killers. Like Andy, he is likable despite his misanthropy and grisly obsessions. Interestingly, both Breathers and Darkly Dreaming Dexter also spend a great number of pages discussing the cutting up of human bodies into parts. Most importantly, the conversational narration style used by Andy and Dexter is strikingly similar. Both protagonists talk directly to the reader, in a conspiratorial tone. This softens the horrific details and makes each character sympathetic. Click here to read about when I read Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

Other similar fiction titles would include the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris (particularly because it deals with Vampire rights issues, much as Andy works to champion Zombie rights in Breathers) and Hero by Perry Moore, which I reported on in detail here (scroll to the end of the post).

For those who crave more zombies, click here for an Amazon generated list of zombie books. This will also cross reference you to movies.

In terms of nonfiction, there is the pseudo-nonfiction title The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks and Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead by Jonathan Maberry. Browne also makes many references to the mother of all zombie stories, the film, Night of the Living Dead. Finally those who want to know more about what really happens to people after they die, you should try the entertaining, but totally fact based Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. But, warning, there are no zombies here, only the true (and yet still disconcerting) story of dead bodies.

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