Zombie, Ohio: A Tale of the Undead
Rating: As Charlie Sheen would say, “Winning!”
Professor Peter Mellor is the kind of dude nobody really likes. They put up with him because he’s a member of the good ole’ boys’ club, has tenure, and is one intelligent asshole. He’s recovering from a scandal involving messing around with a colleague’s wife and said colleague’s suicide, and coping with his self-hatred with lots and lots of scotch. After a nasty car accident on a snowy, isolated road, Pete suffers a bout of amnesia. He manages to make it back to town, and to his surprise, is greeted by what is definitely an unofficial security team—professors with shotguns. In bits and pieces his memory returns, enough to help him identify his few friends, among them a man who may or may not have been responsible for his accident. He remembers enough to know who he is—and to relearn all about the invasion of the carnivorous walking dead that have taken over the world. The university is a defensible island in what has become hell.
But the situation only gets weirder when Pete makes a heart-stopping discovery. Well, his heart would have stopped if it had been beating in the first place. The car accident hadn’t been nearly as minor as he thought. In fact, it killed him. Yep. Pete Mellor, professor, is a zombie. A walking, talking, thinking member of the undead. He and Sam haul ass out of town, Pete keeping mum about his condition, in search of Pete’s girlfriend. Once they find his woman taking shelter at her sister’s house, the threat of a roving gang of perverts cause Pete’s undead instincts to kick in, and he flees out of fear of harming those he remembers loving.
I loved the story. It’s not often you get to read a really original zombie story, in this era of everybody-and-their-mamas writing a zombie story. Zombie, Ohio is definitely a fun story, full of dark humor (the guy throwing cats, the conversation with the undead, Pete’s own train of thought). It’s got a few moments of “Well, that seemed forced” events (like Pete’s girlfriend turning into an ass-kickin’ militant leader, the biker-brawl at the college complete with a sentient rotting corpse performing something close to acrobatics), but in all, it’s the coolest zombie story I’ve read in a long time.
Pete has this really interesting continuous thread of introspection through the novel. It’s written in first person, which adds a lot to the story—it wouldn’t be the same story if it was third person. His attitude is nihilistic in the beginning. He’s just wandering. He saves a small child from certain death, and it seems to remind him of his humanity. He remembers he not a regular member of the walking dead. He thinks, therefore he is. In undeath, he finds himself, the true Pete Mellor, and becomes the champion of the undead. He forms a small army of zombies who follow him mindlessly and feeds them, protects them, and begins to take a zombie’s revenge on humans—sparing the innocent, if he can find anyone that fits into his definition of ‘innocent’. Pete has a goal—figure out why the warring militant groups and army groups want “The Kernel.” Along the way, if he can keep his girlfriend safe and restore her faith in him, all the better.
I don’t want to give the whole book away. It’s not the kind of book that has major twists and secrets, but half the fun of the book is exploring Pete’s actions/reactions. And it’s funny. Many times I caught myself chuckling out loud, and in once case, imagining an exchange between Pete and another dude in the book.
“Whatcha doing there?”
“Dunno. Just throwing cats.”
“’kay then. See ya ‘round.”
Zombie, Ohio tops my list of recommended reads so far. I loved it. Funny, dark, twisted, and compelling, it’s a fun twist on the tired zombie genre.