Brains a zombie memoir

I've been crazy busy; buying a house, writing a screenplay for Script Frenzy (100 pages in 30 days) and I haven't had as much time to read as I'd like. When I do get to read it's just in bits and pieces, which can be frustrating. Luckily a couple of short books came in the mail, including one I'd really been looking forward to called Brains a zombie memoir by Robin Becker. Because it's not big enough to sprain my wrist (like Stephen King's the Dome was), I was able to fit it into my sadly limited time.

Brains is told from the perspective of Jack Barnes, a pompous, annoying professor who has been bitten and infected with the zombie virus. When he dies and rises as a member of the shambling undead he is surprised to retain his intelligence and his ability to write, although he loses his vocal skills, which prevents him from lecturing his fellow undead. He sets off on a road trip, which is a little harder than it sounds, in search of a scientist who may have some answers. Along the way he gathers some companions; a pregnant zombie, a talking zombie, an agile child zombie and a zombie with a flair for healing, among others.

While this might sound like the supernatural version of the Wizard of Oz, Brains isn't exactly a romp in the park. (Not that the Wizard of Oz is either what with the creepy flying monkeys and the tin man chopping himself to bits with his own ax.) Dorothy and her gang had to watch out for enemies but they also met plenty of people who were just going about their daily lives. In Brains not only are there no people just going about their daily lives there really aren't any daily lives going on. The characters are either aimless zombies intent only on finding food, desperate humans looking for escape, or the more clever zombies, who are all still driven by an intense hunger.

Barnes wants information and assistance from the living, but also wants to eat them, leading to quite a lot of angst and fatal slipups. He also desperately wants a family and engages in some pretty awful behavior to help him get one. Interestingly it's easy to forgive your average zombie for doing terrible things. After all the poor things can't help it. They aren't capable of moral reasoning, or any reasoning, and act solely in response to their desires. But since Barnes retained his intelligence shouldn't he be held to a higher standard? Shouldn’t his choices be viewed as actual choices and don't we expect to adhere to our mores as much as possible?

Brains is well written, very funny in places, loaded with philosophy and has plenty of danger and excitement. Unfortunately I can't say that I enjoyed it. I felt much like I did when I read Hannibal or American Psycho – I could appreciate what the authors had done but I was so queasy/grossed out I couldn't wait to be finished with the books. Maybe I would have enjoyed the story more if I weren’t right inside the head of a self-centered bastard who delights in graphic descriptions of the body parts he's chowing on. Maybe I need to be a little more removed from my zombies in order to love them. But then I always have to look away from the screen during slasher films so this is likely a failing on my part.

The official website is here: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780061974052/Brains/index.aspx

One-Paragraph Review

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