Saturday, May 25, 2013
Review; A Questionable Shape
4 Stars: Strongly recommended to fans of zombie-lit where the zombies are not the be-all-end-all
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
Released: May 2013
Whenever an advanced copy of a Two Dollar Radio book shows up at my doorstep, all other review copies seem to know their place and move sadly out of the way. Not because they are not worthy of being my next-read, but because they know I simply cannot resist the Radio lit. Like a moth to a flame, people, like a moth to a mother-fucking flame.
So it should go without saying that I fell hard and fast into this incredibly introspective "zombie novel that is not about zombies". Bennett Sims has done something with A Questionable Shape that many authors fail to do when writing "monster lit". He has finagled his way out of genre lit-ification. He can stand proudly, shoulder to shoulder, with the likes of Glenn Duncan (of The Last Werewolf) and Colson Whitehead (of Zone One) - authors who refuse to throw good writing out the window for the sake of a flash-in-the-pan paranormal sensation. I feel smarter and more intellectually stable having read this book. Yes, people, a mentally stimulating zombie novel... you've really got to read it to believe it.
Sims ushers us gently into the midst of an undead apocalypse, right at the point where the infection seems to have been contained by means of government quarantine, and life as people once knew it seems possible again. The undead, upon reanimation, before they are caught by the LCDC and locked away, shuffle blindly back to the places they used to haunt when they were alive - regardless of where they reanimated. And since so little is known about their undead status or the nature of the infection that caused the dead to rise again, their basic human rights have been left in tact - they are not to be murdered.
Mike, whose head we find ourselves in, has agreed to help his friend Matt locate his father, whom Matt believes may be reanimated and wandering back to one of many locations - the house he lived in, the local park, the Citiplace where they used to meet up at once a month to see a movie. Matt is desperate to find him before the LCDC does and Mike, to the frustration of his girlfriend, tags along to ensure his friend doesn't get bitten or worse, attempt to infect himself to gain a better understanding of how the undead mind works.
The book follows Mike and Matt for six days, and for a large chunk of those six days, as they move from one potential haunt to another in search of the missing, overweight plumber, we are treated to Mike's sometimes-corney-sometimes-spot-on internal ruminations. Why do the undead seem drawn back to the places that hold the strongest memories for them? Can they think? Can they see? Is there anything that was once them left inside that twitching, rotting corpse? Is Matt off his rocker to be making these daily trips out to the places he thinks his father might return to? What will Matt do if he does find his father?
A Questionable Shape forces the zombies into the background and focuses its lens most intently on what's happening to humanity - bringing the emotional and the introspective to the forefront, casting fear and confusion and uncertainty as its main characters. It offers a powerful perspective on survival, and may have you question who has it worse, those who wander the world infected with undeath or those who are left behind to watch them?