Review By Sharon Foss
What’s worse: being a zombie in Ohio or being an “almost” zombie in Ohio? According to author Scott Kenemore, Ohio is a wasteland in and of itself, zombie or not. He writes about this in his debut novel, Zombie, Ohio: A Tale of the Undead.
Peter woke up in Ohio in a wrecked car with no memory of the events that were a precursor to his circumstance. He has no memory and oddly is not cold in the arctic Midwestern state. He stumbles, literally, into his old home and memories like snapshots in an album return to him. He finds his friend and neighbor Sam. Through Sam, Peter learns who he is—a college professor with a proclivity for dating a slew of women, earning him a less-than-desirable reputation. Is it odd that no one is concerned about Peter’s car accident? Apparently not, because he isn’t well liked anyway!
While Sam tries to clear the fog that is Peter’s self-awareness, he reveals a horrific truth about the world—zombies. Something has happened to make the dead rise again. Sam explains that he doesn’t know how or why it happened, and no one has been able to answer that question. Government has collapsed, people are dead, and every man for himself is well underway. In order to kill a zombie, Sam informs Peter, you must destroy its head, preferably with a bullet.
So this is where Peter finds himself, an amnesiac, coming to grips with this new reality with no idea how he really got here. But that’s not all. He notices something. He can see his brain. Underneath the hat he has been wearing since the car crash is a scalpless brain. How is that possible? He’s breathing, yes, but he has no pulse, no hunger, no cold, no feeling, and no innate human emotions or urges. Peter, along with the reader, learns that he died in that car accident. He’s dead. Unlike other zombies, however, he is talking and remembering and experiencing life. Yet, he’s dead and therefore, technically a zombie.
As Peter tries to figure out his new life, he encounters other zombies who accept him as one of their own, but the humans he encounters are slowly catching on to his true “self.” On his hunt for the meaning of his undead life, Peter learns something disturbing about the car accident that killed him—it was no accident. The brake lines were cut. Why? And by whom?
Aside from that, it’s not long before Peter embraces his new life and new cravings. Although zombies lose their undead battle when they lose their brains, at the same time, they love to eat the very thing that could cost them their undead life. Peter is no different. “This woman desired life. I desired her death. And there, the impasse,” Peter says. He’s a zombie who has it all: He has a “life,” he has friends, and he has a wicked sense of humor about eating brains.
Kenemore made me think about the nature versus nurture debate. Is it human nature, and I use that phrase loosely in a zombie context, to adapt and fit in, regardless of the situation? Is Peter just doing what is acceptable in this new world in order to survive his non-life? Is it the teaching of other zombies that show Peter the way? I think Kenemore’s story is one of nature. You will adapt to a situation because there simply is no other choice. Peter adapts, and then Peter excels. He sheds his human self without a look back, even reveling at how advanced zombies are compared to humans. Where is the old Peter? He still has his memories of his past life, but he is all about the future—his life as a zombie, leading his army into the unknown.
As a side note, not everyone is displeased by the zombie state of the nation. As someone said to Peter, “You wonderful, magical, undead creatures came long, and you wiped it all away. All the pretense. All the bullshit. All the egos. All of it is gone! Because of you! You purified this place—this world.” This person sees this as a chance to start over, to bring everyone down to the same level. A do over. No more haves and have nots. Can this work? Is it that easy to just have a “do over” world? Maybe it’s something to look into…
Zombie, Ohio tells a tale that could happen and some would even say has happened. A zombie outbreak happened in the book, but compare it to AIDS or the plague, and read the book with that in mind. It could happen and it has happened to a certain extreme. Zombie, Ohio is a social commentary about an outbreak that gets out of hand and causes political and community unrest. It’s not far-fetched to think that one small thing could completely stop the world in its tracks and bring it to its knees.
This book is about a man who was not the best man he could have been, but he was given a second chance in an undead form. Unusual, yes, but heartwarming at the same time. And not without humor. It was a great read and I’d love to read more by Scott Kenemore.
5 out of 5 stars