Jack Barnes was a mild mannered, elitist English professor one minute and a salivating, brain loving zombie the next. Even though he has been zombified and can no longer speak, he has somehow retained his brain function and ability to reason. He decides to seek out the scientist responsible for the virus to prove his self awareness and end the conflict between zombie and man. Along the way, he encounters other zombies with unique abilities: Joan can repair zombies injuries, making their undeaths longer; Ros (a nickname given by Jack after Rosencrantz of Hamlet fame) can speak as well as he did in life; Guts can run faster than any other zombie; Annie is a sharpshooter with killer aim; and Eve is a pregnant zombie who will hopefully give birth to a bouncing zombie baby. Can Jack and his troupe of talented zombies tell the authorities of their sentience before they are killed? Is there any possible resolution between man and zombie?
This short book is an interesting read. It’s the first book I’ve read from the point of view of a zombie during a zombie apocalypse situation. Usually with a narrative of this style, zombies are integrated in society and trying to cope. In this novel, zombies mostly have the upper hand with sheer numbers while society has fallen apart. Another unique aspect of the novel is how it’s practically drowning in different allusions and references to pop culture. Everything is referenced from Shakespeare to zombie films to philosophy and everything in between. The number and breadth of these references impressed me and made the narrative a little schizophrenic in a postmodern way.
Zombies are used to highlight the wrongs in our society, as they do in many other films and novels. Before he was a zombie, Jack was a pretty terrible person. He was a sexist that viewed women as simply the sum of her parts. The most despicable thing he said about his mentality before zombification was how he loved anorexic girls best because of their low self esteem and self discipline. He was an elitist and scorned anything remotely associated with lower social classes. When he became a zombie, none of these things mattered anymore. It was only when he was separated from society and humanity that he experienced happiness and love in his odd zombie family unit. (It’s like the end of Zombieland, but with zombies instead of humans.) Race also doesn’t matter to zombies. They are all shades of grey and they all want brains and more brains. Being a zombie is preferable to being human, according to this novel, because of the equality and unity it provides.
Brains is a really fast, enjoyable read. The only thing I would have liked to see is the perspective of the other sentient zombies. I think they could have added more to the story. It kind of feels funny to root for the flesh eating zombies for once, but this novel is a welcome addition to the zombie genre.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins
**This post is for Velvet's September Zombies.**