Zombie, Ohio by Scott Kenemore

Zombie, Ohio

 May 2015
Recommended for fans of untraditional zombie books
 ★    ★    1/2       

An interesting take on the traditional zombie. No, really. It is sort of the zombie equivalent of “The Universe Doesn’t Give a Fuck About You,” a treatise on getting off your butt and living your best type-A life. Because even zombies can achieve greatness, right?

Professor Peter Mellor comes to consciousness after an apparent car crash. Strangely, he can barely remember anything, not even his name, but he slowly starts putting pieces together as he takes in his surroundings. Checking for a wallet gives him a name and address. The face he sees in the side-view mirror resembles the license, only older and heavier. A gun in the car door gives a sense of identity, someone who doesn’t normally use a gun but now needs to carry one. A wool cap feels familiar. The middle-age crisis convertible doesn’t look familiar, but it is possibly that it is his. He begins trudging  towards town and the address on his driver’s license. He discovers that his empty home is full of books–my first real moment of sympathy–and scotch. Catching CNN alerts him to a worldwide crisis in “moving cadavers” and the breakdown of the normal world. His best friend stops by and gives a helpful biography, and a summary of how the world changed three weeks ago.

Zombie, Ohio has an interesting twist on the traditional zombie. The Goodreads blurb contains a number of spoilers, including the twist, so if it matters to you, don’t read it. I, of course, did read it, and despite that, appreciated the surprises that took the story in unexpected directions. Though a little bit clunky with information in the beginning, plotting eventually moves well. Likewise, issues I had with language settled down and becomes quite readable. The ending makes me think Kenemore was going for something a little bit more philosophical. You know, I think he got there, even if I didn’t like it.

The bad:
Zombie, Ohio has an interesting twist on the traditional zombie. That perspective isn’t going to be altogether satisfying for those of us who like the zombie apocalypse straight. The writing in the first chapter has awkward moments, including semi-randomly italicized words that only serve to distract. More importantly, the first couple chapters could have benefited from heavier editing for world-building structure. There were also some odd word choices: “humorless administrative-looking buildings.” A pontificating bit near the end by a bad guy is eye-rollingly bad.

I’ll put more spoilery specifics (but not that specific) below, hoping to help if you are on the fence, or prefer more details.

Overall, for me it was about 2.5, in that I thought it was decently done. I’m not sure I precisely liked it, but it wasn’t stupid or infuriating, and it provided distraction on a day when I couldn’t take anything more substantial.

It is very different from a traditional zombie book–it’s from the zombie’s perspective. And not just the good-girl going straight, humanizing kind of perspective of Melanie or My Life as a White Trash Zombie. No, this is ‘normal’ in the intelligence sense, in a person for whom ‘normal’ was a semi-adhered to value. It becomes clear that the narrator has been kind of an asshole. Which means the narrator is not an altogether sympathetic one; although Kenemore (eventually) avoids some of the obvious “I’m still a good guy” tropes, it does make Peter a bit of an anti-hero that I’m not sure I support. When he eventually starts hunting, I became uncomfortable. When he started leading a gang of undead, I really lost any empathy, and the writing itself started to make me queasy. I rather think Peter is a bit of a low-bar kind of dude–he likes power, but prefers not having to work too hard or make any sacrifices for it.

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About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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3 Responses to Zombie, Ohio by Scott Kenemore

  1. Mimi says:

    The zombie’s perspective reminds me of that Isaac Marion book and Daryl Gregory’s Raising Stony Mayhall, but Gregory does it better–Gregory always does it better. Which reminds me you haven’t read Stony Mayhall yet. Come on, Carol. It’s basically written for you, but I’d understand if you’re saving it for when you’re safely bunking down during the apocalypse.

    • thebookgator says:

      Gregory does it better, because, natch. This zombie is still kind of a low-bar asshole, so, you know, it’s hard to root for him. I saving Stony because I prefer them as straight-up antagonists, but eventually I’m going to finish everything Gregory has and will have to read it…

      • Mimi says:

        I understand. I used to prefer antagonistic zombies too, but Stony Mayhall changed my mind and that led to my trying Isaac Marion’s book, which was a bomb (almost literally), and The Girl with All the Gifts, which was amazing. Stony is closer to Melanie than what’s-his-name in Marion’s book, esp in the sense that his is a story about a zombie coming to terms with his “condition” and having the choice to choose which side of the divide he wants to be on. Another plug for Stony: the bad guys are ambiguously “bad” and the struggle is mostly political satire, which is why I think you’d enjoy the read. Anyhow, sorry if I sound like I’m hounding you. Am just a fan and no way affiliated with Gregory lol.

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