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More Zombies? Neeeeeeeds more Heeearts than Braaaaaains

By G.S. Williams, author of No Man An Island

Oct 29, 2010: "Night of the Loving Dead" seems like it has an interesting twist on the standard zombie story. The character Kaveh starts to regain some humanity after becoming a monster by eating the brains of other humans. It’s actually interesting irony, that the more he embraces the monstrosity to eat brains, the more human he’ll become—but once he starts being more human, will he be able to continue to kill and continue the process? It’s a Catch-22.

However, the story itself is never going to be considered a dark comedy classic like the original Catch-22. The story starts in the middle, with zombies attacking a bank. There’s no build-up or explanation, so it’s kind of hard to worry about the numerous characters in the first chapter, since they’re almost as faceless and empty as the monsters that are trying to eat them.

Sometimes jumping right into the action works well, but unfortunately the action isn’t described particularly well in this specific story. Here are some examples:

"Cover those doors," shouted Logan Swanson, standing heroically in the center of the bank with the security guard’s gun. The manager, Eli Shankly, was used to giving orders, but he moved now without questioning.

More zombies were arriving every minute, surrounding the building, but Lisa kept herself calm. She had imagined scenarios like this. All those late night movies were finally coming in handy. She knew the rules for zombies.

We’re told in just a few brief sentences all that we need to know about these cardboard characters—Logan thinks he’s a hero, Eli is subservient but usually bossy, and Lisa has a handy background in watching monster movies that finally came in handy in real life. However, we’re not shown the details that make these statements seem alive, vital and engaging. Likewise, we’re told zombies are at the doors, but there’s not vivid description of rotting arms pawing at cracking, splintering wood, nor the disgust at seeing animated corpses chew down on your friends.

Earlier this week I reviewed "Dead Too, Rights," and the zombie-fighting chapters are practically a lesson in how to write gory action. Every blow is delivered, the tension is high as people are hurt and screaming, and you feel every drop when blood spatters. It’s visceral, and you can picture it happening. "Night of the Loving Dead" doesn’t show the same kind of attention to detail, and instead skims over the parts that make a story come to life.

So while the premise sounds interesting, and the ironic undertone might be worth exploring, I find my interest waning right away because I can’t find the depths of the story that might make it more meaningful.

Little things stand out as unbelievable, particularly because we are dropped into the story so quickly without enough connection. Kaveh has years of resentment as an Iranian in America, but we’re told that and not shown it—which doesn’t really help develop empathy for what it might be like to be discriminated against. Further, the bank manager reacts to Kaveh like he’s scarier than the zombies, which I really don’t see happening in the middle of a bloodbath just because someone is from the Middle East, especially when he’s trying to help. Last, the characters take the manager’s keys to get into the vault, and a little research shows that modern vaults are on time delays to prevent bank robberies—things are not that simple.

All in all, I think the idea sounds interesting, but the package it comes in doesn’t quite have any life in it.

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