Bites

Pub date: September 25, 2012.

Author website.

Seventeen-year-old Nero is stuck in the wilderness with a bunch of other juvenile delinquents on an “Inward Trek.” As if that weren’t bad enough, his counselors have turned into flesh-eating maniacs overnight and are now chowing down on his fellow miscreants. As in any classic monster flick worth its salted popcorn, plentiful carnage sends survivors rabbiting into the woods while the mindless horde of “infects” shambles, moans, and drools behind. Of course, these kids have seen zombie movies. They generate “Zombie Rules” almost as quickly as cheeky remarks, but attitude alone can’t keep the biters back. Serving up a cast of irreverent, slightly twisted characters, an unexpected villain, and an ending you won’t see coming, here is a savvy tale that that’s a delight to read -whether you’re a rabid zombie fan or freshly bitten-and an incisive commentary on the evil that lurks within each of us.  (netgalley.com)

There really isn’t much that Sean Beaudoin can do wrong.  His novels have a definitive signature that screams THIS IS SEAN BEAUDOIN.  It usually involves some level of noir, exceptional find-fuckage and a snarky cynicism that is like the brand of Sean on all of his books.  THE INFECTS fit nice and snugly into this mould although I have to say it’s the least mind-fucked of the SB books I’ve read.  In fact it was downright tame in comparison to the likes of FADE TO BLUE.  But that doesn’t mean it was bad.

Yes, THE INFECTS is a zombie novel but it’s not your standard zombie novel.  It’s not really a world-wide pandemic of zombie proportions and the zombies have a habit of evolving, thinking, picking the more favorable pieces of your body to eat as opposed to just chomping at random.  There are different levels of infected, from the full-on zombie to something a little more human to a lot more human to total meat sack meal.  This isn’t a simple zombie novel despite the humor that Sean involves.  Yes, it’s funny, but he’s taken zombie lore and expanded it to something a bit more terrifying than just having to deal with your regular ol’ shambling zombies.

Of course THE INFECTS has all the seriousness of a Simon Pegg movie, background events being carried out in a rather hilarious background humor fashion while the SERIOUS things happen in the foreground.  Never mind the guy running around with a severed arm in his mouth.  WHAT’S FOR LUNCH?  It is truly a Sean Beaudoin novel for that reason, along with the demented reality that takes it that many more steps away from being grounded.  It’s not just a chicken restaurant but it’s what everyone thinks of when they think of a chicken restaurant, the menu showcasing full servings for fried random chicken parts and a chicken surprise pack with some kind of unhealthy gravy mess.  It is as much of a satire as a satire can be even moving beyond the restaurant.  LIFE has elements of the familiar with added doses of ridiculous to elevate the story into the absurd but still managing to keep it relatable.  Everyone wants to survive the Zomb-A-Pocalypse, right?

Nick/Nero is the spearhead of the group, much to his chagrin.  His only objective is getting to Petal.  People just happen to want to follow him around while he completes it.  He’s not comfortable with it but he makes due.  With Sean’s books you don’t necessarily have likable or unlikable characters; they either are characters or aren’t.  It’s all in the way they’re written, that satirical pulp style that makes caricatures of everything, to one extent or another.  So you’ll either think the characters are too far out there (like the twins) or they’re readable (pretty much everyone else).  Unless they get killed.  And Sean has no qualms about putting the kibosh on the pulses of any of his characters.  So be warned: if you favor one more than the others, it’ll probably end up with some teeth in its neck.

Reading this, though, I couldn’t help but think there was some kind of message here, about over-processed and genetically engineered food, unhealthy eating habits, complacency in what we’re being forced fed.  Messages aren’t something I picked up on in other Sean books so it took me aback a bit.  Couple that with the relatively toned down (for him) style and I think it was a bit different from what Sean usually writes.  Not as wild and with more of a purpose, however slight.  Still incredibly enjoyable but veering off the path a little.

THE INFECTS is not your typical zombie novel, filled with atypical zombies and anti-heros and an ending that will make your head spin.  Sean’s snark is not for the faint of heart and the satire is for those only able to take big blasts of the absurd at a time.  The level of mind fuck is lower than in previous books with the story being far more straight forward and the characters being more contoured and easy to grasp.  The subtleties of it are what will make you laugh, hidden in a well-timed background element in a greater scene.  It forces you to pay attention because you’ll miss snippets of gloriousness if you’re just reading it for what the surface provides.  If you like trippy, off the wall tales riddled with snark that will make you laugh and gag in the same sentence, you’ll most likely love THE INFECTS.  It brings with it the familiarity of the zombie trope but Sean just comes right on in and fucks it all up.  But in a good way, like always.  And that’s why I keep reading him.  Not only is he a fantastic storyteller but his voice is so epically unique that you can’t help but latch onto it and drool love all over it.

Ban Factor: High – Zombies, lesbians, zombie sex, rabid fried chicken . . . what’s in this book that the banners WON’T throw a shit fit about?

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