Monday, 6 June 2011

Book Review: Zombie Ohio

‘When rural Ohio college professor Peter Mellor dies in an automobile accident during a zombie outbreak, he is reborn as a highly intelligent (yet somewhat amnesiac) member of the living dead. With society crumbling around him and violence escalating into daily life, Peter quickly learns that being a zombie isn’t all fun and brains. Humans—unsympathetic, generally, to his new proclivities—try to kill him at nearly every opportunity. His old friends are loath to associate with him. And he finds himself inconveniently addicted to the gooey stuff inside of people’s heads.

As if all this weren’t bad enough, Peter soon learns that his automobile accident was no accident at all. Faced with the harrowing mystery of his death, Peter resolves to use his strange zombie “afterlife” to solve his own murder.’

Surprising as this may sound; I’ve never read a zombie book. There, I’ve said it; I’ve never read a zombie book. I do own a collection of zombie short stories, but I don’t think that counts. But, I do love zombie film. I love it, I love it, I love it! I’m fairly certain that it’s impossible to make a bad zombie film, or at least for me. I’ll watch them all not matter how dire, I don’t care if it’s got a massive budget and all special effects Hollywood can muster or if you made it on your phone with your friends and your mother’s make up. Chances are I’ll love the experience. This said, Autumn did try it’s damnedest to ruin zombie cinema for me recently, and very nearly succeeded with its boringness and banality and appalling lack of peril, but still I refuse to be deterred and I soldier on valiantly. (I’m so mad at Dexter Fletcher right now. You know what you’ve done, Fletcher!)

Bad man
Anyway, my petty vendettas aside, when Scott Kenemore’s Zombie Ohio dropped through my letterbox I was equal parts excited and worried, so much so that I just stared at it for a long time, just stared, slightly apprehensive to pick up because my heart wanted to love it and my stupid brain kept saying; No, Heart. You always do this. What if it’s not good? You’re too fragile; you’re not up to this. Remember Autumn…..

Fortunately for all concerned, my stupid brain needn’t have feared because Zombie Ohio soon lived up to my over burgeoning, but delicate, hopes and expectations.

The zombie apocalypse has been hard on everyone and philosophy professor Peter Mellor is no exception. In fact, when we first meet him it soon becomes apparent that his current situation is presenting him with two immediately pressing problems. Firstly, he has a shocking case of amnesia, although this is not surprising as he has just been involved in a rather nasty car crash and secondly, and probably slightly more concerning, he’s beginning to come to the realisation that he’s dead. However, the newly zombified Peter, as it turns out, isn’t your ordinary zombie. Somehow this philosophy prof has managed to retain human consciousness and is now a unique breed of self aware zombie, and one with a sneaking suspicion that his ‘death’ was entirely an accident at that.

Zombie Ohio is essentially about Peter coming to terms with his death and it is also a reflection on the schism between the cerebral and corporeal, (much like my own internal dilemma on commencing this novel), and how the essential nature of self is called into question once he is defined by this new circumstance. Are humanity and mental capacity and reasoning stronger or more intrinsically valuable than primal, bodily desire and instinct in any given situation? Or, indeed, do we have an essential, inherent self or are we defined by circumstance, environment and experience? He is a philosophy professor after all. But, more importantly, the main question is will Peter give in to his zombie urges and mangle some flesh and chow down on delicious brains?

The bulk of the novel is Peter journey, emotional and physical, to understand is zombie state and to make up for his living transgressions by ensuring his girlfriend and her daughters’ survival. Along his way he witnesses and ponders the plight and behaviours of the undead, the very worst of ‘humanity’ in the living, the resilience of the human spirit and considers the potential of an ethical code for the modern zombie and the possibility of turkeys as spirit totems, and also in the back of his zombie mind is the nagging suspicion that someone may have killed him and he really ought to do something about that.

As the novel is essentially the internal dialogue of the undead Mellor, it is notable how engaging that voice is, not only is it wonderfully comic, it also skilfully presents us with believable character development as the more we learn about Mellor’s past it becomes increasingly apparent that his ‘death’ was largely the making of him and how, paradoxically, as a zombie he ultimately becomes a better man.

Zombie Ohio is a witty, involving and surprisingly moving tale that while it doesn’t necessarily address all of the philosophical themes you may expect when its main protagonist is a professor of the subject, it does offer an interesting take on the human (and inhuman) condition and the potential for redemption despite seemingly insurmountable adversity. There is also the simple fact that it is an exciting, funny and enthralling adventure and has sufficient gore to delight any zombie fan. Mr. Kenemore is a gifted and engaging writer, Zombie Ohio is a thoroughly charming and enjoyable read and I very much look forward to reading more of his work. And frankly if Zombie Ohio doesn’t get made into a movie soon the world has gone mad.

You can buy Zombie Ohio here and here. You can also read Scott Kenemore’s blog here.


  1. I was going to comment with my surprise that people still read books nowadays but the mention of Dexter Fletcher has completely changed what I wanted to say. I used to like him in "Press Gang" and he wasn't bad in "The Rachel Papers" but when he went all chavvy as Dominic Diamond's replacement on "Gamesmaster" that was the end of him for me. Now he's become one of those actors that make me want to kick the TV screen in.

  2. Curse Fletcher! I'd completely forgotten about Gamesmaster, he totally ruined that too. I'm even more angry at him now.

  3. I can't believe you had never read a zombie book before. I have written a few zombie books that no one has read before, so we have something in common. But Zombie Ohio sounds pretty unique and worth checking out.

  4. Very good post! I'm always on the look out for a good read!

  5. Really sounds interesting! As I'm also including somes scenes from a zombie's POV in my own novel I feel as though I MUST check this book out!

    I've seen this book before, but to be honest, the cover didn't do anything for me, so I'd overlooked it. You've sparked my curiosity!

  6. And Fletcher was in that appalling mockney panto Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Bollocks.
    That said, he was very sweet when he was a little boy in The Elephant Man.
    Not seen Autumn but I'm sure you're right: a dull zombie movie is, or should be, a contradiction in terms. The title says it all. Autumn Bloodbath, fine. Or The Mangled Flesh of Autumn. Or Taste the Spurting Arteries of Autumn. Calling it just Autumn makes it sound like it actually WANTS to be dull.
    Never read a zombie novel either, including this one. But I thought I'd pop in and say hello anyway. And I like the way you call a book about zombie massacres "thoroughly charming". It's why we love you, in fact.

  7. Great review!
    I, too, was really impressed by this book. I wanted it to be longer.



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