This is not a novel I would have ever expected from Joyce Carol Oates. Despite my addiction to horror fiction, I am not a fan of werewolves and vampires. Zombies turn me off so much I haven’t even watched a complete episode of “The Walking Dead.” But when I saw Zombies as the title of a Joyce Carol Oates novel, I had to try it. What could such a talented author do to make me interested in a novel which I would usually pass up? I read the sample and was amazed by the hints of what the content would be. The unusual writing style is an equally great hook to a reader.
Quentin P. is not a zombie but he wants to have one. He stumbled upon a means he thinks he can use to make one. Since this is a trial and error process involving pointy objects propelled sometimes by blunt instruments, there will be mistakes. People will die. That makes Quentin a serial killer. Quentin continues to experiment and modify his methods in increasingly bizarre and complex ways. Along the way, his mind explores increasingly darker paths as rationales for his actions are adopted then discarded when found inconvenient. We see the disintegration of any semblance of a rational, social being and the emergence of a killing machine with a goal. Quentin wants a (compliant) companion.
If the horror of the killing doesn’t get you, the sexual component to the motivation might. This is not a novel for the kids or anyone easily offended. Quentin is not only a serial killer but also a convicted sex offender. Readers don’t have to react by locking up their daughters. Daughters aren’t what turns Quentin on.
The writing style is creative and it is worth reading the novel just to appreciate the writing style. How many times do we read a novel in which the sentences begin with “&”? Quentin gets interviewed a lot; by his probation officer, by a group therapy doctor, and by a doctor responsible for medications. As Quentin reports his interviews to the reader, there is frequent repetition of the phrase “I say.” This is not a criticism, it is effective as it pokes at the reader’s attention.
Through all the turbulence of Quentin’s life, we can still find comfort in the fact that he loves his mom and dad. He helps grandma with chores and even drives some of her friends around. Whether this makes up for having to live with a convicted sex offender evolving serial killer pedophile is a judgment the reader will make.
Winner of the 1996 Bram Stoker award for best novel, this 196-page novel appears in Kindle as a 2009 reprint with a Kindle price of USD 6.34 and real page numbers. Just after the horror genre, I like free books but for me, anything Joyce Carol Oates writes is worth the money.