Make A Zombie Your Friend

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.

5 comments

  1. Excellent review. I just read this book a few days ago, it was really freaking messed up! Unlike you, I didn’t get the impression that Quentin loved his parents at all, he just took advantage of their appalling level of enabling. Just out of curiosity, you say you’re a horror fan but you don’t care for werewolves, vampires, or zombies. What’s your horror genre of choice? 🙂

    1. My favorite genre is horror realted to mystery and crime. A good storyteller in this genre is Amy Cross. I detest extreme horror with its “splatter ” gore, typical stuff Mat Shaw writes. Chuck Wendig is excellet. Tobias Wade has become one of my favorite Indie writers of horror. Werewolves, vampires, and zombies can be great in well-written stories but I find too much formulaic writing when those three become a topic.

      1. Yeah, certain subgenres do get really formulaic after a while. Two very ‘different’ zombie-themed novels I liked were “Handling the Undead” by John Ajvide Lindqvist and “The Girl With All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey. I’d recommend them whole-heartedly even if you’re not into the genre, because the way the approach the whole zombie thing is very original. I haven’t read any books by the authors you mentioned, but I have read one or two of Chuck Wendig’s articles and know he’s a very funny online personality. 🙂

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