Monday, October 5, 2009

Breathers by S.G. Browne

breathers_diablo_cody Breathers: A Zombie's Lament by S.G. Browne 2009 320 Pages 4.75/5 Isn't it a great surprise when you buy a book just because of the cover and then find that the book is so much more than what you imagined it would be? I hadn't heard anything about S.G. Browne's Breathers before finding it in the Barnes & Noble Staff Recommendation section. But when I saw the cover and noticed that it was a zombie novel, I knew that I had to have it. What I was expecting was a silly, funny novel that would provide for some light, fluff reading that would give me a few laughs. It certainly gave me the laughs that I was looking for, but it was such a great book! So much more than what I was expecting. The book opens with Andy, our narrator, waking up on his kitchen floor to discover that he has dismembered his parents and stuffed them into the refrigerator and freezer. He has no recollection of doing this. He spends the first half of the book describing to us how he might have gotten to this point. You see, Andy has been reanimated...he's undead...he's a zombie. There's no explanation why he reanimated after dying, no one knows why zombies come back to life, but some of us do. Zombies have been around for ages, but in Browne's world, they're just making themselves known. And they are shunned by society. They have no rights, they're hated by society, they're not allowed in public places, and hate crimes are constantly committed against them. To deal with this, the zombies have formed support groups where they can talk about how they feel as a result of this and how they became undead. Andy died after a car wreck in which his wife, Rachel remained dead while he reanimated. He didn't think he'd ever get over this until he met a fellow undead at a support group named Rita who took her own life by slitting her wrists and her throat, only to wake up again. These zombies find strength in each other, but they also find strength in a new substance that a new member brings to the group...and I'll leave it at that. This book was just wonderful! It shatters all the typical notions of what zombies are, while at the same time having respect for the genre. It creates a very human zombie if you will. What I loved most about this book, is that it's quite deep once you take a look at it. It has a lot to say about discrimination, stereotyping, racism, ethnocentrism, etc. These zombies are hated by the people that they are forced to live with for something that they have no control over. They didn't choose to reanimate just as people don't choose the color of their skin, their nationality or their sexuality. There are hate crimes constantly committed against zombies, disgusting things done to them. And when they try to fight for themselves, they are punished for it. It was the first time that I can ever say that I was actually moved and touched by a zombie story. I loved these characters so much! They were actually endearing. I wanted to be in their support groups holding their hands...I wanted to spend a night in the graveyard with them. I wanted to be locked in Andy's wine cellar with him and just shoot the shit over a bottle of merlot. Browne did a fantastic job of defying a genre that's sort of been stereotyped as only being good for cheap laughs or grotesque scenes. Sure, there are some laughs here, plenty of them actually, but they're quite smart. And there are certainly some grotesque scenes, but even those are presented as gore for gore's sake. However, if you're squeamish or easily disturbed, you may want to stay away from this one! I'll leave you with a passage that I particularly liked:
For the undead, who are bizarre and unimaginable to begin with, the one and only wish most of us desire is to get our lives bac, which is impossible. Unreasonable. Inconceivable. Yet it's still there, floating around in our heads like a balloon that's just out of reach - a single, four-letter word that taunts us and haunts us and reminds us of just how much we've lost. Hope. It's human nature to want to beliee that good things will happen, that no matter how many roadblocks or setbacks or disappointments we have to endure, eventually everything will work out. But since technically zombies are no longer human, where does that leave us? What is our nature? What are we supposed to hope for? To what goals should we aspire? Personal development? Spiritual growth? Slower decomposition? We don't have any civil rights, nor any constitutional rights for that matter, o why should we expect good things to happen? How can we find the impetus to set any goals when the ultimate goal, the one thing we all want, is unreachable?

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