Book review: On dating zombies
As far as supernatural lovers go, zombies are at the bottom of the pack. These undead cannibals certainly can’t compete with the savage grace and otherworldly pallor of vampires, or the lusty manner and dangerous charm of werewolves.
Not to mention, vampires and werewolves have always been portrayed in movies and television by the Beautiful People (one look at the cast of “Vampire Diaries” confirms this), whereas zombies have always been portrayed as decaying corpses that limp around in swarms with arms outstretched, yelling “braaaains, braaaains.”
Almost all the books, movies, television shows and video games starring zombies revolve around surviving the undead creatures and defeating them — certainly never dating them.
And yet in Lynn Messina’s latest novel, that is what the heroine sets out to teach other women to do.
In “The Girl’s Guide to Dating Zombies” (Potatoworks Press), Hattie Cross is a journalist who has just authored a book to help young women in a post-apocalyptic world navigate the testy waters of dating what is left of the male population after a virus zombified every human with a Y chromosome.
Hattie insists that dating zombies really isn’t that bad. After all, unlike their predecessors, these variant Y zombies only have an appetite for animal brains, and anyway, medications are available to control the putrefaction of their skin and the strength of their limbs. She even says that with a dose of Zombiagra, zombies can make very satisfying lovers.
But then Hattie meets a human male and a handsome one at that who slowly makes her rethink everything she’s ever known about dating zombies. In the process of getting to know this human male, she also begins to uncover a groundbreaking conspiracy that leads back to the very origin of the virus and to the most powerful women in that post-men world.
Unlike other works in the post-apocalyptic fiction genre, this novel tackles the plague and the virus and the loss of men with an easy tone and a good sense of humor.
Of course the novel has its pitfalls. The hasty resolution felt rather forced, and the humor was overdone at times.
The characterization of the central figures Hattie and the human male Jake are also rather thin and lacking. Even if the story is told in Hattie’s voice, we really don’t get a sense of who she is and what sets her apart from the typical cute and clumsy chick lit heroine.
Apart from his stunning good looks, intelligence, and amusement at Hattie’s pitfalls—a chick lit convention bordering on cliché—Jake doesn't come out strong so we don’t get to know him enough to fall in love with him either.
The cliché portrayal of the smart-but-klutzy leading lady and her amused prince charming puts to waste the novelty of merging zombie and chick lit.
It would have been nice to put Hattie at a crossroads where she had to choose between her zombie lover and this rarity of a human male. The title of the book is “The Girl’s Guide to Dating Zombies,” and yet as the story unfolds, one finds that the zombies are more of embellishments than central characters.
There are also a number of misspelled words and grammatical errors, which might have been an oversight on the editor’s part—forgivable, but noticeable mistakes.
As far as entertainment value goes though, this book delivers a fair amount, thanks to Messina’s well-timed wit, and, notwithstanding the hasty resolution, a nicely paced plot.
Every new development in the unraveling mystery was yet another new question that obliged readers to keep reading.
Also, the inclusion of actual chapters from Hattie’s book seamlessly introduced this post-apocalyptic world in humorous increments.
Then there were those tender, poignant moments placed perfectly at the right parts -- for example, when Hattie recalls the memory of her father’s zombification, or when she discovers how irreplaceable a human male lover is, despite her having written a book insisting otherwise.
All in all, it made for an enjoyable read, though not exactly delivering the satire or discourse or reinvention that such a compelling title promises.
The novel launches, incidentally, on Valentine’s Day. In a way, the timing is perfect because there are no zombies yet to date, so in the meantime, this book can keep you company. –KG, GMA News