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Saturday, December 22, 2012


Author:  S. G. Browne
Series:  BREATHERS  
Plot Type:  Zombie Humor/Horror   
Ratings:  V5; S0; H3-4    
Publisher and Titles:  Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)

      Breathers: A Zombie's Lament (3/2009)

      I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus: A Breathers Christmas Carol (10/2012)
     It's not easy to find a Christmas-themed paranormal fiction novel, but here's a nice zombie story that takes The Walking Dead, Little Orphan Annie, and Miracle on 34th Street and mixes them up into a darkly humorous (if gut-churning) little holiday tale.

     Just a note on the world-building: In this world, live humans are called Breathers, and if zombies eat Breather flesh they begin to reincarnate. Their wounds and broken bones heal, their organs begin to function again, and their senses return.

     The Christmas zombie book is the second in the series. Here's the back-cover blurb for book 1 (just to give you some background), followed by my review of the more festive book 2:

         BOOK 1:  Breathers           
     Meet Andy Warner, a recently deceased everyman and newly minted zombie. Resented by his parents, abandoned by his friends, and reviled by a society that no longer considers him human, Andy is having a bit of trouble adjusting to his new existence.

     But all that changes when he goes to an Undead Anonymous meeting and finds kindred souls in Rita, an impossibly sexy recent suicide with a taste for the formaldehyde in cosmetic products, and Jerry, a twenty-one-year-old car crash victim with an exposed brain and a penchant for Renaissance pornography. When the group meets a rogue zombie who teaches them the joys of human flesh, things start to get messy, and Andy embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will take him from his casket, to the SPCA, to a media-driven class-action lawsuit on behalf of the rights of zombies everywhere.

     Breathers is a contemporary dark comedy about life, or undeath, through the eyes of an ordinary zombie. It’s like Fight Club meets Shaun of the Dead, only with the zombies as the good guys. Click HERE to read brief descriptions of the cast of characters. Click HERE to hear the author read the first chapter.

          BOOK 2:  I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus           
     It's now a year later, and Andy's celebrity status is history. These days, he's known simply as RC-1854 (RC=reanimated corpse), a zombie research subject who spends his days being tortured by Bob, a "medical technician," all in the name of science. As Andy explains: "Bob and I are old friends. And when I say 'friends,' I man Bob has conducted numerous experiments on me during the past twelve months, including...electrocutions, stabbings, and ballistic impact tests. So our friendship isn't exactly based on a solid foundation of trust and mutual respect." (p. 14) 

     One day, Andy and his fellow zombie prisoners are unexpectedly released by a member of PETZ (People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies), and they head off into the woods, intent on escaping their handlers, who are armed with stun batons. Unfortunately, all but Andy are captured and returned to their kennel. Andy finds a Santa Claus suit on an outdoor Christmas display and tries to blend in with the holiday festivities.

     When Annie, a lonely neighborhood nine-year-old, sees Andy she believes that he is the real Santa Claus and takes him home with her for cookies and hot chocolate (with marshmallows). Andy's real-life daughter, whom he will never see again, is named Annie, so he feels an immediate bond with the young girl. Annie lives with her alcoholic mother, who has been neglecting her in her grief over the loss of Annie's father, who died of an out-of-nowhere heart attack three years ago. All Annie wants for Christmas is for her mother to pay attention to her, and she begs Santa for help.

    Meanwhile, Andy has to figure out how to stay out of the hands of the armed thugs that Carter, the head "scientist," has sent out to track him down. Andy, who is some kind of super-zombie, is Carter's most promising hope for creating a "Resurrection Gene" in his laboratory. This recessive gene is the reason some people reanimate and others don't. The rest of the story follows Andy as he makes some new friends, reunites with some old buddies, and goes back to save the zombies in the research facility. And just to make things even tougher, he must figure out a way to grant Annie her heartbreakingly poignant Christmas wish.

     This is a story that's full of noir humor alternating with gruesome "snack" scenes in which the zombies partake of their favorite nutrition. In true fairy tale fashion, the little girl gets her wish, the bad guys get their punishment, and the hero "lives" on to fight another day. If you're a zombie fiction fan who prefers roasting organs to roasting chestnuts, this is definitely the holiday book for you. It even provides some some tasty recipes for Breather meat. For example: "Sauté in butter...until lightly browned. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve with lemon over white rice." (p. 103)

     While imprisoned in his cage at the research facility, Andy composes song lyrics and haiku poetry in his head to pass the time and to keep himself from thinking about eating delicious Breather meat. Here's the final verse of his parody of the Scarecrow's song in The Wizard of Oz. Andy calls his version "If I Only Had Some Brains":

          "I would bake you in a muffin
           Complete you with some stuffin'
           Or maybe some whole grains
           In a shake made with dairy
           I would top you with a cherry
           If I only had some brains"

     Click HERE to read the entire poem (which is also included at the end of the book). Click HERE to read chapter 1 of this book.

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