The first zombie book that I read this year was one I picked up for a lousy 2 bucks as a Kindle Daily Deal last October. I had interest in reading Scott Kenemore’s Zombie, Ohio even before the price drop, but I was just nervous enough about it that I didn’t want to spend 10 bucks on it. At 2 dollars, it was more than worth the risk. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried because Zombie, Ohio was unlike any other zombie book I’ve read up to this point.
The book opens with university philosophy professor Peter Mellor waking up from what has been a pretty bad car accident. Surprisingly, he doesn’t really feel any pain and appears to be more or less uninjured. As he makes his way back into town on foot, he realizes he doesn’t remember who he is or anything about his life prior to waking up. He gets his name and address from his driver’s license. As it turns out, the world has been engulfed by a zombie apocalypse (thanks to the earth flying through the tail of a comet or somesuch nonsense) and the reason Peter feels no pain is because he’s a zombie. Unlike most of the living dead, he’s a sentient zombie – a zombie with a conscience, if you will.
I wasn’t sure this would work for me. I’m a big stickler for Zombie Rules. And I’m was pretty positive that a zombie that could think and make choices and shoot a gun wouldn’t fit in to the Zombie Rules very well. At first, it reminded me of the zombie in that awful Day of the Dead remake that wouldn’t eat humans because he’d been a vegetarian in life. However, Kenemore managed to make me buy in to the whole “sentient zombie” thing, especially when he explained Peter’s past which was less than sinless. Also, since the book was told from Peter’s point of view, we were able to understand his thought process as he switched his focus from being a “good zombie” and eating only the bad people’s brains to embracing his zombie nature and eating as many brains as possible – which he did with gusto in the gory and gruesome second act of the novel.
In many ways, this book is about the redemption of Peter Mellor, who as I alluded to, had been a real prick in life. Still, the third act of the novel seemed a little bit tacked on and overall, the lack of a clearly drawn antagonist until the final 50 pages detracted from the book quite a bit. When the antagonist finally did show up, he wasn’t convincing and I didn’t know him well enough for any of his actions to make sense. But for as much as I didn’t understand the motivations of the antagonist, by the time we got to the end, I understood Peter much better than I thought I would. That’s where the sentient zombie thing ultimately worked. Because he was more than just a mindless brain eater, Peter had an arc and a journey that would have otherwise been impossible.
Zombie, Ohio is an engaging read that I would recommend to zombie fans of all sorts. Don’t let the thinking and reasoning zombie put you off. Zombie books are tough to pull off, but Kenemore does a more than admirable job.