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7. Daniel Waters (2008), Generation Dead

On the way back from the 2010 Fantastic Film Weekend, fresh from having seen The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, I remarked to ms_siobhan and planet_andy that in recent decades people had managed to make vampires, werewolves, ghosts and witches sexy, but I couldn't see how it could very well be done for zombies - what with all the rotting flesh, brainless lumbering and so forth. "Aha!" said ms_siobhan. "Actually I've got this book at home where somebody has done exactly that. It's a high-school zombie romance - would you like to borrow it?" So I did.

It's still a slight exaggeration to say that this book makes zombies sexy as such. But it does manage to make them sympathetic and teen-romantic. The basic set-up is that some recently-deceased teenagers (and only teenagers) have started coming back to life for no reason that anyone is very clear about. It happens pretty much straight after death, so there are no half-rotten corpses clambering out of graves. Rather, the people come back - but they aren't the same. They are pale, and slow of movement and thought, but surprisingly strong and resilient to injury. Some of them are rejected by their horrified families, but others are accepted and put back into high-school. And the book deals with everyone's responses to this - embarrassed friends, concerned adults, bullying jocks, and fascinated strangers.

Mainly, the returned teenagers are treated as a metaphor for any outsider or minority group of the reader's choice. Polite terminology has been developed to describe their condition - 'living impaired' or 'different biotic, rather than 'undead' or 'zombies', although some of them choose to adopt and reclaim that term. A research institute called the Hunter Foundation has been set up to try to find out what is going on, and particularly why it is that some of the returned teenagers have almost the same capabilities as their living peers, while others do not. And those who have been rejected by their families have set up their own hide-out in an abandoned house, where they hold all-night parties and develop their own subculture.

Meanwhile, the main plot focuses on a living goth girl called Phoebe, who knows what it is like to be treated as an outsider herself, and becomes fascinated with a living-impaired football player called Tommy. Tommy keeps a blog (available as a real-life spin-off) in which he chronicles the life of an undead person, and the violence and murders being perpetrated against them - yet never reported in the news. But as their friendship grows, and touches on becoming a romance, this culture of violence draws closer and closer in on them, until it has terrible consequences for one of Phoebe's oldest friends.

It's a sweet story, and I certainly enjoyed it - though more simply as a high-school story with a supernatural slant than as anything hugely challenging or ground-breaking. But there are aspects of it which feel unsatisfying, and particularly the sub-plot with the Hunter Foundation. All sorts of hints are dropped that this may be more sinister than it appears, as living impaired kids disappear off for 'testing' and are never seen again, but this is never resolved, and seems simply to be dropped in the last few chapters of the book. Then again, there are apparently two sequels, so maybe the story of the Hunter Foundation is picked up and continued there?

Anyway, it won't change your life, or indeed probably make you squirm with pleasure over the delightful possibilities of the English language. But if you're up for a high-school zombie romance, then this is exactly the book for you.

(See, told you I had this one ready-written. And that is 2010 done - woo-hoo and yay and hoorah!)

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Dec. 31st, 2011 03:43 pm (UTC)
I'm going to keep an eye out for the sequels as it was one of the most enjoyable fluffy novels I've read in a long time.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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