“ZOMBIE, INDIANA” (Book Review)
This writer admits to not reading Scott Kenemore’s previous entries in his ongoing state-centric living dead series, but if the author’s latest offering, ZOMBIE, INDIANA (partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign) is any indication of quality, the man indeed has quite a knack for making ghoul fiction that matters.
Following the success of ZOMBIE, ILLINOIS and ZOMBIE OHIO, ZOMBIE INDIANA (whose events take place concurrently with the other books) begins with a humorous prologue in which the Governor of Indiana internally beams with a boastful, childish pride about how much better his beloved State is when stacked up against the rest of the country. As the Gov. pumps his psychic fist over the glory of his “Hoosier” brethren, something horrible is happening in nearby scenic caves. It seems a teenaged school trip has gone terribly wrong. A fleet of drifting rowboats manned by teachers and populated by a glut of texting, monied and “mean girl” adolescents find themselves trapped in the dark bowels a subterranean passage and assaulted by unseen killers; their cold, wet skin slopping against the kids’ cheeks before dragging them underground and doing…something…to them. Amidst the chaos, sweet, scrappy Kesha, the only youth in the troupe whose parents aren’t privileged, manages to escape, dodging the jaws of the attackers and getting the odd glimpse of what they are: rotting, bloated and starving zombies with mealtime on what’s left of their minds.
Enter special officer James Nolan, a former college basketball hero mired in controversy that now works as a heavy for the Governor and is sent to the potential crime scene to find the politician’s missing daughter. What he finds is an outbreak of mass murder as the “things” from the cave emerge to spread their disease, cannibalize the living and turn their butchered victims into even more hungry – and considerably fleeter of foot – monsters. Nolan must team up with the tireless Kesha to find sanctuary and the Governor’s little girl before it’s too late. And before the State succumbs to absolute madness.
Nothing particularly new narratively is mined in ZOMBIE, INDIANA but it’s the teller, not necessarily the tale, that truly stands out. Much to chagrin of zombie purists, Kenemore’s ghouls eat brains (a deviation of the Romero-weaned mythology that sees them eating, well, everything) but these creatures are of the grey-matter-loving RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD variety in that they shred, claw and bite to get to their victim’s noggin, resulting in passages of wincing violence and bodily destruction. Kenemore throws plenty of political commentary and satire into the mix as well, as the pompous, malevolent Governor slowly reveals his true nature and motives all the while posturing for the camera, vainly trying to ride an imagined campaign trail that is covered in corpses.
Kenemore writes in simple, direct prose; wordplay that is clever, but not showy and primarily serves to propel the action forward. His characters are fully fleshed and the general tone of the novel is breezy and fun (as opposed to the more nihilistic and depressing zombie fare that saturates mass-media today). Avid readers should be able to whip through ZOMBIE, INDIANA in less than a day and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s like a catchy, clever pop song, one that goes down easy but still offers a few bends of convention that make it memorable.