‘When rural Ohio college professor Peter Mellor dies in an automobile accident during a zombie outbreak, he is reborn as a highly intelligent (yet somewhat amnesiac) member of the living dead. With society crumbling around him and violence escalating into daily life, Peter quickly learns that being a zombie isn’t all fun and brains. Humans—unsympathetic, generally, to his new proclivities—try to kill him at nearly every opportunity. His old friends are loath to associate with him. And he finds himself inconveniently addicted to the gooey stuff inside of people’s heads.
As if all this weren’t bad enough, Peter soon learns that his automobile accident was no accident at all. Faced with the harrowing mystery of his death, Peter resolves to use his strange zombie “afterlife” to solve his own murder.’
Surprising as this may sound; I’ve never read a zombie book. There, I’ve said it; I’ve never read a zombie book. I do own a collection of zombie short stories, but I don’t think that counts. But, I do love zombie film. I love it, I love it, I love it! I’m fairly certain that it’s impossible to make a bad zombie film, or at least for me. I’ll watch them all not matter how dire, I don’t care if it’s got a massive budget and all special effects Hollywood can muster or if you made it on your phone with your friends and your mother’s make up. Chances are I’ll love the experience. This said, Autumn did try it’s damnedest to ruin zombie cinema for me recently, and very nearly succeeded with its boringness and banality and appalling lack of peril, but still I refuse to be deterred and I soldier on valiantly. (I’m so mad at Dexter Fletcher right now. You know what you’ve done, Fletcher!)
Fortunately for all concerned, my stupid brain needn’t have feared because Zombie Ohio soon lived up to my over burgeoning, but delicate, hopes and expectations.
The zombie apocalypse has been hard on everyone and philosophy professor Peter Mellor is no exception. In fact, when we first meet him it soon becomes apparent that his current situation is presenting him with two immediately pressing problems. Firstly, he has a shocking case of amnesia, although this is not surprising as he has just been involved in a rather nasty car crash and secondly, and probably slightly more concerning, he’s beginning to come to the realisation that he’s dead. However, the newly zombified Peter, as it turns out, isn’t your ordinary zombie. Somehow this philosophy prof has managed to retain human consciousness and is now a unique breed of self aware zombie, and one with a sneaking suspicion that his ‘death’ was entirely an accident at that.
Zombie Ohio is essentially about Peter coming to terms with his death and it is also a reflection on the schism between the cerebral and corporeal, (much like my own internal dilemma on commencing this novel), and how the essential nature of self is called into question once he is defined by this new circumstance. Are humanity and mental capacity and reasoning stronger or more intrinsically valuable than primal, bodily desire and instinct in any given situation? Or, indeed, do we have an essential, inherent self or are we defined by circumstance, environment and experience? He is a philosophy professor after all. But, more importantly, the main question is will Peter give in to his zombie urges and mangle some flesh and chow down on delicious brains?
The bulk of the novel is Peter journey, emotional and physical, to understand is zombie state and to make up for his living transgressions by ensuring his girlfriend and her daughters’ survival. Along his way he witnesses and ponders the plight and behaviours of the undead, the very worst of ‘humanity’ in the living, the resilience of the human spirit and considers the potential of an ethical code for the modern zombie and the possibility of turkeys as spirit totems, and also in the back of his zombie mind is the nagging suspicion that someone may have killed him and he really ought to do something about that.
As the novel is essentially the internal dialogue of the undead Mellor, it is notable how engaging that voice is, not only is it wonderfully comic, it also skilfully presents us with believable character development as the more we learn about Mellor’s past it becomes increasingly apparent that his ‘death’ was largely the making of him and how, paradoxically, as a zombie he ultimately becomes a better man.
Zombie Ohio is a witty, involving and surprisingly moving tale that while it doesn’t necessarily address all of the philosophical themes you may expect when its main protagonist is a professor of the subject, it does offer an interesting take on the human (and inhuman) condition and the potential for redemption despite seemingly insurmountable adversity. There is also the simple fact that it is an exciting, funny and enthralling adventure and has sufficient gore to delight any zombie fan. Mr. Kenemore is a gifted and engaging writer, Zombie Ohio is a thoroughly charming and enjoyable read and I very much look forward to reading more of his work. And frankly if Zombie Ohio doesn’t get made into a movie soon the world has gone mad.
You can buy Zombie Ohio here and here. You can also read Scott Kenemore’s blog here.