Book Review – Breathers: A Zombie's Lament, by S.G. Browne

Browne, S. G. - Breathers (2009 TPB)In this darkly comic take on the zombie story, Browne presents a world in which the dead arise, but instead of being brainless shuffling corpses, they are actually intelligent and only occasionally shuffling corpses. After a car crash in which both he and his wife die, Andy finds himself embalmed and shuffling away from the mortuary on a distortedly broken ankle. His afterlife is immediately beset with problems, as he is now considered a worthless subhuman with out any of the basic rights that the living enjoy.

Andy spends his time watching reruns in his parent’s basement (with the door locked, because they are embarrassed of him), being shouted at and pelted with food when he walks down the street, trying to keep from falling apart by getting his fix of formaldehyde, and once a week going to Undead Anonymous meetings with others who are in his same situation. His daily depression is compounded by the fact that he cannot even speak of his problems to his therapist. Things begin to turn around for him, however, when he falls for another zombie who sucks on lipstick and makeup to get her fix of formaldehyde.

I love the dark humor and the clever writing style. You are made to wholly sympathize with the zombies and their plight to the point that humans, also known as breathers, seem to be one dimensional. Every breather is so disgusted with zombies that they are cruel and vicious to them (even the mother who tries to be nice still falls short). The reaction of just about every Breather when they see a zombie is either to scream or to quiver in fear. In a way this was necessary to your sympathy for the zombies, but it also made the world seem somewhat flat. For it seems to me, if zombies were a regular occurrence in the world, they would be treated just as often as a mundane annoyance rather then always objects of terror. Furthermore, we are really attached to our loved ones, and I have to imagine that a percentage of humans would look on their undead family members as slightly smelly loved ones, and that they would insist that their loved ones be treated by respect at large. But then I may be over analyzing, and the hateful and oppressive treatment of the zombies in this book — who often seem more human in comparison — is what allows the reader to maintain sympathize with them.

But all that aside, Breathers is a great zombie love story, or zombie revolution story (depending on your point of view).

[x-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]