by S. G. Browne
PUBLISHER: Piatkus Books
RELEASE DATE: March 2011
FORMAT: Paperback, 310 pages
GENRE: Black Comedy, Zombies, Horror
Meet Andy Warner, a recently deceased everyman and newly minted zombie. Resented by his parents, abandoned by his friends, and reviled by a society that no longer considers him human, Andy is having a bit of trouble adjusting to his new existence. But all that changes when he goes to an Undead Anonymous meeting and finds kindred souls in Rita, an impossibly sexy recent suicide with a taste for the formaldehyde in cosmetic products, and Jerry, a twenty-one-year-old car crash victim with an exposed brain and a penchant for Renaissance pornography. When the group meets a rogue zombie who teaches them the joys of human flesh, things start to get messy, and Andy embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will take him from his casket, to the SPCA, to a media-driven class-action lawsuit on behalf of the rights of zombies everywhere.
BREATHERS is a black comedy combined with horror and a little romance and lots of icky moments. We follow Andy, a newly risen zombie and the other members of his support group.
Zombies in BREATHERS are a little different, in fact the concept is quite original to me and was fun to read. Not all people who die become zombies, but when the selected few do rise as the undead they are ridiculed by society and despised by their families, who have to take them home again. The one aspect of the novel that kept niggling me is that the reason for zombies is never given. I have to know why, how and when and “breathers” didn’t give answers to any. We never know how zombies are made, or why, and I will admit that this drove me a little nuts! However, it does mention that zombies existed far back into history.
There are many passages that made me smile, but it’s not a ‘laugh-out-loud’ kind of novel, it’s a bit too dark for that, but it is amusing. The human world know that zombies exist and they treat them pretty badly like they are at the bottom of the pile with no feelings or thoughts. But zombies come back with as much of these aspects of humanity as they left with. There are many rules and restrictions which zombies have to abide by and if they don’t? Well, people just turn a blind eye to the cruelty inflicted. There are times when Andy’s feelings about the injustice of the treatment of zombies by society becomes slightly repetitive but I did feel their repression.
Andy was killed while driving and so was his wife. She didn’t come back as a zombie and remained dead, which Andy finds difficult to deal with although prefers in many ways. He’s not sure she would have loved him the same way if she had survived. To deal with his feelings, Andy meets up with a support group who he begins to grow to love, especially a zombie called Rita. There is obviously romance on the cards and there’s even a bit of zombie sex, although nothing is described explicitly – thank goodness.
At first Andy can’t speak, can’t use one of his arms and walks with a limp due to a crushed ankle. But after meeting a zombie called Ray who introduces him to the lip-smacking pleasure of human flesh, everything begins to change…and this is where the novel gets really interesting…
However, there is just something missing for me – I didn’t particularly connect with or care much about any of the characters, which is always a disappointment. The ending is rather abrupt and cruel and somewhat out of place, in my opinion, to the rest of the novel.
Although I didn’t love BREATHERS I did enjoy it and would still recommend it to other zombie fans. It is an interesting take on the zombie and there is a fair amount of humour which I liked.
BUY THE BOOK