Kenemore novel offers view from a zombie’s perspective


By GUY D’ASTOLFO

dastolfo@vindy.com

(“Zombie, Ohio”; Scott Kenemore; Skyhorse Publishing; 240 pages; $16.95)

Zombies are everywhere these days, and for good reason. They tap into the human psyche’s worst 21st-century fears: morality-bereft beings that only consume and have no conscience. They’re a metaphor for our collective societal nightmare.

But to gouge a new bite mark into the face of this pop-culture beast — one that will get noticed — you have to come up with a new angle, and that’s what Scott Kenemore did.

In his book “Zombie, Ohio,” Kenemore gives us Peter Mellor, a college professor who goes zombie, yet retains his consciousness, a good bit of his memory and the ability to talk, reason and plan. Part-human, part-zombie: the best of both worlds.

Other than a constant craving for a brain sandwich, he’s one of the good guys.

In page-turning fashion, zombie-Mellor leads readers through a fun and light-spirited romp through a post-apocalyptic Knox County, Ohio. Zombies roam the countryside, and even the Amish are packing heat. The book maintains a nice tone, never as broad-brush funny as the 2008 film “Zombieland,” and never pretending to be horror.

With a philosophical bent that comes naturally to a thoughtful but hard-living academic type who just happens to be dead, our zombie leader shares his thoughts as his bizarre story unfolds.

After a feeding frenzy, he muses, “For all the killing and eating, perhaps I’d never felt more fully a zombie than at that moment ... humans were the other. The thing to be lampooned and eaten alive whenever possible. I didn’t look at them and think: ‘There is some of me in that.’ Rather, I thought only: ‘How do I get some of that in me?’”

Actually, the lawless gangs that roam the Ohio Outback are the real terrors here, and zombie-Mellor goes from brain-chomper to action hero, as he tries to save his old girlfriend and her party.

There’s another subplot in there, as well — Mellor was murdered, and he’s trying to find out who did it.

It all comes together nicely, although the climactic fight scene seems a little too easy.

Another thing: Kenemore overdoes it with his use of parentheticals to flesh out his thoughtful zombie’s every musing. Much of this first-zombie account is unspoken thought, so there’s no need to put any of it in parentheses. It makes for an occasionally neurotic zombie who compulsively follows up every tangent.

It’s a small thing, though, and it doesn’t slow down “Zombie, Ohio” — which is really about experiencing life through the eyes of a sentient walking corpse.

Any Ohioan will get an extra charge out of it, simply because it takes place in the rural center of the state, between Columbus and Mansfield, a land of farms and small towns.

Kenemore is right on — and maybe a little disdainful — in describing life in the boonies, where small-town “stick-arounders” look askance at anybody new or different. The region’s small-mindedness also pervades the campus, and Mellor — a hard-drinking womanizer — was the subject of wagging tongues (even before he became a zombie).

Mellor is (was) a professor at fictional Kenton College in the fictional town of Gant. These are barely-concealed parallels to the real-life Kenyon College in the town of Gambier.

The author himself is a 2000 graduate of Kenyon College. Kenemore now lives in Chicago, where he is a drummer in a rock band and a writer of zombie fiction. His other books include “The Zen of Zombie,” “Z.E.O.,” “The Art of Zombie Warfare” and “The Code of the Zombie Pirate.”

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