When dirty bombs detonate in major cities around the United States, a virus is released that turns those infected into mindless zombies, all except for one man whom the virus has mutated into something not entirely dead but not entirely alive either, and he will stop at nothing to get back to the woman he loves.
I hate that the heart has become synonymous with the feeling of love, to the point that someone with a heart that on longer beats is considered incapable of love. I’m not sure when an organ responsible for pumping blood throughout a living body began to symbolize the emotion of love, but it’s a very biased sentiment. I’m here to tell you that love has absolutely nothing to do with a beating heart, if anything the heart just gets in the way. You get all flustered when trying to talk to a potential lover and your heart starts beating faster, making your blood rush and your skin turn all red, and then you get embarrassed, start stammering, and you go home to binge watch Orange is the New Black all by your lonesome. If anything, having a nonfunctioning heart works in your favor when you’re looking for love, with none of that pesky palpating you can relax and get to know someone better. If you ask me, zombies are the clear winners when it comes to love. I remember having a working heart, and you want to know what I remember being different, heartburn. Yeah, that’s the two “advantages” you get from having a functioning heart, racing blood flow when you’re excited, and heartburn. I’ll keep my dead heart over your working one. The real love muscle is the brain, well, not really muscle, but you know what I mean, and since a zombie’s brain keeps right on ticking even after everything else shuts down, as far as love goes the undead are just fine. Keep that in mind the next time you want to consider the heart a representation of love, something great cooked on low heat for a few hours with garlic and rosemary sure, the keeper of affection, not so much.
Our tale starts out with couple Jeff and Sarah, two people who have only just begun to explore the depths of their love for one another and who envision a long life together further exploring that love. Two years ago a tragic car accident took the life of Sarah’s parents, an event that devastated the poor woman and left her feeling like it was something she could never move past, but in the midst of her despair Jeff came along and showed her a happiness she had imagined lost. Not that Sarah was the only one whose life was made whole by their relationship, Jeff had never thought that he could feel so much joy in his life, Sarah being the missing piece he didn’t even realize he needed. Their lives are on the cusp of moving forward even further with Jeff’s upcoming graduation from college and a degree that could land them both in a very comfortable life. In fact, he’ll be driving up to his Boston University to finish up the last details he needs to take care of before earning his PhD. in chemistry, leaving Sarah behind to wait for his return as Boston is a six hour roundtrip from where they live. Unfortunately, this is the same day that things are about to change dramatically, not just for Sarah and Jeff but the entire country. A terrorist organization has set off a series of dirty bombs in major cities all across the country, Boston included, killing hundreds of thousands and sending the country into a panic. News choppers initially show footage of scores of bodies lying still and motionless as once bustling cities become graveyards, but the military soon enforces a quarantine that keeps anymore footage from leaking out to the public. Reporters are a tenacious bunch though and soon they are able to break past any quarantines, only what they film now looks much different. Those attacked cities that were once covered in dead bodies are now entirely empty, not a body in sight. That’s because that dirty bomb did more than kill those it infected, it also reanimated their corpses, sending them on a search for the one thing they still desire, human brains. Amongst those affected is Jeff who reanimates along with the others, only he appears to be different. Jeff can think and feel, can talk as if he was still among the living, even act like it, as long as he’s feed anyways. Jeff only has one goal in mind, getting back to the woman he loves, a woman who is sick with concern having no idea what might have happened to him. With the country in shambles, its living citizens unaware of the greater danger they’re facing, and a growing horde of the undead moving ever closer to finishing what the terrorist started, Jeff must do whatever it takes to reunite with Sarah, but reaching her may have greater consequences than if he’d simply stayed away.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the zombie love story, which is weird because I generally hate love stories, the love aspect usually being my least favorite part. Give me Indiana Jones beating up Nazis and finding Biblical relics but spare me him falling for the girl he’s known for a few days, banging sure, not so much the falling in love part though. That’s just not how love works, like, yes, lust, yes, love, no, so when Generic Hero meets Damsel In Distress and the two fall in love like they’ve known each other for years, I tune out. At the same time I’m an absolute sap, myself being a huge fan of the old Greek legend about the gods creating man and woman as one being originally then splitting them in two, thus why people spend their entire lives trying to find their other half so they can once again be whole. What can I say, I’m a complicated zombie. That’s why I tend to get so enthused when I find a love story I can get into, one I can get into that involves the undead is an absolute plus. The problem comes in how it’s presented, as much as I want to find a love story I can enjoy, I want to find one I can believe as well. All too often it’s the above mentioned trope of people barely knowing each other yet falling head over heels in love almost automatically, like that’s just how the world works. As much as every teenager would love to believe that’s the reality of things, it’s not. That’s the advantage of Tina DiMeo’s Zombie: A Love Story, it’s not a tale in which two people who hardly know each other fall madly in love over the course of a few days, it’s about two people who have already spent the time getting to know one another and fallen in love over that span. It makes for a more realistic take on love and allows the reader to better relate to Jeff and Sarah’s affection for each other in a way most love stories make impossible. You’re also better able to root for them to make it, hoping against hope that they defy the odds because you become emotionally vested in the pair as they struggle to survive together in a world that wishes to tear them apart.
That is part of the underlying theme of Zombie, the love a couple share and how much they will go through to stay together. Jeff and Sarah face some very tough obstacles, least among them Jeff being something other than human. It’s hard to describe without giving too much away, but Jeff getting back to Sarah is only half of their battle. Jeff will do anything to get back to Sarah, going to some brutal lengths and dispatching anyone who gets between him and his love, while Sarah continues to hold out hope Jeff is alive despite the almost certain fact that he is not, but understand that their separation is only half the novel. The time they are apart is test enough of their love for each other, both in Jeff’s determination to reunite with Sarah, and in Sarah’s refusal to give up hope that Jeff is still alive, but the true test is when there are back together. Again, I don’t want to give anything away as I’d like people to give this book a read, and I don’t want to ruin anything, but once the pair are reunited there are some real adversities they are going to have to go through, and the boundaries of their love are going to be pushed to their limit. Zombie stands as a testament to the love two people can share and how far they are willing to go in order to make sure that love is preserved.
One thing I have to really hand to DiMeo is that she managed to write a story with two of my biggest pet peeves and yet not irk my annoyance about them, fast zombies and eating brains. It’s been discussed on this site before why I don’t care for fast moving zombies and why I prefer the slower ones, in fact I wrote an entire article on just that subject, but not only was I okay that there were fast moving zombies in the tale, I actually thought it was one of the better ways I’ve seen them used before. I have to admit to enjoying a few zombie movies that had fast zombies, despite my dislike of them, but even those got a little on my bad side in that they only moved fast because someone making the movie decided they should. Still, I let it slide because it was fun to watch and the faster moving zombies worked for the film. “Watch” is a key word in that sentence, seeing them is one thing, reading about them is something entirely different. Transcribed into the written word fast moving zombies simply don’t work for me due to my feelings that they kill the things I feel zombies symbolically represent, a person stripped of their humanity to the point the only thing left is the sad shell of what once was, and a walking corpse going through rigor mortis isn’t going to be moving very quickly, trust me. That being said, the zombies DiMeo creates have a reason for moving so fast that actually works perfectly within the context of the story. There are two different types of zombies, the slower ones we’re more used to and quick moving ones. The ones able to move fast are able to so a reason that was well written and made perfect sense considering the circumstances. I can’t give it away, but I will say it works, and it’s the first time I’ve seen it done so in a story about the undead. The brain eating bit was another part that was well thought out. It usually gets on my nerves because the zombies either bite through the skull or superhumanly crush a person’s head. Human teeth are pretty strong, but they aren’t quite strong enough to get through a person’s skull, and being dead doesn’t equate to gamma radiation, you aren’t getting any stronger. The zombies here don’t just crush people’s heads with their bare hands though, nor do they bite through the skull, they either bang the head against something solid or use nearby objects to get to the brain. It made a hell of a lot more sense.
Zombie: A Love Story comes highly recommended from me. The characters were instantly relatable and endearing, the dialogue was superb, and the story was intriguing. Also, though this may just seem like a sappy little love story, be prepared for some intense zombie violence and rather messy deaths. Love is a key element of the story, but what’s a zombie tale without a few good dismemberments?
The Undead Review
Written By: Tina DiMeo
You can find it here: http://www.zombielovemania.com/