Review Date: July 3rd, 2012
R is having a no-life crisis — he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization.
And then he meets a girl.
Fascinatingly poetic, beautifully written, with a main character whose voice became — in only a few pages — one of my favorites, this book is surprisingly, unexpectedly deep and meaningful and smart and hopeful and charming and just plain awesome.
I am dead, but it’s not so bad.
My friend “M” says the irony of being a zombie is that everything is funny, but you can’t smile, because your lips have rotted off.
I imagine that’s what being full-dead is like. An emptiness vast and absolute.
The future is as blurry to me as the past. I can’t seem to make myself care about anything to the right or left of the present, and the present isn’t exactly urgent. You might say death has relaxed me.
I stand on the steps and ascend like a soul into Heaven, that sugary dream of our childhoods, now a tasteless joke.
- Focused thought is a rare occurrence here, and we all follow it when it manifests. Otherwise we’d just be standing around and groaning all day. We do a lot of standing around and groaning.
- Last winter, when so many Living joined the Dead and our prey became scarce, I watched some of my friends become full-dead. The transition was undramatic. They just slowed down, then stopped, and after a while I realized they were corpses. It disquieted me at first, but it’s against etiquette to notice when one of us dies. I distracted myself with some groaning.
- I guess it’s not so important. Once you’ve arrived at the end of the world, it hardly matters which route you took.
- As always I go straight for the good part, the part that makes my head light up like a picture tube. … for about thirty seconds, I have memories. Flashes of parades, perfume, music… life. Then it fades, and i get up, and we all stumble out of the city, still cold and gray, but feeling a little better. Not “good,” exactly, not even “happy,” certainly not “alive,” but… a little less dead. This is the best we can do.
- There is a chasm between me and the world outside of me. A gap so wide my feelings can’t cross it. By the time my screams reach the other side, they have dwindled into groans.
- Dead who don’t hunt will never quite be satisfied. Like men at sea deprived of fresh fruit, they will wither in their deficiencies, weak and perpetually empty, because the new hunger is a lonely monster. … what it craves is closeness, that grim sense of connection that courses between their eyes and ours in those final moments, like some dark negative of love.
- Breathing is optional, but I need some air.
- This is my great obstacle, the biggest of all the boulders littering my path. In my mind I am eloquent; I can climb intricate scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceilings and paint my thoughts. But when I open my mouth, it all collapses. So far my personal record is four rolling syllables before some… thing… jams. And I may be the most loquacious zombie in this airport.
- I turn and start speed-lumbering…
- These Living are not seasoned veterans. They are young. Teenagers, mostly. Boys and girls. One of them has such gruesome acne he’s likely to get shot by mistake in this flickering light.
- Sex, once a law as undisputed as gravity, has been disproved. The equation is erased, the blackboard broken.
- Just remember her … As much as you can for as long as you can. That’s how she comes back. We make her live. Not some ridiculous curse. … Bodies are just meat … The part of her that matters most… we get to keep that.
- I’m about to make a doomed attempt at small talk when she looks up at me…
- Like an inverted funeral procession, the Dead march out in a solemn line, taking slow, plodding steps toward the church.
- I long for exclamation marks, but I’m drowning in ellipses.
- All the shitty stuff people do to themselves… it can all be the same thing, you know? Just a way to drown out your own voice. To kill your memories without having to kill yourself.
- In my palm I can feel the echo of her pulse, standing in for the absence of mine.
- The molecules of my mind are still scattered, and I float through oily black space, trying to swipe them up like fireflies.“
- She is nudging my mind down streets it’s rarely traveled.
- As deeply different as we are, I have to give M some credit. He is the only zombie I’ve met who’s managed to maintain a dangling scrap of humor.
- The entire front row raises its arms in unison and points at Julie. It strikes me how wrong this is, how fundamentally different these creatures are from the rest of us. The Dead are adrift on a foggy sea of ennui. They don’t do things in unison.
- Her eyes pull on me like gravity.
- My mom used to say that’s why we have memory. And the opposite of memory — hope. So things that are gone can still matter. So we can build off our pasts and make futures … life only makes sense if we can see time how God does. Past, present, and future all at once. … I can see the past and the present, but what’s the future? … that’s the tricky part. The past is made out of facts… I guess the future is just hope.
- We cast our votes and raised our leaders, charming men and women with white teeth and silver tongues, and we shoved our many hopes and fears into their hands, believing those hands were strong because they had firm handshakes. They failed us, always. There was no way they could not fail us — they were human, and more importantly, so were we.
- Why am I doing this? Why do I want to know the names and functions of all the beautiful structures I’ve spent me years violating? Because I don’t deserve to keep them anonymous. I want the pain of knowing them, and by extension myself: who and what I really am. Maybe with that scalpel, red-hot and sterilized in tears, I can begin to carve out the rot inside me.
- They wear out a fresh toothbrush on my teeth, although for my smile anything above a coffee-addicted Brit is not in the cards.
- Why is it beautiful that humanity keeps coming back? So does herpes.
- What is left of us? … No countries, no cultures, no wars but still no peace. What’s at our core, then? What’s still squirming in our bones when everything else is stripped?
- I’m not afraid of the skeletons in Julie’s closet. I look forward to meeting the rest of them, looking them hard in the eye, giving them firm, bone-crunching handshakes.
- These people, these beautiful Living women, they don’t seem to make the connection between me and the creatures that keep killing everything they love. They allow me to be an exception, and I feel humbled by this gift. I want to pay it back somehow, earn their forgiveness. I want to repair the world I’ve helped destroy.
- We’re wandering around this city like a kitten in a dog kennel.
- Their exchange sounds proper but rings false, as if paddling above deep undercurrents.
- What I’m trying to say is, it’s a shitty world and shit happens, but we don’t have to bathe in shit. … when you have weight like that in your life, you have to start looking for the bigger picture or you are gonna sink.
- I can no longer hide behind my ignorance. I know now that I have no choice, and I choose to change no matter what the cost.
- Her warm memories. I’d like to paint them over the bare plaster walls of my soul, but everything I paint seems to peel.
- So here we are. trapped in the gap between the cradle and the grave, no longer able to fit in either.
- The shadowblack marrow seething in their bones.
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