Bitchin' Blog Posts
Title: Married with Zombies
Author: Jesse Petersen
Publication Info: Orbit September 2010
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Sarah and David are having trouble in their marriage. They’re in counseling with a couple’s therapist, and they’ve both Googled “divorce attorney” on their shared computer - something Sarah discovers when she breaks down enough to search and finds that it’s already been used as a recent search term.
When they go to their latest therapy appointment, gritting teeth and quiet tension and passive aggressive sniping accompanying them all the way there, they find their normally punctual therapist isn’t ready for them. The door is closed. And the annoying and treacly couple in the time slot before them hasn’t emerged yet either. So when they go in to see what the delay is they find their marriage counselor is very busy… eating the treacly couple. After dispatching the moaning, drooling, carnivorous counselor and her clients, they head home and realize along the way that a very fast-moving zombie outbreak has occurred, and they might be one of the very humans left.
This is a book for anyone who likes silly, somewhat goofy horror movies with occasionally poignant moments. If you like “Shawn of the Dead” or “Zombieland,” this book will probably make you happy in your zombie pants. If horror or slapstick or even sarcasm or first person point of view aren’t your cup of gore, this won’t do it for you. I’m not a horror movie person, not by a long shot. I was prepared for it to gross me out or for the narrator to start slinging descriptions of blood and gore around for the fun of it. There are moments that are gruesome and some that are painful to witness with Sarah and David, but they were enough to lend the story some emotional realism beneath the outlandish wtfery going on in their world.
Tips on a healthy relationship begin each chapter, and some of them are snort-worthy in their hilarity - as are some of the scenes in those chapters. It was funny. Like, laugh out loud on the train with witnesses funny. There were scenes or lines or even words in the book that made me giggle and chortle and make all sorts of giddy noises. For example, when Sarah encounters their zombiefied neighbor in an unexpected place:
I don’t know what came over me as I looked down at our fat piece of shit neighbor laying half in my toilet, the offending seat Dave had left for me still flipped up overhead. I certainly didn’t think about what I was going to do, I just did it. Dropping down, I started slamming the toilet down against his skull.
“Put. The. Toilet. Seat. Down. David!” I accentuated each word with a crushing bang of the seat. I didn’t stop until I heard Dave’s voice outside the door.
“Did you say my name?”
Beyond the plot itself, there’s an interesting dichotomy being explored: end of marriage vs. end of the world, and the hilarious silliness of facing a zombie apocalypse vs. the cutting pain of having to kill people you know and maybe love before they become zombies themselves. Both scenarios require letting go of the past and looking only at the present and immediate future, sort of like moving into a state of emergency for yourself in the world, and at the same time for yourself in your relationship. So not only is there a question of whether Sarah and David’s marriage will survive, but then, whether Sarah and David themselves will survive at all. They’re at DEFCON HOLYSHIT for a whole mess of reasons.
The plot is serious at times, but overall, it does not take itself too seriously, which I really enjoy. The writing makes for fast reading, and the plot moves quickly from point to point. Chapters seem short; scenes are brisk and quick-moving. The writing is funny, but it also doesn’t allow for much of a character development to occur. The reader learns the reasons that Sarah and David are having problems maritally, but the full story of David or Sarah’s feelings outside of slow-burn resentment and general irritation is not revealed.
Moreover, there are some moments in the book where the tense changes, and Sarah begins lecturing on what the zombie apocalypse is like or will be like when it comes to my area, and those tense shifts bugged the crap out of me. I believe the words, “AAAAAAGH BAD VERB TENSE” were said aloud:
He threw the door open and stared for a moment at this guy who he’d called friend for a couple of years. I felt bad for him.
The thing about the zombie outbreak is that you get really numb to all the death and blood and bodies. It happens faster than you’d probably like to think, too. You may not believe me, but I know what I’m talking about.
BAD TENSE CHANGE IS BAD FOR (me) SARAH.
The abrupt and half-fleshed (pun intended) characterization is echoed by the ending of the book, which comes much sooner and does not at all resolve the major problems in the story. The question of their marriage’s survival is partially answered, but huge broad giant hints like trout falling from the sky are left in the final paragraphs, which made be both eager to start the next book (which I can’t do yet) and annoyed that there wasn’t more of a resolution to tide me over until that next book, which I do want to read. If ever a series cried out for back-to-back releases, it’s this one. The action is so fast, the narration moves over character-breaking moments and poignant moments like a bird flying low over the water barely hitting the surface tension and never getting near the depths beneath the waterline.
Emergency scenarios, like your marriage counselor becoming a zombie, do not make for long interludes of reverie and introspection - and this is a good thing. If Sarah or David had wandered around in a haze thinking about the state of their marriage for a few minutes, I’d have been gritting my teeth waiting for a zombie to drop out of the light fixture or something. But I want to learn more about them, and I hope future books reveal more of their characters. They’re a duo I can root for in a crisis, literally, but I want to know them more as they move through the apocalypse.
I’m not a fan of the zombie mashups, really, and was somewhat hesitant to read this, since it’s not directly a romance, though it has a strong reconciliation plot. I’m not even much of a zombie-aficionado. But, as I said in the video interview with Jesse Petersen, dropping zombies into romance clichés can be very funny. Petersen misses cliche by going for a couple on the brink of divorce, but they run for their lives and steal cars and wreck them, and while no one gallivants in a nightgown, it’s a fun adventure watching Sarah and David battle the zombie scourge. I battled with myself about the grade, and it was right on the border of B-/C+. I ended up going for the higher because of the silly and the brave and the making me laugh out loud.