Sunday, October 31, 2010

Breathers: A Zombie's Lament by S.G. Browne

Cuddly zombies are just what the world needs, zombies that emote and think and feel. Also, they don't eat people. These zombies are persecuted by the living, "Breathers" as they call them. (Hello, thinly veiled reference to gay community, re: "Breeders.") The undead are not allowed to work, use the internet, and the rules continue on and on. Zombie-hating is the new racism, homophobia, sexism, pretty much any discrimination is happening to the undead.

Andy Warner died in a car accident that also killed his wife. She never came back. Now, Andy lives with his parents. His father is openly hostile and threatens to sell him off to a body farm or zombie zoo. His mother is terrified of him, but tries to put up a good front. He cannot talk because of the accident, his body is mangled, and there are scars all over his face. All Andy does is watch TV, drink wine, and attend his Undead Anonymous (UA) meetings.

Every member of the UA wants nothing more than to return to the lives they had before they died and came back. Society won't allow this to happen. Seriously, people are horrible. They call the zombies names, throw food, dismember them, steal arms. The zombies are legally unable to fight back, and nobody will prosecute anyone who attacks a zombie. Andy starts a petition to return equal rights and protection of the law to the undead, but nothing happens.

Andy and his friends from the UA, Jerry and Rita, meet another zombie named Ray. Ray gives them his special venison jerky. The jerky is the best-tasting thing any of them has ever had, it even makes other food taste better. There's a whole skirting around of the issue, but I knew from the first time they mentioned the jerky that Ray's venison jerky is people. The more jerky that Andy eats, the more restless he gets. He starts protesting and acting out. He starts a romance with Rita. His wounds also start to heal and he can talk again. Eating Breathers is making them better zombies, so they introduce the rest of the UA to the revolutionary cure-all. After that, things start to spiral out of control.

Breathers made me feel a lot of conflicting emotions, first and foremost the desire to become a vegetarian. I really don't need recipes for how to cook humans, thanks. Or descriptions of how you cooked your mother's ribs. There is a line, people.

At first, I was incredibly sympathetic to the zombies. People were so mean. There but for the grace of God go the rest of them, yet there was absolutely no sympathy for their plight. While I like to imagine that I wouldn't be throwing smoothies at zombies, I would hope that any zombie hugs wouldn't end with me becoming a pot of Breather stew. Breather-eating zombies were much harder to sympathize with, especially after the blood-bath that occurs near the end. I ended up feeling foolish for falling for this pro-zombie rhetoric. Zombie hugs are a good way to get yourself eaten.

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