Saturday, November 21, 2009

REVIEW: Eat Me by Ray Weeks

Eat Me Cover.jpgIn a prior review, I discussed how much I enjoyed Ray Weeks' superhero parody/homage The Adventures of Portly Boy. I now turn to Weeks' altogether more serious, but equally enjoyable, Eat Me: A Zombie Story Collection (Lulu paperback or pdf download).

Eat Me is formally a series of disconnected short stories, each set in a progressively further future and populated by completely different characters. However, the collection as a whole forms a novelistic arc of the history of a zombie armageddon, from present times through the end of our current civilization and into to what follows.

And even though the book itself is fairly short (at 170 pages), the tale is epic. Each story stands very well on its own; by giving himself the luxury to progress through time and different characters' lives, Weeks frees himself to explore some very interesting new ideas (and to bypass entirely those boring, undying cliches that seem to infest zombie fiction, the evil biker gang and the evil military).1 But even beyond the effectiveness of the individual stories, the whole creates something even greater: an apocalyptic panorama that is variably exciting, humorous, sad, and uplifting.

If Eat Me has any (minor) flaw, it is that all of the characters have similar voices. The collection is professionally written and edited, and I enjoy Weeks' casual yet muscular writing style. But Weeks especially excels at a snarky, sarcastic tone (as is apparent from The Adventures of Portly Boy and Weeks' blog, The Strangelands). In Eat Me, no matter the supposed background of the character narrating a particular story or the overall tone of that piece, one can sense that persona lurking close by.

But this is a minor quibble. Even if all the characters sound a bit similar, they are also similarly captivating, and I can unreservedly recommend Eat Me to anyone who is looking for zombie fiction that is epic in scope, imagination, and the range of emotion it inspires (if not in page count).


In addition to his book writing, Weeks occasionally reviews other authors' novels on his blog. He has been especially fulsome in his praise for the first two novels in Rhiannon Frater's As the World Dies zombie trilogy, The First Days and Fighting to Survive (click titles for Weeks' reviews; click here to purchase The First Days, Fighting to Survive or the third book, Siege, as ebooks from Smashwords, or here for paperback or Kindle versions from Amazon). I agree with the core of Weeks' review, which is that Frater's writing is very strong, particularly her characterization:

Her characters are interesting, and the story trucks along at a good speed. There's gore and death and all that other fun stuff you expect from a zombie story, but there's also an actual story, so it isn't just a bunch of people you don't care about getting chased by dead things.

Nonetheless, I have a bit more difficulty with the plotting in the trilogy than Weeks apparently does. I fully enjoyed The First Days, which seemed wholly fresh and avoided the "evil gang / military" cliche discussed above. However, even though the writing remains involving, the crux of the action in the second novel (as foreshadowed in the first) involves an evil gang. I haven't read the third novel yet, but am concerned that an evil military may be involved.

I very well may be wrong (which is the problem with discussing books one hasn't even read yet). And even if I'm right, Frater's writing is strong enough that I can add my recommendation to Weeks' for anyone whose personal prejudices about how zombie novels should be plotted do not coincide with mine.


1 Seriously, why do so many zombie novels and films feel compelled to revisit the tired old trope of the eeeevil biker gang or soldiers, whose main pastime is invariably sexual subjugation? I'm not necessarily arguing that such evildoers wouldn't arise in the 'real' world after the collapse of civilization. But aren't other people bored of reading about it? As Ken Begg recently observed over on when reviewing the movie The Infestation:

The film does at least a couple of things very right. First, there’s no human villain to waste time on. I remember how glad I was to hear that Piranha 3-D was going that route, and this proves that I was on the right track in this regard. Amazingly, the filmmakers apparently [recognized] there was enough juice in a giant bug apocalypse to drive the narrative, and that eeeevil military or corporate scientists were not required.

I couldn't agree more. Isn't there enough juice in a zombie apocalypse to drive the narrative, such that eeeevil biker gangs or soldiers are not required?


Ray said...

Thank you for again taking the time to both read and write about my stuff. I know how painful it can be to search through POD writing, and I know how difficult it can be to find time to write reviews about it.

By the way--you're right about the As The World Dies trilogy. The evil military showed up. I was even more let down to discover that the author seemed to cater to the 'tween audience a little more in the third book. To each their own, I guess.

Rhiannon Frater said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhiannon Frater said...

Actually, the evil military does not turn up. That was one of the cliches I enjoyed avoiding. Since I know so many people in the military, I made sure to represent those in the armed forces as real human beings.

As for the book catering to the "tween audience," I'm at a loss. The third book is the darkest one and full of the deaths of beloved characters. So...Ray has me stumped!

But thank you very much for the shout out.

All three books are no longer available since Tor picked them up for reissue in 2011. THE FIRST DAYS will be released in the early summer.

I hope you and your readers will check out the Tor versions when they hit the bookshelves.

Thank you again!

Raina said...

Just stumbled across your blog and am enjoying reading all the reviews. Going from the oldest to the newest posts.

I have to say the way Frater did the evil government wasn't to portray it as the evil government. Instead the military who were in the book were honest good guys.

Can't wait to buy and read Eat Me by Ray Weeks. Zombie books are my favorite books of choice at the moment. Can't get enough of them!