Addicted to the Dead

January 10, 2014 - 4:47 pm No Comments

Addicted to the Dead
Author: Shane McKenzie
Publisher: Dark Regions Press
Page count: 278pp
Release Date: 22nd October 2013
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Featuring an introduction by Joe McKinney about violence making sense in horror, he talks about the relevance of Night of the Living Dead and race relations of 60s. America. McKinney describes Addicted to the Dead as shocking and in some senses extreme but the discussion of addiction relevant to current society. He declares it to be the cutting edge of zombie fiction, an in some ways he isn’t far wrong.

The novel starts with main protagonist Calico (a black man with pink skin birth marks/blemishes) dragging an addict girl by her hair, as she begs ‘like they always do’, then dumping her on a film set of what appears to be a ‘Corpse Snuff’ film preceded by the girls violent rape. Then the girl wakes up – dead. As the assailant continues to rape the dead girl he bites a piece of her flesh and starts to eat. This then is the violent and graphic beginning of Addicted to the Dead.

In the next ‘scene’ masses of people are queuing at the store for their daily dose of meat, squirming, wriggling pieces of dead flesh, that ironically, will prevent the eater from rising after death but will also cause addiction if eaten too much. Everyone apart from young Paco’s family is queuing for their dose of meat from Ted Fleet.
In this new world there are hardly any children and young Paco wants to know why. But a TV program informs him it’s because the meat makes people infertile. Paco would buy the meat if he could so he wouldn’t have to worry about what happened to him after he died, but his family can’t afford it and hunt instead. Paco learnt all about the addicts from the TV. The right meat means you won’t come back from the dead.
Primarily, my issue with the concept is that eating dead wiggling zombified meat actually prevents the eater from coming back from the dead, which I couldn’t quite get my head around to start with, but as the novel progresses so does the logic.
“Eat your portion of Ted Fleets Dead Meats every day, year round, and keep your body in the ground.”
When Pacos Dad finds a shambler in the woods and prepares it for his family, Paco is the only one who doesn’t eat the meat, so is the only one left alive whilst his family turn into shamblers themselves, but something is different about Sophia.
McKenzie’s depiction of addiction is on the money but without the inherent sympathy; Calico is not a nice guy. Or at least he appears to be to start with, until you realise he is very much the anti-hero with his own code of honour and morals.
The text is quite harsh in places as Calico us a hard aggressive character and his opinions are less then savoury. If harsh language and crude sex offends you this is not a book for you. The text is lively and visceral.
I was also uncomfortable with the portrayal and representation of female characters in the novel who seemed shallow and addicted to sex and there are quite a few scenes of female masterbation, rape and gang rape. Saying that, Calico’s daughter Beauty is a strong female character.
The image of meat addicts who are living but eat the dead is an interesting inversion of the zombie horde. The city itself is a post apocalyptic nightmare, all tortured and decayed buildings swarmed by shambling addicts. McKenzie also has a knack for ending chapters on cliffhangers then swapping perspective to keep you hooked. There’s an enjoyable noir gangster vibe to the novel. Unfortunately the ending itself leaves the reader a little short changed, because although you can guess the ending is bloody, the question of Calico and his daughter Beauty is not fully resolved.
However, this is a challenging book that certainly breaks new ground in the zombie genre. Well worth a read.

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