What if the dead rose – and didn't bother anyone? What if they didn't attack, kill, and eat the living? What if they just kind of…stumbled around?
If you think that sounds like the premise of the world's most boring zombie novel, then Martin Mundt has a truckload of surprises for you. In Reanimated Americans he's taken that very idea – a zombie apocalypse minus the apocalypse part – and turned in a savage (and savagely funny) commentary on the world we live in today.
In Mundt's novel, the world has largely learned to live with the living dead. The living have gone on with their lives, concentrating on families and careers and what's on the HD TV that night, leaving the problem of what to do with the dead as something else for the government to deal with. The government, never one to do anything that might upset a potential voter (even one that has died) has granted the corpses milling about American streets full rights. If they were American when they died, then by God they're still American, with all the rights and privileges thereof. Now, 19 years after the uprising, it's illegal to do much of anything to a zombie, including bury them, cremate them or shoot them in the head. Oh, and if you're a government employee, particularly of the new division of the Census Bureau charged with identifying and tagging the hundreds of thousands of dead bodies shambling through the streets, it's frowned upon to call them "zombies," or "deaders" or "Romeros" or "Free Range Soylent Green," or anything other than "Reanimated Americans." And yes, there's a memo that says so.
Mundt details all of this with a wry sense of humor that invokes more head-shaking than outright chuckling (although there's some of that, too). It's head-shaking because when you encounter some of the politically correct tiptoeing many of our politicians engage in these days, it's easy to imagine these buffoons coming up with a complaint form for a zombie to fill out if he or she is upset at being tagged.
Details like that are just tiny parts of what makes Reanimated Americans such a dead-on piece of satire. There are other details that ensure what you're reading isn't just played for laughs. Yes, there's a comedic undertone to much of what goes on here, but Mundt has some deadly serious (and outright horrifying) things to say as well. He's drawn together a diverse cast of characters and weaves them in and out of several storylines, all the while tightening the drawstring to bring them all together at the end. Mundt manages a lot of moving parts, including Jett, the newbie on the Census Bureau staff with a heart full of secrets (some of which he keeps stashed in a storage locker); Tully, a loose cannon zombie counter with a love of conspiracy theories; Snyder, perhaps the world's first serial killer of zombies; a roving gang that turns corpses into reanimated artwork; a couple of shady cops; even a street bum who only wants his zombie companion returned to him. That the author is able to effectively juggle so many characters and situations in a relatively compact (under 300 pages) book is a feat unto itself; that he's able to do so in a thoroughly entertaining fashion is why I'm recommending the book highly to zombie fans and to those who think there's literally no life left in the zombie subgenre.
Reanimated Americans is available now in paperback and various digital formats from Creeping Hemlock Press as part of their "Print Is Dead" line of zombie novels.
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Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.