I've been saving this as the capstone to my promotional blog tour for Selfies from the End of the World, and I am super excited to finally hit post on it. Laura Davy is one of my favorite writers in the world, and she's working on becoming one of yours, too. And she will be. Just trust me. I reached out to her to help with a guest post, and she graciously agreed. Her part is below.
I’m Laura Davy, your blogger for the day. Don’t worry, this isn’t a hostile take-over (yet), I was invited to write a review on Garrett’s short story “The Adventures of Zombiegirl,” which was published in Selfies from the End of the World: Historical Accounts of the Apocalypse.
Garrett isn’t just my friend, he’s my writing friend. We exchange stories and critiques, and we get into nitty-gritty literary debates that only writers care about. (I don’t care what anyone says, I will defend the Oxford comma to the death or until I get bored.) [Garrett here in the bracket just to say: Hey, I'm on good terms with the ol' Oxford comma, but in my house we call it the serial comma.] Since we exchange stories I actually had the pleasure to read “The Adventures of Zombiegirl” in its previous drafts and I even provided some notes on the story. So what do I think about the final and official version of this scifi zombie tale? In short, it’s awesome.
Jump the cut for the full review. Spoilers ahead.
“The Adventures of Zombiegirl” is set in the near-future, with technology that we don’t currently have but that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was being developed. Latisha (Tisha) James is living in Alaska with a community of international refugees who have banded together to survive the zombie apocalypse. Their community seems more like a town than a refugee camp since it has a police force and stores, as well as high-end technology such as reinforced walls, doors that only open to heat signatures, and a "Sound Integration" app that allows noise in reality to be transformed into a song. Tisha takes her roommate's twins, Cassie and Paul, to the store on what should be a routine supply run, but a zombie gets into the building and little Cassie runs outside during the commotion. Tisha fights off zombies as she tries to find Cassie, but in the end only one of the twins comes back to their home alive.
It’s strange to describe a horror story as “refreshing,” but it is refreshing to see a story where the humans have their priorities right: it’s a united mankind versus zombies, here. I’ve gotten a little sick of zombie stories that explore the theme that even though zombies exist humans are the real monsters. That’s an engaging idea, but at this point it’s been done to death (but since it’s a zombie-themed idea it’s come back from the dead and continues on). Yes, humans can be downright terrifying and monstrous, but zombies are literally monsters. And the thing is, zombies are enough of a threat that even with a united front and superior technology all it takes is a bit of bad luck and they’ll get through the defenses and kill you.
“Zombiegirl” has intriguing world-building. Some people may not like this as much since Garrett spends several pages exploring the world/setting up action before zombie smashing happens, but I’m a sucker for well-thought-out worlds, so to me this was a treat. In this reality, technology is truly integrated into their survival. There’s no worry that we’ll have to ransack the library on how to recreate penicillin in this world; humans didn’t regress back to cavemen when there was trouble -- if anything, they created even better technology to counter the threat. Along with the scifi elements, the zombies are both realistic (well, as realistic as animated corpses can be) and deadly. In this zombie-filled world we learn that people have gone to places with extreme climates to survive when they discovered that zombies are extremely slow when it’s freezing and rot faster in intense heat. There is an idea connected to that setup that no matter what remote location you’re hiding in a person you used to know always seems to reappear as a corpse, which I find both funny and terrifying. What does it say about this apocalypse when you are being haunted (literally) by your past?
The story also explores some interesting themes. The strongest theme is the role that pop culture plays in our lives –- often for the better. Tisha has a cheap “Living Together” T-shirt, which represents a complex message about survival the president gave in a speech as the apocalypse was unfolding, shrunk down into a slogan. Even the whole story is based around a comic that came out during the apocalypse (Zombiegirl herself). The comic not only shows that humans strive to comprehend the world around them through fiction, but it creates an idealized role model for the humans to look up to. And if you can’t face reality, then pop culture can be an escape, whether it’s the cartoons Cassie wants to watch or the music that Tisha listened to in order to drown out the sounds of the dead.
Overall this story combines the best parts of horror and scifi, and ties it up with neat literary undertones. Whether you want to think about how technology would help us in an apocalypse, need a positive spin on how humans would behave when faced with a threat, or just like zombies getting their heads bashed in, this is the ideal read.
If you like this post and you want to read about my musing on cats, writing, books, and probably more thoughts about cats, you can follow me on Twitter @TheLauraDavy. You can find links to my published short stories at www.lauradavy.com.