Monday, January 17, 2011

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Joan Frances Turner

September 2010

Book Blurb:
Nine years ago, Jessie had a family.
Now, she has a gang.
Nine years ago, Jessie was a vegetarian.
Now, she eats very fresh meat.
Nine years ago,
Jessie was in a car crash and died.
Nine years ago, Jessie was human.
Now, she’s not.

After she was buried, Jessie awoke and tore through the earth to arise, reborn, as a zombie. Jessie’s gang is the Fly-by-Nights. She loves the ancient, skeletal Florian and his memories of time gone by. She’s in love with Joe, a maggot-infested corpse. They fight, hunt, dance together as one—something humans can never understand. There are dark places humans have learned to avoid, lest they run into the zombie gangs.

But now, Jessie and the Fly-by-Nights have seen new creatures in the woods—things not human and not zombie. A strange new illness has flamed up out of nowhere, causing the undeads to become more alive and the living to exist on the brink of death. As bits and pieces of the truth fall around Jessie, like the flesh off her bones, she’ll have to choose between looking away or staring down the madness—and hanging onto everything she has come to know as life…

At long last . . . Zombies! And they’re the good guys, sort of. They think. They feel. They love. And some would like nothing better than to be left alone to live out their zombie lives until they turn to dust. But of course, humans won’t let them.

In Turner’s world, zombies are not contagious. You can’t become the undead by being bitten. When people die, some rise as a zombie while others stay tucked in their eternal slumber six feet under. No one knows who will be turned and who won’t or why it happens, but it’s been going on for as long as humans have been around. (Guess what the Black Plague was really all about.) It’s been one dark, dirty little secret. Until now. Zombies are everywhere and the world is no longer as we know it.

The Gross and the Disturbing:
This book is not for the squeamish. Do not read it while eating. Turner is very descriptive when it comes to zombie eating habits (they don’t just go for the brains – they eat everything). But to tell you the truth, after the first ‘dining’ scene, it didn’t bother me so much although I did steer clear of the leftover ribs in my fridge. What did bother me was the violence. While zombies are sentient creatures, they are not sentimental. They say so themselves. At times they act more like a pack of hyenas, working together to bring down a deer then ready to tear out each other’s throats over who gets the liver. Even Jessie and Joe, who care about each other, fight to the point where one could easily kill the other. Then there’s the gang initiation. To be accepted in, you have to get beat up by all the members of the gang to prove you’re tough enough. That disturbed me more than anything.

The Romance:
Slim to none. Jessie loves her zombie boyfriend Joe, but very little of their romantic relationship is shown. The farthest it goes is some hand-holding (she only has one), a few hugs, and one brief kiss. After all, she died at 15. Zombies don’t age, they decompose. Their relationship has more of a twisted YA feel to it (he died at age 19).

The Plot Hole:
The only way to kill a zombie once they have risen is by bashing their brains in (literally) or with fire. Got that. However, humans figured out early on that if a body is cremated after death it can’t rise from the grave. So why isn’t it mandated that everyone who dies gets cremated? No ifs, ands or buts. Against your religious beliefs? Too bad. It’s obvious by the number of zombies shuffling around that the chain-link fence and barbed wire is not keeping them confined to the cemeteries. The only new zombies who should be rising are murder victims whose bodies have been dumped in a landfill. Of course, if you did this, Jessie would be a pile of ash and there would be no story.

The ‘IT’ Factor:
The premise of this book is so original and so cool, it’s in a class by itself. Turner dared to go where no one has gone before. She humanized zombies and made us care about these rotting corpses. Utterly brilliant.