Can zombies, pun-based humor, and lust all peaceably cohabitate in the same novel? Find out in this spoiler-free review of Amelia Beamer’s The Loving Dead.
It all starts outside a yoga studio in Berkeley. (Barring the zombies, everything mentioned in the book is real. Piedmont Ave. and Lakeshore have been hang out spots for my friends and I since undergrad—at Mills College, no less. Cato’s does pretty decent food and has a nice selection of curious beers, you can take a Zeppelin tour and do the annual Zombie Walk, there really is a shortcut through Emeryville that bypasses the MacArthur Maze, and the Bay Bridge really has been under construction since the beginning of time.)
Without revealing too much, Kate, one of the main characters, inadvertently brings home someone who is infected with the Zombie Flu but hasn’t yet shown the signs. What are those signs, you ask? Gray skin, cloudy white eyes, loss of mental faculties, a reduction in basic motor functions, and an intense and all-consuming desire for sex. Lots and lots of sex. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill brain-eating zombies. These are hold-you-down-and-screw-you-while-eating-off-your-face zombies. These are also zombies who, for some inexplicable reason, will slavishly obey anyone who makes a loud noise.
Kate willingly (and rather stupidly) splits off from the group lead by the other main character Michael and goes wandering around on a Zeppelin which, of course, also gets attacked by zombies. The rest of the book is pretty much about Kate and Michael having the hots for each other and trying to find each other so they can have lots of hot sex on Alcatraz while waiting out the apocalypse. Until then they’re content to tell dumb jokes and obnoxious puns while making forced comparisons between zombies and homosexuality and the state of modern American consumerism.
For those of you playing along at home, we’re now up to four genres: horror, comedy, erotic romance, and social commentary. And where Shaun of the Dead managed to make the RomComZom awesome in every way, Beamer can’t quite make hers work.
Short trip down Tangent Lane: Why on earth would anyone go to Alcatraz to wait out the zombie apocalypse? Being a Bay Area native and local, I’d just go camping up on Mt. Tam, Point Reyes, Los Padres, or some other isolated, expansive, and relatively uninhabited locale. Do you know how long it would take a zombie to finally wander all the way out to the middle of nowhere and then try and track me down? By that time I’d be hidden away and snug as a bug in a rug. If I was forced to be island bound then I certainly wouldn’t do Angel Island or Alcatraz. I’d aim for the Brother Islands or, better yet, the Farallon Islands. But I suppose that makes for a less interesting narrative. Back to the matter at hand…
Looking at it piece by piece, it is an entertaining book. The sex scenes are written in extreme detail, with an almost fetishistic obsession with nippleage that is more porny than romantic, but that works for me, especially in this context. You can’t vividly describe a character smashing in a zombie’s face and then do a Fade To Black once her shirt comes off. And tagging along with the characters as they try to outrun and outsmart the zombies is exciting and tense. I have absolutely no tolerance for puns and unfunny jokes—and Beamer uses a lot of them, but I can’t hate on her for my own pet peeve. Whoever said that puns are the highest form of humor was a liar. A damn dirty liar.
Where she really stumbles, in my opinion, is with the sex. Not the sex itself—I really rather enjoyed that, actually—but it’s inclusion at all. It seems like Beamer tried to shove as much smex in there as possible, yet none of it feels like it particularly needs to be there. I get why Beamer wrote the scenes she did, but I don’t think she managed to make them necessary to the story. In fact, Beamer could have axed the sex scenes and added more to the whole “attack of the zombies” thing and made a better horror story. Or she could have better integrated the sex so it didn’t just suddenly happen, thereby making it less jarring and more valid as a story plot point.
Come to think of it, if there had been more of a transition from the characters not knowing what’s going on to suddenly accepting they live in a world of sex-crazed zombies I might have liked this book a whole lot more. But for what it is it’s a fun and sexy read. If you like your smex more along the lines of The Steel Remains and Histoire D’O and your zombies á la The Crazies then you’ll definitely enjoy this book.
Alex Brown is an archivist in training, reference librarian by day, writer by night, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare…