Wednesday, March 7, 2012

#1 Zombie Bake-Off by Stephen Graham Jones

Terry is a single mother, raising two children, a daft brother, and the staff of the local coliseum.  As the Events Coordinator, she oversees the day to day operations of the building and the conferences and shows that fill arena.  Zombie Bake-Off opens as Terry's disrespectful children are left at school in the morning, where Terry has to muscle her way through the drop-off lane to get to work on time, and deal with the other judgmental mothers that cluck their tongues in her general direction.  When she gets to work, she has to make sure her brother, Chapman, the security guard, and the rest of the staff at the coliseum for that matter, is on task as laziness and complete disregard for common sense compete for dominance.  For Terry, this is every day.

The story here, however, is that on this particular day, a swarm of women are wandering the floor of the arena at a cooking show, featuring Beatrice, a blind woman that's able to distinguish the ingredients of everything fed to her, as her sense of taste is heightened where her sense of sight has failed her.  This attraction is further bolstered by the presence of a television crew filming for a televised cooking show starring a flamboyant Kent.  Unfortunately for Terry, before she's even able to get to work, buses pull into the parking lot of the coliseum, their doors swing open, and out fall the muscle-bound, tattoo-clad wrestlers of a federation that are scheduled to perform in the double-booked building later that night.  They're early, and they have no intention of staying off the arena floor, and out of sight of the prim and proper attendance of the cooking show already in progress.  

Add in a dash of day-old doughnuts and you have a recipe for pure disaster.

Stephen Graham Jones cleaves flowery narrative and leaves out complicated, unnecessary dialogue.  What is left for the reader is Zombie Bake-Off, a combination of his love for a local arena, baked goods, and zombie stories.  In a literary world now jam-packed with tales of love disguised with glittery vampires, shirtless werewolves hellbent on obtaining pricey real estate on the California coast, and Presidential monster slayers, Jones tells a simple tale of a zombie horde reigning terror on the few humans left inside a building, trapped, and forced to take a stand.  The simplicity of this novel is a refreshing nod to the George Romero movies of old.  It isn't complicated by any stretch of the imagination, by shoe-gazing girls with no backbone to speak of, or plot points that are created to increase word count.  Zombie Bake-Off is simply what it is, creatures eating people.  It's an action packed festival of blood and guts, and as an extra bonus, there's a small love story that doesn't detract from anything at all.  This is what Twilight would be like if it had balls, what The Walking Dead would be without the boring, whiny characters. 

Review by Sean P. Ferguson

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