Original Release Date: March 3, 2009
Publisher: Broadway Books
Okay, truth time: I had been seeing “Breathers” in the bookstore for a long time before I finally broke down and bought it. The reason I waited so long to buy it: the cover. As you can see, the cover looks like your fairly typical kitschy romance novel, with the exception of zombies kissing instead of regular humans.
Now, if you’re like me, at first glance this cover probably makes your brow furrow in confusion. What kind of book is this, exactly? Is it making fun of zombies? Is it some disgusting attempt at an actual zombie romance novel? You’re not quite sure exactly what may be contained inside, and quite frankly, I was a little scared to open it up and find out. When I finally did, I was relieved and excited to find such a highly entertaining and unique story that really went far above and beyond my expectations.
S.G. Browne’s highly original novel, his first book, centers on Andy, a zombie living in a world where only select dead reanimate. After coming back to life following a car accident that (permanently) killed his wife and alienated his daughter, Andy’s new undead life as a zombie – aside from not having any legal rights and not being eligible to work, vote, or be outside after dark without human chaperones – consists of living in his parent’s basement, drinking formaldehyde and shampoo to stay as “fresh” as possible, and going to Undead Anonymous meetings to help work through his feelings surrounding his new un-life. When Andy and a few of his UA friends, including Rita the hot suicide revenant with a fetish for both wearing and eating lots of lipstick, discover the joys of consuming human flesh and all the surprises that come with it, the real fun begins.
Oh, and as for that cover – Andy and Rita do get into a romantic relationship, which is actually described in a pretty sweet way, what with it being between two reanimated creatures who crave the flesh of the living and all. There is even a zombie “sexytime” scene and second-half subplot, which fits in to the overall feel of the story a heck of a lot better than you might imagine.
I’m a proud man, but I’m not too proud to admit when I’m wrong, and I can say with certainty that I was wrong to avoid this book for so long. Browne has created an amazingly entertaining novel that should please most zombie fans with its unique blend of humor, action, and of course, gore.
And to the Score we a-go-go:
G: General Entertainment – This book blends humor very effectively with zombie violence and carnage, and it throws some “make you think” questions in for good measure. While it’s definitely not your “traditional” zombie story, the quirkiness of this tale definitely adds to its entertainment value. I was debating whether “Breathers” should be termed as a zombie story with comedy added in, or a comedy story with zombies added in. I think it’s the latter, but either way, it’s a lot of fun to read. 8/10
O: Original Content – Lots of goodness here: zombies drinking formaldehyde and shampoo in order to stay “fresh,” zombies going to Undead Anonymous meetings to help express their feelings, the undead being rounded up and put in dog cages at the SPCA when they “escape” from their guardians, the covert way some zombies eat human flesh and the effects it has on them…Browne has definitely created a very unique world for his characters to un-live in. 8/10
R: Realism – Even through the humor, the realistic feel of the book still shines fairly brightly. Many of the characters, living and dead, make choices and mistakes that they have to live with – er, I guess that should technically be “stay dead with” – and often the ramifications of their decisions are dealt with in a very realistic approach. Oddly enough, some of the more humorous aspects of the book (like the Undead Anonymous support group and the SPCA wrangling up “wild” zombies) are also the most realistic-feeling, which probably speaks to how funny some of the things we do in our own real lives are! 7/10
E: Effects and Editing – While there is not a lot of zombie-attack action that really brings the “verbal gore,” there are a few fairly intense scenes of violence, and Browne does a good job of making us feel the blood and guts. The book is very well edited, moving along at a brisk pace and making for a very quick read. 7/10
TOTAL SCORE: 7.5/10
I’m very glad I gave this book a chance, and if you go out and pick it up – which I recommend you do – you will be too. It’s a book that is different while keeping a familiar feel, and rewards the reader with the kind of highly entertaining story that you don’t usually find every day.
And now, my friends, you know the Score!