Original Release Date: July 14, 2010
Publisher: Sonar4 Productions
We’ve seen zombies put in a variety of situations and scenarios, but have you ever heard of this one: a zombie lawyer?
Putting aside the plethora of lawyer-related jokes that surely spring into your head, author Shells Walter gives us a look into the undead legal system in her novel “Dead Practices.” In the story, set in a world where zombies can be regulated to become high-functioning and productive members of society, lawyer Jerrod is given a difficult task. He is asked to defend Ken Yerns, an off-kilter fellow who thinks he can not only revert zombies back to their “feral” state, but make them do his bidding as well. Turns out he can, and he’s on the loose wreaking havoc with his zombie horde. It falls to Jerrod and his police-officer friend Rusty, with a little help from an eclectic cast of supporting characters, to stop Ken before he goes too far.
I really like the concept of this book: the legal questions surrounding zombie rights vs. basic human rights is an interesting one, and I think the judicial system would be thrown into complete disarray should high-functioning zombies ever appear in our society as it stands now. Unfortunately, I felt that with the story we are presented, Walter misses the mark in this arena. She chooses not to tackle any of these types of questions too heavily, instead putting Jerrod and Rusty into a “whodunit” type of mystery-solving story mixed with a slapstick/buddy-cop comedy undertone. The result is still an interesting tale, but not quite the insightful look into undead law and lawyer-ing that I was hoping for.
It’s also worth noting, in the interest of full disclosure: this is the second book published by Sonar4 Productions that has been reviewed by The G.O.R.E. Score, the first being “The Blooming” by Tonia Brown. In reading that tale, I discovered that the novel was actually more of a novella, coming in around 30,000 words, and some generous formatting on behalf of the publisher made the book appear longer than it actually was. It’s the same story here: making a quick estimation based on words per page multiplied by actual page number, it appears that “Dead Practices” is only about 26,000-27,000 words in length, making it more novella than novel. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as many stories I’ve read are pumped up with unnecessary “filler” text to help it reach the 40,000-plus words you normally see in a novel; I simply want to make potential readers aware of what you’re getting here.
All right – since the book didn’t make this joke, I suppose I must: let’s exercise our power of habeas corpse-us to overrule any objections to the Score:
G: General Entertainment – While the story could definitely benefit from some higher-level editing (more on this below), as it stands now the tale is a quick and fun read of zombie action without a whole lot of mayhem. It’s a lighthearted approach to zombies being integrated into society; a similar take on the undead can be found in the film “Fido.” Walter’s ability to have fun with the story clearly shines through. 7/10
O: Original Content – This is the only story quite of its kind that I’m familiar with. While other tales have certainly used the idea of having zombies function as (semi-)useful members of society, “Dead Practices” is the first I know of to employ an undead lead character as a lawyer. I do have to subtract a few points for the lawyer not doing as much lawyer-ing as I’d hoped, although the “crime/mystery” aspect of the story seems to work well in the absence of a legal thriller. 8/10
R: Realism – This is my biggest problem with the story as it stands now, and probably something a professional editor should have helped fix. The interactions between characters, even though they are entertaining and quite humorous, at many times feel forced and unnatural. While the action and situations seem pretty well grounded in reality, the tale does lean on the element of convenience a little too much: the zombie horde just happens to avoid police detection even though they often attack in broad daylight, and the President of the United States (and his very skimpy Secret Service protection) just happens to be visiting a town with a well-documented feral zombie outbreak in progress. Missed opportunities like these throw a wrench into the overall enjoyment of the book. 4/10
E: Effects and Editing – While Walter has definitely created a great core of a story, it feels like the folks at Sonar4 really didn’t invest the time and resources necessary to help give the book the total-professional treatment it deserves. As mentioned above, the pages are generously formatted with white space, most likely done to give the reader the impression that the story is longer than it actually is. Grammatical and syntax errors are present, although for me these were more of an annoyance and didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. The cover is serviceable, but the image presented seems largely unattached to the story that exists inside the book. 3/10
TOTAL SCORE: 5.5/10
When it’s all said and done, Walter has created a fun and unique story that can provide a nice escape from the “usual” zombie fare out there. If you’re looking for something different and don’t mind schlepping through some formatting issues, “Dead Practices” could easily earn a spot in your jury.
And now, my friends, you know the Score!