Friday, November 16, 2012

A true ZOMBIE would be mine forever

You know those books that you wish you didn't read? Not because it was a bad book or you felt like you wasted your time, but you wish you didn't have those images in your head? Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates is one of those books. It's well-written, it's a griping story, and it made me uncomfortable.

I decided to read Zombie because it was on sale on the Kindle and it's a JCO book. I've been wanting to read something of hers and didn't know where to start. Something on sale seemed like a good choice.

I knew going into this it wasn't going to be a zombie story. I mean, I know it's titled Zombie but it's not that kind of zombie. Instead of the walking dead coming back and feeding on the living as they try to survive and make sense of this new world, it's about a guy that is trying to make sex zombies a la Jeffrey Dahmer. So, you know, way worse.

It's not the "create a sex zombie via transorbital lobotomy done with rusty tools" that made me not like this book. OK, well not the only thing. Quentin is the protagonist and it's a first person story. Which means you spend the whole book hanging out in the mind of this deranged serial killer. I do not like hanging out in Quentin's mind. I don't want to know what he's thinking, I don't want to follow him around as he plans and justifies his murders. There was never a moment I felt sympathy for Quentin. I mostly kept hoping he'd set on fire. Not that it would have made sense for the plot but still.

It takes a little while to get used to the writing style. Quentin switches back and forth between referring to himself in the first person, or referring to himself as Q__ P__. He refers to his victims by nicknames like RAISINEYES and SQUIRREL. He has no empathy whatsoever. He manipulates his family that is truly too good for him. It wouldn't have been surprising if the story focused on why Quentin did the things he does, maybe how his family messed him up. But no, you don't get that. There's no explanation for why he does the things he does. Which is both what elevates the story and makes it so hard to read. Awful things happen to innocent people and it's not fair.

One of the ways I decide that I really like a book is if I want to read it again. I do not want to read this one again. I don't (entirely) regret reading this, but it is not one I can see myself revisiting. I spent some time in this lunatic's head and I'm good now. All set. Zombie can join American Psycho in books that are well-written and I'm happy to never pick up again. Amazon also groups these two together in the Frequently Bought Together section.

The plus side, this counts towards the Smooth Criminals challenge! Now I'm in no way going to finish the this challenge, but I'll keep trying till the end of the year. And by trying I mean unintentionally reading a book that fits the criteria for one of the categories. In this case "Book with a psychopath protagonist".
Title quote from page 49, location 493

Oates, Joyce Carol. Zombie. Harper Collins, 2009. Originally published 1995