Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Guest Review: Brains, a Zombie Memoir

***My favorite guest reviewer, Jenn, is back!  So make sure you let her know how much you love her down in the comments!***

Robin Becker

College-professor-cum-zombie Jack Barnes is a different breed of undead - he can think.  In fact, he can even write.  And the story he has to tell is a truly disturbing - yet strangely heartwarming - one.

Convinced he'll bring about a peaceful coexistence between zombies and humans if he can demonstrate his unique condition to Howard Stein, the man responsible for the zombie virus, Barnes sets off on a grueling cross-country journey to meet his maker.  Along the way he recruits a small army of "super" zombies that will stop at nothing to reach their goal.  There's Guts, the dread locked boy who can run like the wind; Joan, the matronly nurse adept at reattaching decaying appendages; Annie, the young girl with a fierce quick-draw; and Ros, who can actually speak.  United they embark on an epic quest to attain what all men, women - and, apparently, zombies - yearn for: equality.

Brains is a blood-soaked, darkly humorous story that will have readers rooting for Barnes and his zombie posse to the very end.

My Take:

I haven't the foggiest idea where to start on this one.  So, let me start at the beginning.  I was at Borders (aka, my home turf) when I say this book in passing.  It caught my eye, and I had to pick it up.  Brains, A Zombie Memoir.  I laughed out loud (much to the chagrin of the hoity-toity group perusing to my left.  Victoriously, I proclaimed to my little guy (a 15 year old who loves Borders almost as much as me) "Ha!  This just might be crazy enough to work!"  And boy, did it.  I, for lack of better terms, engulfed the story, first pass through.  Then, I gave it a second pass, and found it just as great.  The story is incredibly well paced, humorous, captivating, witty, brilliant, utterly believable, and surprisingly heart-touching.  In case you didn't understand, I LOVED this book.  It is one of the best books I have read in years, surprisingly enough.  I am buying a copy for everyone I know for the holidays, and am certain I will read it at least a dozen more times.

Before you wonder, yes.  I am different. :)  I do like my Left for Dead video games, Resident Evil games and movies, Dawn of the Dead (and certainly more so, Shaun of the Dead) etc., but, not unnaturally so.  In fact, my absolute favorite book of all time is Wuthering Heights.  So, yes.  I am odd.  But no.  That is not why I loved this book.  The structure of the story was down-right brilliant.  True, there was some off-color, kind of.....yucky moments the main character reflects back on.  Rather, there was some vulgar terminology, but that too, enriched the story; not the terminology itself, but the use of it, allowed us to see the difference in thought process between Professor Jack Barnes and Zombie Jack Barnes,  This book is definitely a "hit or miss" story, particularly because of how it was told.  But, with me, it was a home run.  I found myself  laughing out loud several times, holding my breath, gasping, and craving more Brains, much as is the point of the story.  I highly recommend to every adult who is not too squeamish and not afraid when an author sometimes has to get down and dirty.  :)  I rate this a 1, Pay Full Price Guilt Free!  I can't wait to see what Ms. Becker has up her sleeves, as we speak.

Do you agree with my review?  Do you think I'm totally off base?  Either way I'd love to hear from you, be sure to leave a comment and tell me how you feel!

If this book were a movie it would likely be rated R for language, gore, sexuality, violence, and adult situations

I was lucky enough to score a Q&A session with the author, Robin Becker:

Jenn:  In reading Brains, it becomes clear that the familial unit is of utmost importance for human/zombie survival.  o you feel the recruitment of the family members is indicative of your own life?

Robin:  Family is important for everyone--from serial killers to saints, zombies and humans alike.  And I include myself in everyone.  During his lifetime, Jack thought he was a lone wolf.  In death, he finds out that zombies need zombies.

Jenn:  How did you determine zombie Jack Burns' specific ratio of wit/intellect vs. crass/abrasiveness?

Robin:  5:3.  More witty than crass, but still a bada--.  

Jenn: As a creative writing professor, and due to your ability to so eloquently weave voice, humor, emotion and...quality into your story, do you find it more difficult to work with your students following your recent publication?

Robin:  On the contrary!  I was able to share my experience with them.  The entire process--getting an agent, working with an editor, all the revisions--is valuable for my students.  Whatever I learn, they learn.  And I learned a lot.

Jenn:  Who is your favorite author?

Robin:  Right now I'm in love with Donald Harington who is the best undiscovered American magical realist.  In the past I've been in love with Sharon Olds, Chuck Palahniuk, Philip K. Dick, Mary Gaitskill, Walt Whitman, Mike Topp.  I'm fickle that way.

Jenn:  Is there a message you would like to share with the world that you were not able to get  across in your book?

Robin:  Basil is really easy to grow and delicious.  Plant some today!

Jenn:  Is there a website you'd like to let the readers know about?

Robin:  My website would be grand.  http://www.robinzbecker.com

***Want to be a guest review?  Do you have a book blog and want to get one of your reviews on The Book Buff click here***


Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Too funny! And I can be freakishly weird as well, so it sounds like I'm going to have to pick up this book now, too.

Cheryl said...


I am saying hello from the Giveawayblogs site. Thanks for introducing yourself.

Great Blog!

Laura Pauling said...

I haven't read the book yet, but it looks interesting. Dark humor can be a wonderful thing!

sssdawna said...

I'm trying to find a book on your blog that i've read but i can't find one yet...guess i better keep looking! : ) i like what you're doing here.

KTMG said...

Funny! I have to get one of these. You know, you might enjoy Secrets of a Mysterious Older Woman by Constance Feather

Anonymous said...

Love to find a book blog!! Can't wait to read through your archives!

Beanie said...

Thank you for the review! Definitely adding to my list of future reads. =]


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