The biggest problem with Breathers, a great new zombie book released last month, could be that no one knows what genre it belongs to. It’s about zombies, but it’s not exactly a horror book. It has romance, but it’s no love story. It’s a dark comedy, sure, but it’s more than that. Some reviews are calling Breathers a Rom-Zom-Com, short for a zombie romantic comedy, but even that seems like a stretch.
Breathers is contemporary, humorous and sophisticated. If it weren’t for the zombies, this book would be on the shelf next to Nick Hornby‘s latest and Fight Club. Why? Because I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the genre it belongs to is the poorly understood male ennui: A bored man struggles through a depressing existence, eventually learning how to take back his own life. Except the main character is a zombie, so he’s actually taking back his undeath.
And there’s no mistaking it — Breathers is definitely a zombie book. The story is told in first-person by Andy, a rotting corpse that lives in his parents’ wine cellar after reanimating, wandering out of the mortuary and getting locked up with the other itinerant undead at the SPCA. Between dull days and nights of watching bad television while drinking expensive wine and shampoo, Andy commiserates with other zombies at Undead Anonymous. Hilarity and poignancy ensue.
Breathers is cool and fresh new fiction. It’s the kind of zombie book you could loan to your mother. As long as your mother is okay with a little violence, irreverence and necrophilia — assuming it’s necrophilia if both parties are dead. Or undead. Whatever.
I’m giving Breathers five brains, then subtracting a half brain because, like zombies, the book starts off a tad slow but will get you in the end.
Further reading: Breathers has a pretty cool web page, Undead Anonymous, which has some good literature on coping with undeath.