When zombies start crawling out of the ground across the Hoosier state, it’s all people can do to keep society from falling apart. Kenemore tells the story from three perspectives, following: Hank Burleson, the corrupt and myopic Governor of Indiana; James Nolan, the former star athlete / police officer who works as the Governor’s fixer; and Kesha Washington, an Indianapolis high school student trapped in the scary rural zombiescape. With this third novel (which belongs to the series I suggest he begins calling “The state of the zombie”), Kenemore refines his technique and finds another great story to tell.
A few thoughts:
I like that Kenemore continues to write about slow zombies, usually emerging mysteriously from the ground. It gives a purity to the stories that makes them universal. It also fits the written story better. With slow zombies, the protagonist doesn’t need to be a military super-commando (as in Jonathan Mayberry’s Patient Zero) to survive.
I’ve always liked that this series imagines cities and governmental structures surviving on some level. Kenemore continues exploring the idea that humans helping humans will win out over isolated survivalists or rural communities. This emerged in both the previous Zombie novels.
Like Zombie, Illinois, this novel brings biting satire and political edge to the story. The particular target here is the governor, a free-market conservative of the tea-party bent with delusions of grandeur. His storyline makes Indiana itself into the “rural” part of the country, trying to stand on its own, unwilling to ask for help and suffering for it. For people who like their zombie stories without any social commentary (and why would you want that?), this aspect of the tale will probably grate a bit. But the corruption and short-sightedness of the character echoes the long history of selfish villains in zombie tales, like Captain Rhodes in Day of the Dead or the human villains in the Return of the Living Dead movies.
The three main characters in the novel each have diverse perspectives that shape the way they view the world. These differences make their narratives move in separate ways, and reflect careful character construction. I found the police officer and the high school student pretty believable, but the governor got a bit cartoonish toward the end. That said, individuals under extreme stress could certainly go “off the deep end” the way he does.
One of my favorite things about Kenemore’s writing is that he uses words I don’t know. It’s too common in mainstream commercial writing for authors to dumb down their vocabulary rather than using the mots juste. One word I noticed and looked up: spavined, meaning something like ‘misshapen from disease or age.’
The State of the Zombie novels don’t explicitly happen in the same universe, but they also don’t rule out one another. (I may be mis-remembering this about Zombie, Illinois.) At some point, I’d love to see what Kenemore would do with a larger-scale story, trying to understand the zombie outbreak in these novels from a wider perspective. It’s hard to see how one would do that without aping World War Z, but I’d enjoy seeing Kenemore try. Maybe he’s already doing it in longitudinal form — one state at a time.
Zombie, Indiana hits the sweet spot between entertainment and insight. Kenemore has written an enjoyable romp for the reader with brains. Highly recommended.
Full disclosure: Kenemore has been to visit my zombie class a number of times, and we’re both members of the Advisory Board for the Zombie Research Society. This review is based on a preview copy of the novel, which goes on sale May 1st.