cover image The Making of Zombie Wars

The Making of Zombie Wars

Aleksandar Hemon. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-20341-2

Spinozan philosophy meets screwball comedy in this eccentric, subtly experimental novel by Hemon (The Book of My Lives). Thirtysomething Chicagoan Josh Levin is an ESL teacher and aspiring screenwriter hard at work on a script about a zombie apocalypse. But over the course of a few days, his life takes on twists and turns that far exceed, in sheer weirdness, those of any dystopian screenplay. After Joshua discovers his landlord, a post-traumatic-stressed Desert Storm vet named Stagger, sniffing his American-flag underwear, Josh moves in with his girlfriend, Kimmy, who expresses a wish to take their romance to “a new level.” But Joshua’s chance to form his first real adult relationship is quickly spoiled when he embarks on an affair with one of his students, an older woman named Ana. When Ana’s husband—another, possibly more disturbed war vet named Esko—exacts revenge by murdering Kimmy’s cat, Joshua begins to lose his grasp on the line between fiction and reality. While the novel has some of the improvisational wackiness of a stoner flick, Hemon’s more serious concerns are ever present. A story line involving Josh’s father’s cancer diagnosis forces our hero to consider his own mortality. And Joshua’s complicated feelings about narrative—parceled out in the form Spinoza quotations and screenplay excerpts—give the story the feel of a bold, searching künstlerroman. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Agency. (May)