cover image A Questionable Shape

A Questionable Shape

Bennett Sims. Two Dollar Radio (Consortium, dist.), $16.50 trade paper (218p) ISBN 978-1-937512-09-5

The zombie novel gets an existential makeover in this ambitious debut set in a Baton Rouge overrun by reanimated corpses. Order has more or less been restored, but Michael Vermaelen lives with a crippling fear of the virus that is only surpassed by his obsession with what it's like to experience it. When his friend Matt Mazoch discovers his father has been infected and is missing, they devote the month of July to finding him before the start of the hurricane season. Sims's thoughtfully rendered portrait of the epidemic avoids brain-spattered gore and instead focuses on the impulses of the undead and what shred of selfhood remains as they return to wander through "nostalgically charged sites from their former lives." As Mazoch and Vermaelen search Mr. Mazoch's old stomping grounds) the decisions they will inevitably face if they find him consume Vermaelen and worry his lover Rachel who fears a violent Mazoch will try to put his father out of his misery. Frequent and lengthy footnotes ("digging a grave in the text") are tedious and distracting at times, but allow Sims to explore the philosophical implications of a zombie outbreak, especially how identity, mortality, memory, and loss can be understood in its wake. With its erudite references that range from Euripedes to Heidegger to Hitchcock films, Sims's debut is essential reading for zombie fans not afraid to use their brains. (May)