on August 15, 2012
I, Zombie is not "a zombie book". It is a deeply philosophical, literary, and raw exploration of free will; personal identity; and the importance of (and constraints on) taking charge of one's life. Each of its many characters faces what may be the ultimate horror: complete lack of control over the bodies they inhabit. In becoming a zombie, each "person" becomes only a passenger -- although a fully-aware observer -- along for the ride as their bodies go about their horrific zombie business. And as these characters try to come to terms with their new existence, we come to understand something: Even before becoming zombies, this lack of control, this sense of being a "passenger", was always, already, a binding presence in their lives. Worse: we realize that it is an inescapable condition of being human -- for all of us.
You may be asking:
- Are there gross and disgusting bits? YES, VERY MUCH SO. There are some excruciatingly vivid descriptions of zombies eating humans and worse. And although it's possible to skip over the worst passages without "missing something" critical to the rest of the book -- and that book is so worth reading! -- if you're squeamish, be forewarned. Also be aware that there is foul language.
- Is it disturbing? Yes. The gore is not nearly as discomfiting as some of the horrific things that happen. This is mature content.
- Is it depressing? Oh, absolutely. And soul-crushing. And uplifting. Liberating. Inspiring. And potentially life-altering.
- Is it about zombies? Yes, in much the same way that Romeo and Juliet is about Italians. The characters are, indeed, zombies; but that's not what the book is "about". I, Zombie is about a group of unfailingly human souls; it's about how they cope with agonizing self-realization; how it changes them; what they learn from it; and what we can learn from them.
I came away from this book realizing something: I am a zombie. In so many ways, we're all at the mercy of the natural inclinations of the bodies and brains we inhabit. Are you an early riser? A night owl? Laid-back or high-strung? Shy or gregarious? An addict? A thrill seeker? Or would you prefer to curl up with a good book? In order to BE flesh and blood, we must, to some extent, share the driver's seat WITH the flesh and blood. This realization -- that our "will" is but one among many inputs driving our behaviors -- doesn't relieve us of responsibility for our actions. But it does help us to understand them, and with that understanding, we can develop better strategies for achieving the results we want. We may not be able to control the zombie fully; but if, instead of fighting it, we just "lean into it", maybe we can get where we want to go.
on August 17, 2012
I remember being in first grade. The school I was in had a large paved area with a three or four foot slope down to what seemed like an expansive fenced in field. I very clearly remember one day, standing on the paved area looking out over all my fellow students during recess. I had just recently become aware of my inner monologue, all the thoughts, ideas, fears and insecurities that I would never share with others, constantly rolling around in my head. I was always thinking, no matter what my body was doing, my brain was always active. As I looked over that sea of children, I came to the realization that every one of them had the same inner monologue. Every one of their minds was constantly active as well, and I would only ever hear the smallest fraction of what they actually thought. I could only hope to guess at the rest of what went on in their minds. The enormity of that moment - that realization - has stayed with me my whole life.
This is the true horror of I, Zombie. It's not the gore, the ripping tendons and tearing flesh. It's not the rotting-yet-walking corpses chasing down the living to feed on their flesh. Yes, all these things are present in I, Zombie, but that's not the horror. The real horror of I, Zombie is that inside each of the living dead is a mind, a person imprisoned more securely than any enemy of any state has ever been. Each zombie is still a person, horrified at what they've become, at the shockingly terrifying things that their autonomous bodies do. They feel each stab of pain from a broken limb that they still walk on, each shard of glass that is driven deeper into their feet with every footstep. They taste the gore that they ingest, bearing witness to the shrieking death of the living as they devour them alive. They mentally recoil but are physically unable to do so. This is the horror of I, Zombie, not guts and blood and gore, but the horror of ordinary people like you and me, trapped in rotting bodies as they eat their neighbors.
For the record, I loved it. I give I, Zombie two rotting, maggot covered thumbs up! Not only is it an amazing idea for a story, but Hugh Howey is one of the best authors of our time. If you're a fan of the written word and you haven't read any Hugh Howey, then you owe it to yourself to buy this book and read it. Then buy the rest of his books and read them too. You won't regret it, I certainly have not. Enjoy!
on August 21, 2012
First of all let me say that I think Howey is an incredibly talented writer. I could go on forever, but to sum up the man knows how to tell a story. And tell it well.
Secondly, I am a big fan of end of the world fiction, especially zombie stuff. Wool is phenomenal and I would compare the writing in "I, Zombie" with Mira Grant's Newsflesh books in quality (I just finished them).
That said, I've had the book for a week or so now and I can't get past the first few chapters. And it's not Howey's fault. Like I said his writing rocks. And this story is a good one.
It's my fault.
It's just that I enjoy stories with a some hope in them. Sure, zombie stories are by their very nature kind of hopeless. No matter what you do, people get eaten in them. Or bit and turned. No matter how careful the characters are someone you have grown fond of is going to die. But usually there is some small flicker of hope that in the end someone is going to survive. Or that humanity is going to survive.
Not in this book.
In this book, there is no hope because the characters are already lost. They cannot be saved. Even if one of them is put down by that epic shot to the head you, the reader, don't feel any relief because you know there are millions of others like them out there, helpless, hopeless, and full of self-loathing (which is the worst part).
So my recommendation - much like a more professional review of this book I read a while back - is to read it if you don't mind a book with no light at the end of the tunnel. Not even a candle flicker's worth of hope. Cause there ain't none, son.
But if that doesn't matter to you and you want to read a horror story which is imaginative, well written and just kicks you in the gut (much like Stephen King's "Pet Cemetery"), then this is the book for you.
on August 16, 2012
First, the most important part--if you have a weak stomach, are squeamish, object to vivid descriptions of truly horrifying activities, pass this one by.
That said, the writing is superb, descriptions evocative, characterization stellar. Told from multiple point of views, each section definitely has it's own voice; especially liked the evolution of thought processes in some of the characters. Favorite PoV is Jeffrey Biggers, second is probably the Lippmans'
But I don't feel I can give it a five, much as I'd love to. My problem is that it felt too long. Each character's story is engaging, but the constant stream of zombie porn numbed the senses, had me wanting to rush through the detailed zombie experience so that I could get back to the character. Really do think this is a great take on zombies (and no, I'm not a big fan of zombies...first full length zombie novel I've read though I am a big fan of 'em in short story format), think it would have worked better as a short story...even a series of short stories.
I do recommend the book highly, just for the joy of watching a truly talented writer at work--can't praise Hugh's writing skills enough. Perhaps if I'd taken my time, read a section then put it away for a few days...but since I'm pretty much incapable of reading more than one novel at a time, that wouldn't have worked for me.
on September 3, 2012
Wow, wow, and wow. I could not say anything other than "wow" for the first few minutes after finishing I,Zombie. I took my time reading this, devouring each piece of gruesome goodness slowly. It is true, the book is a little stomach turning in the beginning, but then it either lets up or perhaps it is just the way the Hugh Howey pulls you into the character that allows you to get past the carnage. Howey takes you far beyond the surface gore and submerges you deep within the horribly desperate struggle that is human existence stripped of autonomy. A warning about Howey's writing: You may feel some of the emotions felt by the characters. You may scream silently with them and you may even shed a tear, I will admit that I did. That being said, this book will leave a lasting impression on you, one that is worth gaining and sharing with others.
on August 17, 2012
As much as I enjoy Hugh Howey's writing, I approached this book with some doubts. I'm not particularly a fan of horror, and scenes of undead people eating live people are not my first choice of entertainment. For those of you that enjoy horror stories, you will not be disappointed with any of the skillfully written graphic description. It is indeed horrific.
The characters are the zombies, each of them an individual with widely varying experiences. The reader sees through their eyes, feels their suffering, and hears their thoughts. After reading the first section, I thought that this really wasn't a true horror story. I was wrong.
The undead are injured, disfigured, rotting, and have only one purpose: to find and devour any living humans, their only food source. Mindless beings, correct? Not at all true, sadly. Each zombie holds prisoner a fully aware human mind that once controlled the body, and can do so no longer. This person feels pain and emotion, experiences every detail of chasing and eating the prey, and is helpless to stop it. There is no rest, no escape. Each person is trapped in an undead body that never stops moving and eating - much like a shark. Each person is an individual with a past, but no future. All that is left to them is endless time to think, remember, and regret. Their choices are gone. Mourning the path not taken, the choices ignored, and the life not lived is all that is left for them. Each of them is utterly alone, forever, unable to die.
I can think of no greater horror than that.
Each of the characters has a story, and each is told with compassion. This book has heart and offers up plenty to think about. Maybe it's not necessary to die to be a zombie. Maybe we should consider how lucky we are to have choices, both big and small.
I'm glad I read this. I believe you would enjoy it, too.
on August 30, 2012
but Hugh Howey is. I'll be honest and say I have never written a book review before. I have always felt inadequate in expressing what a story contains without giving anything away. But for this one I just have to say something so I'm just going to tell you how I feel about it even if I can't articulate the moments that made me feel this way. I am an avid reader and I have to say Hugh evokes emotions in me with his style of writing that have rarely happened for me. There is quite a bit of gore in this book, but it is so peripheral that I barely noticed it because of the horror of the actual story Hugh was sharing with me. I had to put it down and walk away about 25% of the way through because of the feelings that were churning inside me. I had to process what I had read and what more I might read before I could go on. I went back 2 days later and cuddled up and read the rest straight through even though I cried a few times and had to wait until I could see again to continue. It definitely made me take a look at myself and my life and do an honest assessment. Never in a million years did I think that would happen when I bought this book, but I'm glad it did. I became a huge Hugh Howey fan after I read Wool but after reading I, Zombie I guess I would have to say I have become a Hugh Howey admirer, too.
I told you I had never done this before! I bought and read this on my Kindle, not in paperback.
I, Zombie follows a variety of zombies through their everyday lives: shuffling around, attacking humans, rotting, and moaning. That doesn't sound too exciting, does it? This book has the only zombies I have ever seen that have fully conscious, normal people behind those vacant, rotting faces. Zombies are horrifying enough on their own (walking dead that want to eat us), but putting a person that can't communicate or control their actions inside each one makes the situation infinitely worse. The horror isn't just for the survivors; it's even more so for the zombies. They are a captive audience to every meal eaten, their bodies degenerating, and whatever action their body takes while experiencing it with all of their senses. Every wound is excruciating and they can't even make the slightest move to alleviate the pain.
Although the existence is the same with every person, their reactions, emotions, and experiences differ from person to person. One religious woman thought she was being damned for sins during her life and she continually reflected on her life. Another very old woman was elated to be able to move again and delighted in feeding off the young after she had been in a nursing home, immobile and waiting to die. A survivalist woman reflects on the irony that she was so prepared in her apartment for the apocalypse, but isn't even wearing shoes in her current existence. A drug addict suddenly realizes that his mother could still be there inside her wasting, unresponsive body and that she knew when he beat her or shot up heroin in front of her. Some wish to die, while others prefer to exist in some manner rather than be permanently dead. One even wanted to turn his friends into zombies, giving in to the uncontrollable urges of his body. The thought processes of each person were fascinating to read. Hugh Howey did a wonderful job of capturing the voices of vastly different people from Alaskan tourists to high powered business people to drug addicts. Each chapter changed in tone and completely immersed me in each character's story from their perspective.
This book is incredibly bleak. There is really no hope for anyone. The humans have no idea the zombies have any sort of consciousness left and are either eaten by them or kill them indiscriminately. The zombies know that other zombies are conscious, but are damned to be utterly alone. Each zombie is trapped in their own mind and realized what they should have done with their lives before it was considered a luxury to be able to move or scratch your nose or decide which direction you want to walk. They realize they were already zombies when they were alive, not doing the things they really wanted to do. The little things added up and take away what free will they had, like addiction, drive to fit societal norms, fear, boredom, and the comfort of familiarity.
I, Zombie is an amazing book that grabbed me right from the beginning. The disconnected narratives worked well in painting a horrifying picture from so many different perspectives. It's not for the faint of heart as there are a great many descriptions of eating people, rotting, and various bodily functions. I highly recommend this to any zombie fan looking for a thought provoking and depressing read.
on May 12, 2015
I, Zombie is a study in lack of control and the inability to prevent the horrific acts you see yourself about to commit.
New York City is full of Zombies. They're your typical zoms, pursuing the living, catching them ripping them to shreds and eating the juiciest parts. But inside each of these mindless creatures is a thinking, sentient being- the person who was bitten and thus turned.
The beings watch, horrified and unable to control their own bodies, as they slaughter and eat people, including their own loved ones. They taste the flesh and feel the hot blood, as the gorge themselves but relishing the meat as well. The feel the pain of the endless injuries they incur- bones broken, flesh torn, bullet wounds, feet and hands torn to shreds. For all the horror there is nothing they can do to end it, for they are but passengers in their shambling, stumbling new bodies.
As the characters walk aimlessly and endlessly, the thinking beings inside watch their former bodies deteriorate and decay. They have nothing to occupy their minds with except the horror of what they have become and the regrets they have from their time before. A junkie is trapped with nothing to do but remember the despicable things he would do to get high. Men remember love taken but not returned; women remember failing to reach for their girlhood dreams.
There are a bit of Howey's zombies in all of us. As we careen through life, driven by forces bigger than us, buffeted by forces beyond our control, we watch with horror the wreckage of the dreams we had for ourselves, unable to stop the actions that cause that wreckage.
on August 18, 2012
This book took me on a huge emotional ride. It punched me right in the gut as a mother and a human being.
There are several characters (zombies) in this book with their own compelling story and experience. Hugh made me literally feel their emotional and physical pain in their current state as well as past.
This book is so descriptive, the words on the pages followed me through the day. Haunted me. I couldn't wait to have a chance to read again. My daughter may have missed a bath or two.
I feel like I have to read it again to get another glimpse of the characters; I am sure I missed something! There were many times I was reading so fast just to find out what happens in the next sentence. This is a gift of Hugh, as I had the same experience reading "Wool Omnibus" and "First Shift - Legacy".
This was my first horror/zombie type book. It was incredible!