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Zombies of the Gene Pool Mass Market Paperback – January 23, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Continuing the delightful adventures begun in Bimbos of the Death Sun , engineering professor and famed science fiction author Jay Omega and his significant other, Marion Farley, a professor of SF, investigate the murder of another science fiction writer.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The world of science fiction fandom forms the background for this second outing featuring engineering professor/sf writer Jay Omega and his English professor ladyfriend Marion Farley. Invited by a colleague to an exclusive reunion of a once-famous clique of sf writers known as the Lanthanides, Jay and Marion uncover a bizarre mystery surrounding a 30-year-old time capsule and a twice-dead reunion crasher. The author of Bimbos of the Death Sun (TSR, 1987) pays affectionate tribute to the sf fannish phenomenon while unraveling a mystery whose roots lie in the halcyon days of science fiction. Highly recommended for both sf and mystery collections.
- Jackie Cassada, Asheville-Buncombe Lib. System, N.C.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
When the lake is drawn down for repairs to the dam, the authors get together in a well-publicized reunion to dig up the stories. But more than the pickle jar is waiting to be revealed with the mud of the lake bottom.
The story is probably appealing to some readers for its insider knowledge of SF-Fandom; I enjoyed more the characters that always populate a McCrumb novel. The perennial adolescent in his fifties, the big-name author now drifting in the mists of Alzheimers, the engineer deeply embarrassed by his authorship of "Bimbos of the Death Sun" (yes, McCrumb gives that title away to one of her characters), the schizophrenic Hollywood producer whose authorial alter-ego is occasionally allowed to surface: these characters shamble through the tale dropping bits of decayed life and strange odors of scandal in their wake.
In the end, the mystery is less about who died and how and why, than it is about why our lives take such strange turns from where we imagine they will go when we are young.
The novel is both akin to and richly unlike "Bimbos of the Death Sun", which I enjoyed as well. Whether you are a Fan of science fiction, or just of Sharon McCrumb, it is definitely worthwhile.
It starts out when Marion and Jay discover the secret of one of her colleagues at the English Department: Erik is the man behind a well-known pseudonym, and the author of a classic science fiction novel whose identity has been a mystery for science fiction fans for decades.
30 years ago, Erik used to be a member of a group called the Lanthanides - big name fans, some fledgling authors, some fanzine publishers - who were famous for living together on a farm in Tennessee, and who had, on one special occasion, buried a time capsule on the grounds. Time has gone by, and some of the Lanthanides have become successful, rich and famous; others have dropped out of fandom; some are struggling to get by and a few members are dead by now. Even the farm is gone, drowned by a reservoir lake years ago. But as the dam needs maintenance, the lake is being drained and the grounds are for a short time accessible again. Some of the former Lanthanides have decided to make use of the opportunity, retrieve and open the time capsule, and Erik invites Marion and Jay to come along for the occasion.
The reunion quickly becomes a media event, due to the fame of some Lanthanides. But the party is crashed by one member who has not been invited, quite simply because everyone thought him to be dead - a fact which nobody really regretted. This man is now threatening to reveal some of his former friends' secrets from the past to the public. As every one of the group has some things that they'd rather leave buried in the past, it's no wonder that very soon after his surprise appearance, the man who was not-as-dead-as-everyone-believed is dead again, this time for real.
With media reps everywhere, a scandal is about to erupt. But Marion, who has found the body, has also come across a few strange details about this death, and she and Jay decide to investigate.
The murder happens rather late in the story and is accordingly quickly solved.
But it's not really the whodunit part that makes Sharyn McCrumbs Jay Omega books worth reading anyway, their main appeal is their setting in sci-fi and fantasy fandom. These novels are a bit like a time capsule themselves, a glimpse into fandom twenty-five years ago; the time of mimeographed fanzines, fans writing to each other by snail mail, the very early stages of computer games and internet. If you are familiar with fans of anything, you will recognize things that have changed and things that have stayed essentially the same.
But this is also where the novels have a minor problem, and where "Zombies"' greatest weakness lies.
Reading those novels today, their portrayal of fans seems to consist mainly of cliches and stereotypes.
Most fan characters are unattractive and unsociable in some way: Nerds, geeks, losers at life, sometimes overweight, sometimes spotty, sometimes both, you get the picture. #
This may have been somewhat rooted in reality at the time the novels were written (1988 and 1993), way before geekdom became fashionable of sorts. After all, even today, you do find people coming across like the living stereotype - they just make up nowhere near the majority of fandom (any more?).
So, from a contemporary reader's (and fan's) point of view, I miss the guy and girl next door, those who are no social outcasts, the regular people who happen to enjoy fandom, too. Today, they are plenty. In McCrumb's novels, they don't exist.
Nevertheless, there are people like the ones she describes, even today. Cliches aside, in "Bimbos", the portrayal of fans is done in a way that keeps you laughing throughout, and with Bernard, you get at least one sympathetic character you can identify with.
"Zombies", however, is a bit more cynical, more pensive and not quite as hilarious. I guess it really makes a difference that "Bimbos" describes fandom at a particular moment in time (during the convention), while in "Zombies", written several years later, the plot involves the passing of time, which drags in melancholy musings about life, death, loss, the price of success, the nature of happiness and so on and so forth yada yada. (No - not my favourite kind of read). In "Zombies", the fan characters are either naive dreamers and utopists who found their refuge in fandom because they are incapable of handling real life, or unscrupulous schemers who have no problem stealing from their best friends. And whatever course their life takes, fans - in this novel - always remain what they once were: either losers or a***oles.
The bitter view of fandom (and maybe of life in general) in this book took away quite some enjoyment from reading, although overall "Zombies" still makes a decent read. I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading - it's more that I'd recommend "Bimbos of the Death Sun" over it any day.