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The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten Paperback – September 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The humor in this parody lies in the simple truth that even a zombie bear with a hatchet in its head won't faze a Minnesotan. After dead people and animals begin coming back to life, Lutheran pastor Daniel Inkfist and Catholic priest Father Edsel band together to form the Interfaith Anti-Zombification League. Power-mad mayoral candidate Eileen Munson tries to work the situation to her own advantage while dominatrix Julie Olafson dreams of creating a zombie-free green zone around Lake Woebegotten. Mr. Levitt, secretly a serial killer, easily dispatches the undead as well as the living, but then he decides to dig up the cemeteries (once the thaw hits) and release a zombie army. As in Garrison Keillor's writing, dry humor leads to moments of real feeling and pathos. A Minnesotan might say that it's pretty good if you like that kind of thing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Harrison Geillor was born in a small three-room farm house in central MN, sometime in the middle of the twentieth century. He attended one of Minnesota's prestigious institutions of higher learning, were he obtained a degree in English. Like English majors everywhere, he wanted on to work in a variety of jobs that had nothing to do with books or literature. At some point in his life he decided that the best way to appreciate Minnesota was to appreciate it from afar. He splits his time between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, only returning to Minnesota for smelt fishing, and the occasional family reunion.
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And that turned out to be a not-entirely-accurate way to judge the interior contents. As I mentioned, the cover copy was laugh-out-loud funny and just a bit stupid. Based on that first impression, I have to say that the book was all-around better-written, better-plotted, and a lot less stupid than I expected. Also, the humor was different. It was funny and satirical, but less "in your face" than I expected.
The plot is easy to summarize. In fact, one character does just that, "The situation is this. The dead have come back to life, and they're dangerous. Just like in some kind of horror movie or video game. When the corpses rise, there's nothing human left in them, as far as I can tell, just a terrible hunger." Lake Woebegotten does not exist in a pop-culture vacuum. Another character has taken a course in "The Zombie as Metaphor." He kept up a running dialog throughout along the lines of, "It seems to me we're dealing with the classic George Romero Night of the Living Dead sort of zombies, just straight-up reanimated corpses hungry for human flesh, probably brought to life by some form of cosmic radiation. You heard about the meteor shower last night, right? Who knows what came flying down from space?"
Oddly enough, this book reminded me a lot of Stephen King's recent doorstop, Under the Dome. Both stories are basically a look at an entire small town full of people coping with a dangerous and otherworldly stressor. The town is made up of individuals with secrets, hidden agendas, and various strengths and weaknesses. It's a perfect setting for drama and (as even Mr. King knows) comedy. As in, "Julie's eyes had a strange light to them, and Otto wondered about her past, who she was, really, where she'd gone when she left town, why she'd come back...." Or, "Eileen hadn't exactly developed a taste for blood, like some kind of tiger that eats one little Javanese boy and can't abide the taste of anything but sweet, sweet manflesh after that, but she'd discovered she could kill both deliberately and in the heat of the moment if the job needed doing."
The novel is structured in three parts, and here's a great example of the pseudonymous author taking a more sophisticated and interesting approach to telling the story. The middle section is entitled, "Twenty-some Odd Scenes from the Winter, in No Particular Order, Certainly Not Chronological." And that, of course, is exactly what it is. But by presenting these short chapters jumbled and out of order, he does a great job of creating narrative tension. It was this section that bumped the book up to 5 stars for me.
The one area that may disappoint is if you're looking for some real scares. I'm widely-acknowledged to be huge scaredy-cat, but not even I had a moment's fright over these zombies. And that's the way I like it. But I laughed a lot, and got a fast, fun story with a perfect ending. My determination to stay far, far away from Minnesota is firmly reinforced.
As other reviewers noted, the middle portion of the book consists of sketches which aren't in chronological order. This sounds fancier and more literary than it actually is. The overall story is quite easy to follow, as one would expect of light humor, but the stirred timeline adds a bit of extra suspense.
The sequel, The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten SC , is also great. I want a third!
When the town drunk finds that his dead fish are trying to bite him he suspects funny business. Soon news starts rolling in from the Twin Cities that the meteor shower last night caused everything dead to rise up (humans, animals, etc)...and once things rise they are very hungry. The town of Woebegotten has a couple of things going for it; it's really fricking cold and the population is fairly low so they should be at low risk. Unfortunately the town has be harboring a serial killer and the dead bodies of his victims come out to play, not to mentioned what happens when a dead grizzly strolls into town. Between your normal small-town shenanigans and all the crazy residents, Lake Woebegotten will have a heck of a time getting things back under control.
This was a well done book. There are a lot of plot points going on all at once, the characters are interesting, and the book is well-written and engaging. It's obviously a parody of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Days, for those who aren't familiar. This is definitely a read for adults only, there is a lot of kinky stuff going on under the surface of Lake Woebegotten, and of course a serial killer and some zombies (both human and animal).
It is very amusing and very funny at points. For example at one point there is a discussion of whether or not bugs come back from the dead (a moot point in MN in the winter) and what will happen in the summer when the mosquitos come out.... It was fun to read about something set in my home state. Northern MN is fairly accurately depicted and the description of the eyeball freezing cold accurate. So those of you warm climate people reading this, no the cold and the things it makes happen are not exaggerations!
The characters have a lot of depth and are very amusing. You have an old man who is a serial killer, a wife who wants to murder her husband for his...ah..very physical affection for his car, and a African-American deputy whose trying to hold the town together. Oh, and don't forget the town dominatrix, the bible thumping priest, and the conspiracy nut. They all come together in a sort of dysfunctional family. The writing style was very readable and reminds a bit of Christopher Moore. The story is nicely wrapped up too, which I always enjoy.
Overall I enjoyed it and am glad that I read it. A good read for fans of parodys or zombie humor. A somewhat similar book in tone is Night of the Living Trekkies (Quirk Fiction), for you zombie humor fans out there.
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