Book Review: Breathers By S. G. Browne
Billing itself as a rom-zom-com (romantic zombie comedy), Breathers looks to get into the psyche of those reanimated corpses out to eat your brains, not to mention deep-fry your fingers. Andy is in his 30s and living in his parents’ basement after reanimating from a car crash that left his wife permanently dead. Andy is depressed and slowly decaying, but all that changes when he starts attending Undead Anonymous weekly meetings. There he meets Rita, and together with other members, they stumble upon southern zombie Ray who gives them jars of his venison that tastes remarkably good to Andy and has some interesting affects on him.
Review [spoiler warning]:
Breathers starts out with a bang. Nothing sucks you in quite like a main character waking up from an alcohol-induced blackout to discover he’s killed his parents and stuffed their dismembered bodies in the fridge and freezer. Browne’s dark humor serves the storyline well. It’s not easy to take a repulsive, cannibalistic, walking corpse and make him a sympathetic character instead of the terrifying other, and Browne achieves this…..to a certain extent.
At first Andy and the reader don’t know that the “venison” he’s eating is actually people. Both the reader and Andy see the positive effects of eating humans before they fully realize that’s what he’s eating. (Although, come on, I had my definite suspicions, even in a world where vampires are “vegetarians” and have Tru Blood.) Andy stops decaying and starts protesting for his civil rights to be reinstated, for zombies to be recognized as equal and valid. This is a popular, obvious analogy for various human rights fights going on around the globe. Awesome. It’s great for people who aren’t ordinarily treated as an other to get a first-person account of what that’s like.
This analogy though is why I have a bit of a problem with the twist toward the end whereby we see that eating humans leads to cravings for more humans and eventually we have a full-out blood bash eating a house full of frat boys. Aesthetically, as a horror fan, I love the blood bash. Nothing quite like reading a first-person account of what it’s like to eat another human being alive. However, the lesson learned here is that while the other may seem cute and cuddly, all your suspicions about them are true. Don’t trust them for a minute or they’ll turn full evil on you.
Browne doesn’t seem to have an issue demonizing select groups. The whole frat boys stealing limbs from zombies as pledges followed by the zombies eating the frat boys and their various one-night stands and girlfriends reeks of a weak, geeky boy’s wet dream. Revenge of the nerds zombie-style.
It’s unfortunate that Browne lets his bitterness undermine his enjoyable writing style–a wonderful mix of humor and horror. Hopefully his next effort leaves the personal grudges behind and just gives us the humorous horror we want.
3.5 out of 5 stars