by Caralee Caudelle
by Jim Bronyaur
Hundred to Home Publishing: 2011
2 / 5 zedheads
I get it - zombies are everywhere.
Literally everywhere: movies, books, Internet, television, the real-life news (pffft, "bath salts"), you name it. Hell, I even have a bobble-head zombie on the dashboard of my car. My point is, if you’re going to write a book about zombies, you should probably try really hard to do something new and a little different. Jim Bronyaur’s The Failed is a prime example of having a good idea but not trying hard enough to follow through on delivering something new.
The Failed begins with the journal entry of quiet and tedious scientist Jack Stevey who works at 4 Industries in the laboratory under Dr. Romen, head of research. Romen has developed a new cure-all drug called D8-C10, behind which he hopes to achieve momentous enough results to send to the renowned place known as the Facility. Through the Facility, new products finally make it out into the real world. Through the delirious ramblings of Dr. Stevey’s personal journal, we’re told how Dr. Romen and his team mutilate lab animals to test the serum and eventually trick citizens into signing up for a trial to stop smoking so that they, too, can be injected with the D8-C10. Stevey’s confessions are intense and glaringly scatter-shot in withholding details in a way that should intrigue, but it tends to bore instead.
Just when you feel you cannot endure another paragraph of Stevey’s coldly scientific cautionary tales of human experimentation, Bronyaur decides to arbitrarily introduce another group of people: first a family of three, then a few individuals and a canine companion. The narrative flips back and forth between these “survivors” and Stevey’s journal, throwing in some random third-person passages for good measure. In no way, obviously, does this benefit the plot's already haphazard momentum. The survivors’ stories are much more interesting than the experimentation occurring at the laboratory, but because the stories are pieces of a whole, it at least connects the proverbial dots in understanding the dead's return to life.
Speaking of those dead, my biggest gripe with the story concerned the dead themselves. I realize that, in this day and time, if an outbreak of some sort were to occur, we would in all likelihood dub it a zombie attack immediately – yet, in this fictional universe of reason, I would still like to believe that we citizens function more reasonably than immediately resorting to such cinematic terror. Bronyaur’s characters immediately refer to the dead as "zombies," and it cheapens the thrill of the unknown. As a reader, I felt it mighty contrived to have jumped immediately to the "ZOMBIES!" conclusion.
I appreciated the Frankenstein-esque archetype of the specimen revolting against the scientist, but the loose ends never came together effectively. Though the book clocks in at a mere 150 pages, the required investment of time and energy - however small it may be - would be better spent doing something else, thereby saving yourself the trouble.
Caralee Caudelle is a southern belle who has been deranged since birth. She is currently working covertly in corporate America, tediously plotting her escape by day and can be found watching terrible B movies in the dark while fantasizing about squeezing the guts out of her Chihuahua, Gretta, by night. She’s currently working on her first novel and art show. She can be stalked at http://www.riotforcc.blogspot.com and on Twitter @cc_riots.