by Mina Gorey
By Stephen Herfst
3 / 5 zedheads
Author Stephen Herfst steps into the Young Adult section of zomlit’s normally bloodier arena with his book Zed. Zed is a little too rough around the edges to recommend unreservedly, but it’s worth a read for story value and its unique premise if you approach with generosity and patience.
Set in the near-future/post zombie-apocalypse, Zed is a brisk 292 pages. The title character is a singularly higher-functioning zombie who wants only to retire at the end of the day to his lair to watch TV and read up on his favorite subjects, disdaining the rest of the world, including his lesser-functioning brethren, the truly mindless and more bitey zombies. He’s an amusingly pompous guy who relishes his isolation until his undead life is turned upside down by a teenaged firebrand, Chase. Drawn into an adventure with her against his will, he finds himself slowly warming to her humanity and, in turn, rediscovers his own as they battle hordes of his fellow (and much more bitey) zombies and eventually hunted by the military on their quest for the one last peaceful place in which to settle down.
There’s a lot to like here. The story carries us smoothly from one scene to the next and is peppered with pop culture references that, in relation to a “smart” zombie, up the humor ante nicely. Herfst is after laughs with this engaging story and earns them in quite a few places, especially in places where Zed attempted to reacquaint himself with common human tasks like learning to drive again, and also manages a fairly plausible premise on the origins of the zombie outbreak, an accomplishment in itself considering the history of the mythos.
Zed has fairly serious problems, however, due to the author's inexperience as a writer. It’s horribly edited, if it all. Grammatical problems, spelling errors, and (probably) spell-check mistakes (for example, the use of “reigns” where Herfst obviously means “grab by the reins”) abound, hence the aforementioned need for patience and generosity. That doesn’t do us much good in the face of an unfortunately weak and ambiguous ending. The attempts at social commentary are preachy and indeed, dialogue overall gets a bit clumsy in places, painfully so whenever Chase opens her (apparently) Cockney-accented mouth.
In summation, Zed is overall a good first novel and if Herfst develops as a writer in accordance to his undeniable talent as a storyteller, he’ll be a fun voice of levity in the zomlit pantheon.
Mina Gorey aka Em Gee is a deeply disturbed individual who tries to channel her more worrisome eccentricities into the analysis of quality zombie film and literature and too much time on Twitter (NSFW).
She was able to pick Greg Nicotero out of a lineup 15 years before the advent of The Walking Dead. She refers to George Romero as the Father of the Modern Zombie and will bore you to tears with why at the least provocation.
Her hobbies include gore-whoring, screaming zombie trivia at strangers at bus stops, and gleefully throwing stuffed mice for her cat. Her other hobbies include more mental stability than she cares to admit to, 11 years of indie webmastering several adult websites, and spending time with friends and family, whether they’re zombie fans or not.