Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review Passing Strange by Daniel Waters Book three of the Generation Dead Series

It took me quite some time to get around to reading the third installment of the Generation Dead series and this largely because, Generation Dead and  Kiss of Life were easily amongst the most failtastic books I have ever come across.  Were it not for our commitment to finishing series once we start them, there is no way that I would have picked up this book.

Tommy is off in Washington trying to get legal rights for zombies who are living with the fall out for being framed for the death of Gutteridge - the lawyer who was hired to defend Pete after he murdered Layman. The Reverend is still using Pete as his tool to frame as many zombies as possible for different crimes.  Despite getting lucky enough to only get probation, Pete does not have the good sense to leave the zombies alone.  As much as he is repelled by them, he is angry that the one girl he loved did not come back.

This novel is the first in the series where Karen is the protagonist.  She works in the mall and is passing as living.  Most of the novel is spent dealing with Karen's feelings about her suicide and depression, as well as building a relationship with her family.  I think the best moments in this story involve Karen and her father because we see both sides of the effects of suicide. Karen refers to her depression as a blue fog and waters actually does a good job explaining the pain of living with depression.

We learn that Karen is a lesbian, who didn't believe that she could come out and in fact encouraged the girl that she loved to date a guy. Karen rationalized her attraction to another girl as closeness between friends that just went a little too far one day.  When Monica finally did as Karen requested, Karen killed herself. I think that this is the first time that Waters actually chose to write about  legitimate oppression.  The problem however is because he has spent two books belittling every real marginalization, it was impossible to feel any reality or connection with this storyline.  It was further problematic that Karen as a closeted lesbian was continually juxtaposed to Karen the differently biotic closeted zombie.  One is a true result of heterosexism and the other is just a made up concept that for some reason, Waters seems obsessed with exploring. They are not even remotely equivalent but Waters wrote them as if they were was some sort of parity.  To make matter worse, the moment Karen came out she was of course soundly accepted by all in her social sphere including her parents, but of course still experienced "bioism" (read: oppression for being zombie) This means that the in the end, Water cast heterosexism, the real oppression as secondary to "bioism".

There is nothing about this book or this series to even remotely recommend it and the best I can say about Passing Strange is that it is least offensive of the series, but that is hardly a suggestion to run out and buy it.  I simply didn't care about the persecution of zombies.  I don't care about their inability to work, attend school, hold a job and vote. Given Waters constant suggestion that each oppression faced by a zombie is the equal of a marginalized person, I was too insulted and alternately disgusted to even remotely invest in this story.

Waters left the ending open for the possibility of another book in this series and I can only hope that he done with this muck of appropriation.  Pete is still very much being controlled and clearly the plan to discredit zombies has only been set back, rather than eradicated. Waters worked hard to set Pete up as some kind of victim and I so extremely disliked this idea.  If we are to believe that zombies are really oppressed, why should we feel pity for someone who abuses them at every opportunity, work hard to embolden social bigotry and is violent?  The fact that Waters worked so hard to make Pete sympathetic further makes me doubt that he is competent to write about the dynamics of any ism.

So in short, there is nothing redeemable about Generation Dead.  It outright appropriates the experiences of marginalized people and creates ridiculous equivalencies.  Though it is reasonably well written the failure are nothing but one huge blight.  I believe that the only reason to keep reading is to see if Waters actually has a bottom.  Each time you believe he cannot sink any lower he does.  So,  am going to say that this series is without doubt read at your own risk but if you are curious about the concept, just read Passing Strange and skip the rest because it is the least problematic of the three.