Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Zombie Fallout (Zombie Fallout #1) by Mark Tufo

It's flu season and with a particularly virulent strain of the H1N1 virus cutting a swath through the U.S.,  people rush to get the flu shot.  What they don't know is that instead of saving their lives, the shot will turn them into the undead.  Almost overnight, the zombies take over and become bent on feeding themselves.  They're not picky and will eat any body part available. Unfortunately for the survivors, the smallest bite will have them joining the zombie horde.

Mike Talbot had always been a little bit of a of a survivalist and so when the zombie plague hit, he thought that he was well prepared.  His number one mission is to save his family somehow.  Mike is luckier than most in that it seems that divine intervention in the form of the booming voice of Ryan Seacrest and a zombie girlfriend, are determined that he and those he loves will survive.

The zombies in this novel are the slow moving creeping dead that we have become accustomed to.  This is where the standard approach ends because these zombies while not as intelligent as a living breathing human being, have retained some of their smarts.  Talbot first notices this when a zombie attempts to use wire cutters to get at him.  Zombies even have the smarts to herd the remaining humans to make their feasting easier.  A mindless zombie is one thing but one that can grow and learn is another.

In many ways, Zombie Fallout attempted to be funny.  I will admit that there were times I did laugh out loud at the pop culture references like a deity's voice being that of Ryan Seacrest but at time, the childish humor of hey everyone wasn't that a disgusting fart felt puerile. 

As aforementioned, Talbot is a survivalist and even an ex marine.  Before the apocalypse he took his boys out on the weekend to learn to shoot a gun properly.  If one is concerned with survival this makes sense but why did he never bother to teach his daughter or his wife?  Both women were so incompetent they didn't even know how to load a weapon, let alone shoot it, leaving them dependent so to speak on the menfolk.  Talbot takes great care to constantly remind his sons that it is their duty to protect their mother and their sister.  Even with the plague going on and zombies roaming the world, Talbot still didn't teach the women he supposedly loved the most to shoot.  If that were the only problem with the female characters, I could have let it go but there wasn't a single likeable female character in the entire novel. Tracy, Talbots wife spent most of the novel being a shrew.  Though Talbot was a marine, he deferred to her but not out of respect.  I don't even recall a scene where Tracy was involved that didn't include yelling.

All this yelling and of course the zombies themselves were a tough burden on poor dear Talbot who stated, "that a couple more days of this crap and I was going to need some Tampax."

Even the dead were treated to Tufo's misogynistic portrayal of women.   We were introduced to a zombie female who was described as "pornstar-look-a-like slut," whose crime in life was trying to seduce Talbot and then getting him fired for not submitting to her ever so nasty female wiles.  Of course he was called gay for turning down her advances but just bless him, he got an erection looking at her so his manhood was restored.

Unlike most zombies novels, Zombie Fallout did include GLBT characters but I found myself wishing that Tufo hadn't bothered.  The following is Talbot's description of his former neighbor:
My neighbor from across the alleyway was a decent person in a bull-dykeish way.  Don't get me wrong, I liked her immensely, I just always felt like she was sizing me up for an arm wrestling competition and I would have put my money on her. (page 15)
And then there is her lover Jen:
There was Jen, the 'feminine' partner in the pairing with Jo(e), the neighbor we had slaughtered coming out of my garage. (That nightmare still ranked in the top three)  She wasn't nearly as outgoing as her former lover and I had never said more than pleasantries to her.  I always thought it was a waste she was a lesbian.  (page 86)
Right, so Jen is a waste because she doesn't want to have sex with men.  Can you say homophobia? So we have a good bit of misogyny and now we have homophobia.   Is it possible to have a trifecta of offensiveness?  Why yes, yes it is.

When it comes to race, Tufo didn't do much better.  We were introduced the ever so big and Black, Big Tiny or BT for short.  Of course he didn't have an actual name, he was after all big and Black. He had just a smattering of magical negro about him and of course wasn't really all that bright.  BT's talents were reserved to being silent and occasionally cussing someone out.  Then of course we had Talbot's slur of "towelhead" for Middle Eastern people.  Don't get upset folks, he is not racist honest. Tufo reserved that honor for Mrs. Deneaux.  Are you surprised that he chose a woman?  Then we had Alex, the "Handy Manny" of the novel.  Alex existed simply to build things for the community and of course save Talbot's butt at the end of the day.  Alex couldn't possibly think about what to build on his own and needed the direction of the White members of the community.

Somewhat to his credit, Tufo did include a disabled character.  These kinds of novel in particular normally don't include people living with disabilities and so I was impressed.  The problem is that Tommy became mystical and was somehow receiving signs about the future from an unknown source. 

I wish that I could say that the humor overwhelmed the negative aspects of this book.  Zombies and humor can be an interesting combination but Tufo didn't even come close.  I found myself instead waiting for the next bit of offensive crap to appear on the page.  The sad thing is that Zombie Fallout had real potential in the beginning of the story.  I was engaged, scared and laughing with the characters until about 1/3 of the way through, then the bottom sort of fell out and it was one hot mess after another.