On the face of it, it’s the mash-up you’ve been waiting for, or not really waiting for, but thought, “why didn’t I think of that”? Breathers, by S.G. Browne, is a romantic comedy for Zombies, but it’s the tragic elements of the story that really buoy the tale to a memorable level.In this world, zombies indeed have brains, but don’t eat people. Their role is to slowly decay, be a burden for their loved ones, and generally be relegated somewhere between slave status and a Jew in Germany circa 1940. They are resented for still being alive, can’t own property, and if college students occasionally dismember one for kicks, no one cares much. In short, it sucks to be a zombie.
Especially for the protagonist, who was reanimated (no one knows how or why some recently deceased reanimate) after a horrific car accident. Crippled and mute, Andy seeks out zombie group therapy classes, where he finds kindred spirits, a gorgeous zombie-girlfriend, and some surprising reanimation of his body parts after eating some special locally bottled “venison”. It doesn’t take much to realize that the venison isn’t exactly that, and Andy struggles with embracing his new love life, his new taste for flesh, and a taste of just having a “normal” life again.
One of Kurt Vonnegut’s rules of fiction is "Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of." S.G. Browne holds very little back, weaving some resonating awful moments in to a story where you are rooting for the zombies to not so much fight back as bite back. I both loved and hated the end, which would have made Kurt proud, and still sticks with me months after reading the book. Good fun. Good read. Surprisingly soulful.