Love, Lust and Death are universal human experiences and perpetual literary themes. "The Loving Dead" blends them in a way that I have never seen before. Amelia Beamer's debut novel involves: Oakland California, twenty-something slackers, their angsts and relationships, and a zombie apocalypse. Its characters are realistically self-centered, its apocalypse realistically dealt with more through text messaging and comment threads than through the main stream media, and its ending is different than any horror/zombie/apocalypse story ending I've ever read or heard of. Frankly, I think that the last ten pages alone are worth the price of admission, but overall this is a fast and rewarding read.
Kate and Michael are the central characters in "Loving Dead." They're housemates, both working at Trader Joe's in Oakland. Kate appears to be in a staging area in life before moving on with her life: she's earning money at TJ's and as a companion to an older man; she's also taking some community college classes. Michael appears to be stalled out: working at TJ's and hosting hip parties at the house, with few plans for the future. Generally speaking, Kate seems to look out into the world a little more, and Michael seems to look inwards and towards relationships for his future.
After a belly-dancing class one night, Kate helps when her instructor Jamie is accosted by a shambling drunk trying to rape her. She invites Jamie up to the latest house party so she won't be alone. After some booze and Xanax, they hook up--this being Kate's first lesbian encounter. As Kate is getting ready to return the favor, Jamie turns in to a zombie. Hallmarks: eyes turning white, skin turning grey, and speaking the phrase "Something's happening."
The next scene is simultaneously funny and uncomfortable as the various drunk-stoned-medicated party goers try to decide what to do with the zombie. As various people turn they get contained. Then folks either leave or fall asleep watching zombie movies. No one is willing to go to the hospital: no insurance means huge unknown medical bills, or being abducted by the government for secret testing and never seen again. In the morning Michael and Kate go their separate ways. Each starts the day trying to pretend that the zombie apocalypse is not happening, but each is soon confronted by the reality of it.
Over the course of the rest of that day, we get zombies on zepplins, zeppelin crashes, zombies in houses, houses burning down, concussions, zombies in grocery stores, and a convergence as our cast make their way to Alcatraz--agreed upon as the most defensible site in the Bay Area. The characters learn some important things as they're navigating the slow-moving collapse: zombieism is an STD, and zombies try to make more zombies by luring victims in with sex appeal, then biting and/or eating them. However, they become obedient at the sound of a whip crack.
The fact that zombieism is sexually transmitted leads directly to the...