Sunday, August 01, 2010

Review: Paul Is Undead

Really, can there be a better concept for a book than "What if the Beatles were actually a group of brain-eating zombies from Liverpool with super-powers that set out to conquer the world with their music, only to fall victim to internal discord brought about by the arrival of Eighth Level Ninja Lord Yoko Ono?" Seriously, is it actually possible?

I fell in love with "Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion" the moment I saw the cover, and nothing I read ever convinced me that I'd made the wrong decision by snapping it up. It's a zombie book that isn't the same lame "zombie plague spreads across the world, here's the tale of the survivors as they try to fend off the hordes of the undead...and fail!" plot that's been the paint-by-numbers source of so many recent zombie movies, comics, and books. (I'm not pointing any fingers at any specific books, because hell, I've enjoyed a few of the paint-by-numbers zombie stuff...but let's just say that "City of the Dead" isn't getting a review like this.)

And it's more than just a zombie book. Author Alan Goldsher gleefully tosses in vampires, ghosts (the ghost of Ed Sullivan cracked me up), mole men, Satan, invisible men, and of course ninjas. Ringo Starr's difficulties as a ninja drumming in a zombie band forms a good chunk of the underpinnings of the book. It's a bizarre, kitchen-sink approach to writing that probably wouldn't have worked anywhere but here, but somehow it's exactly what the material demands.

In fact, that's a good description of the book as a whole: "It wouldn't have worked anywhere but here." Any other book would have worn out its welcome before the end of three hundred pages of comedy-zombie material. Any other book would have driven me nuts with the "oral history" style of writing. (Actually, that's not quite true. I hate non-fiction books that use the "oral history" style with a passion, but I adore novels that pretend to be non-fiction "oral history" style books. Perhaps it's because the style tends to simply present people's narratives unquestioningly, which is fine for fiction but very off-pissing when you're trying to find out the truth of something.) It's just one of those books that works because it's what it is.

And what it is, is hilarious. Read it for the account of the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, where the screaming wasn't hysteria, it was terror. Read it for the shocking account of the Shea Stadium concert where thousands were brutally murdered by Beatlemaniacs. But mostly, read it because it's funny.

1 comment:

j$ said...

Have you read any of the Quirk Publishing mash-up books?

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Android Karenina (forthcoming)

It's public domain literature mixed with contemporary sci-fi/horror themes. You might enjoy them.