Ryan Mecum,
Zombie Haiku
(How, 2008)

There are a few gems amongst the offal.

I mean, how could this idea not work? Haiku, that beautiful and delicate Japanese poetic form, as written by a zombie -- I mean, that's creative gold.

But the book by Ryan Mecum -- which is, with the exception of some notes hastily scrawled by the zombie-beset guy who found the journal, entirely made up of haikus -- doesn't succeed as well as you'd hope at first glance.

The central character is a haiku poet who writes down everything he sees and experiences in the five syllable/seven syllable/five syllable form. He is at first too distracted to notice the zombie apocalypse around him -- shades of Shaun of the Dead -- but he is eventually bitten and transformed. Even so, he still writes down his thoughts, albeit with a few more blood stains than before.

But, for every haiku gem, readers have to wade through a lot of haiku dreck. I suppose it's too much to ask that a brain-dead zombie be a poetic genius, but I had higher hopes going in.

Here are a few samples:

I grab a quick meal
while skimming through the paper.
Death, death, death, comics.

My town is broken.
From this view, I see the end.
Below, they gather.

Dear Mom, I love you.
This ain't my most poetic,
but I really hurt.

One thing on my mind.
Only one thing on my mind.
I'm going to eat you.

Brains. BRAINS. Brains, brains, BRAINS.
Brains, brains. Brains, BRAINS. Brains, brains, BRAINS.
BRAINS. Brains, brains, BRAINS, brains.

I can't remember
how to open this window,
so I'll just stand here.

Biting into heads
is much harder than it looks.
The skull is feisty.

Blood is really warm.
It's like drinking hot chocolate
but with more screaming.

Full marks for a creative new slant on the zombie craze. But the novelty wears off before the book runs out of pages. (And it's not a very long book.) Some reviewers complain that Mecum's work lacks the subtle nuances of true haiku, but I have to give him a pass on that one; I mean, come on, zombies aren't known for being nuanced thinkers.

Because no clever idea can survive in this world without immediate and frequent repetition, it has spawned sequels -- Vampire Haiku, Werewolf Haiku and Dawn of Zombie Haiku, all by Mecum, Pirate Haiku by Michael Spradlin and Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku by K.A. Holt and Gahan Wilson. I don't think I'll read them.

book review by
Tom Knapp

20 August 2011

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