February 28, 2012

Undead Drive-Thru (Review)

 by Craig Jones

Undead Drive-Thru

By Rebecca Besser

Living Dead Press: 2011


2 / 5 zedheads

I opened up Undead Drive Thru by Rebecca Besser with a real sense of anticipation and excitement.

 Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was dampened as quickly as any potential this tale may have had by poor spelling, punctuation and grammar that tested my patience before I had even passed chapter one. Add to this a distinct lack of tension or empathy for any of the characters, and this novella rapidly became one I would suggest you ‘drive by’ as opposed to through.

The initial premise is an interesting one: Betty’s husband Sam returns home and is clearly in a bad way. His hands have been bound and there is evidence of an injection mark on his neck. He is agitated, violent and hungry. Betty quickly realizes he is a zombie and decides she wants to look after him. To do this, she recruits her nephew, John, and they open a drive-thru diner, presumably with the goal of capturing occasional customers as Sam’s food. However, the first staff they take on (two girls, whose only physical reaction seems to be a roll of the eyes, and one young man) discover Sam’s plight and are suddenly next in line to be fed to him. The story is predictable and plodding. Disappointingly, the cause of Sam’s changes are never explained or explored. That injection mark had me intrigued. Who? Why? Where? What next? Who next? But that exploration was ignored in favor of a series of clich├ęd and by-the-numbers non-events that left me rooting for Sam, the zombie, as opposed to the lifeless characters who I simply could not muster any empathy for.

This is not to say that Ms. Besser cannot write. She can. Once the zombies get to munching, she really went for it and I could almost hear the lungs being chewed. There are some great passages of prose, but she needs to edit and proofread with more accuracy. And she certainly knows her horror because there are plenty of homages built into the narrative. The prologue is similar to the opening scene of the newer version of Dawn of the Dead (minus the little girl), the diner and Betty’s house mirror the Bates Hotel and spooky house, and Sam emerging through the red doors reminded me of Leatherface pulling back the heavy metal door in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Betty’s gradual fall into insanity is also handled very well, but there is not enough meat in the story to back this up. After the prologue I expected something different -- something three dimensional -- smacking me in the face and making the hair on the back of my neck stand up all at the same time. Instead, what I got served with was a little underdone.

This type of story of the human trying to preserve the undead has been done before and better. I’m thinking Z-Motors by Terry Wright, I’m thinking Herschel’s barn in The Walking Dead, and I’m thinking Bub in Romero’s Day of the Dead. Does Undead Drive-Thru offer up a tasty treat like these?

For me, I’m afraid it’s not going to make the final menu.

Guest Reviewer Bio

Craig Jones is the author of two novels, A Stranger’s Welcome and Outbreak: The Zombie Apocalypse (published by E-Volve Books), as well as the zombie novella What Happened to Rhodri and the Gem Vampire Hitwoman series (Published by TWB Press). 

Craig is originally from South Wales and has held a wide range of jobs -- from tennis player to gym manager to health service worker. Craig and his wife Claire recently welcomed the arrival of their first child, Shane. Follow Craig on Twitter @cjoneshorror and visit www.craigjoneshorror.co.uk