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Married With Zombies
      Flip This Zombie
Jesse Petersen
      Jesse Petersen
Orbit, 259 pages
      Orbit, 261 pages

Married With Zombies
Flip This Zombie
Jesse Petersen
A Facebook application once told Jesse Petersen that she'd only survive a day in a zombie outbreak, but she doesn't believe that. For one, she's a good shot and two, she has an aversion to bodily fluids, so she'd never go digging around in zombie goo. Until the zombie apocalypse, she lives in the Midwest with her family.

Jesse Petersen Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

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Where were you when the zombiepocalypse hit? Running errands? In class? Asleep? For David and Sarah, it was simple: they were on their way to marriage counseling (which, by the way, wasn't going so well). But when they stumble across their counselor snacking on the appointment before theirs, it's cause to worry. Cue a nonstop fight for survival, as the bickering couple attempts to stay one step ahead of the hungry hordes of restless undead. Seattle's never going to be the same again.

But even if they survive the initial outbreak, honing their zombie-slaying skills with record speed, they've got a lot of work ahead of them. Protecting their dim-but-sweet neighbor from her brains-devouring boyfriend. Checking on out-of-town family. Avoiding murderous cultists who know just how to wait out the end of the world... and repopulate afterwards. And, oh yes. Communication is the key to any good partnership. Can David and Sarah mend their marriage while taking headshots and wielding chainsaws?

For the sake of argument, we can assume they both survive those critical first few days, since it's a series, not a stand-alone. Which means that by the time Flip This Zombie rolls around, it's been several months, and civilization may be shattered, but it's not down for the count yet. David and Sarah have formed their own company: Zombiebusters Extermination, Inc. "Will slay for food and ammo." They're still arguing constantly, but they're still the best partners either could ask for.

Problem is, there's rumors of super-zombies out there. Faster, stronger, smarter, nastier. And an honest-to-goodness semi-mad scientist who thinks he has a line on a cure for the zombie plague, and all he needs are "live" specimens to experiment on. He'll pay our heroes quite handsomely if they just bring back a few zombies. And when there's a real meal and a hot shower on the line, facing the rampaging hordes isn't so bad after all. Only, it's not that simple. And our heroes are saddled with a foul-mouthed, too-smart-for-his-own-good adolescent sidekick appropriately nicknamed "The Kid." And things are about to get very messy.

We're two books into this series, and I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it. Each installment is a solid story in its own right, though the relative slimness of the book makes it feel like a quick read. There's no shortage of action or horrifying suspense as our heroes go up against a wide variety of zombies, encountering friends and strangers alike. Jesse Petersen's put a lot of thought into creating a fairly typical post-zombiepocalypse setting, populating it with survivors, villains, cultists, fighters, and all the other natural byproducts of a collapsed civilization. It's exactly what you'd expect. There's even a hint of romantic comedy tucked away in here, as Sarah and David attempt to keep their marriage and partnership going against all odds.

Sometimes, though, things just don't really ring true for me. The arguing's a little too insistent, the conflicts artificially exaggerated, the chemistry a little spotty. As the point-of-view character, Sarah can be grating, shrill, nagging, and hard to tolerate for long periods of time. I have to wonder how things would look if filtered through David's perception. Unfortunately, while Sarah is great at describing her surroundings, and liberal with her snarky asides in the narrative, I have virtually no mental picture of her or David, since we never get a real description of them.

The action outweighs the romance, and the horror outweighs the comedy, when you get down to it, creating a somewhat awkward blend of elements. What you end up with is the sitcom version of The Walking Dead, a series that treats the Zombiepocalypse more like a video game than a springboard for complex stories. The Living with the Dead series is, thusly, an entertaining and visceral look at a world where the zombies roam, if filtered through the experiences of an ordinary suburban couple finally allowed to cut loose. It may be the sort of zombie story many of us would want to live, but it's not quite a genre-changer. Here's looking forward to seeing where Petersen takes us next.

Copyright © 2011 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.


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