Mark Swain – friend of Leeds Book Club and writer of short fiction here – is a huge fan of the horror genera, and will be providing us with some reviews!
Feel free to drop him a line on twitter – you’ll find him @DemonHeadClash
* * * * * HERE BE SPOILERS* * * * *
Some Zombie Contingency Plans is about a guy called Soap who – whilst gate crashing a house party in the suburbs – recalls to a girl he has just met his past including how he ended up in prison following his theft of a painting.
The opening line in the story is ‘This is a story about being lost in the woods’ but the story isn’t about lost in the woods at all. Throughout the tale woods are only mentioned again in respect to the painting and I don’t see the theme of being lost or loss in general within the story. This sets the tone for the rest of tale which is difficult to follow in places and certainly requires a re-read to grasp fully.
That isn’t to say the story is confusing in a frustrating manner, the characters are all well rounded with no confusion as to who is who and there are also no shuddering shifts in time or location. However the story is defiantly fantastical in terms of the way the characters interact with each other and also the language used.
Deceit is a major theme in the story, not only from the main character but also from the supporting players. The main character’s name is Soap at the start of the story but then informs people that his name is Will. We later discovered that his name isn’t Will at all. The other character in the story, Carly, also deceives the main character firstly by lying about the fact that the house is her parents and later on hiding her true eye colour with contacts. Based on this we can not take anything that any of the characters say as being an accurate reflection of events; therefore we must doubt that Soap’s tale of how he ended up in prison and, as a consequence, doubt the whole content of the story.
Soap refers to Art in the beginning of the story and upon first reading we take these statements as merely his opinion on the subject. Here a few handpicked quotes:
‘Art was why Soap was in prison’
‘He hadn’t know much about Art’
‘Art and prison were the kind of things that you had opinions about, even if you didn’t know anything about them’
‘This was why people got pissed off about art’
It is only later in the story when we discover the main characters real name is Arthur that these comments take on a whole different level of meaning. I have only selected a handful of lines but the theme is plain to see once you know the characters name.
It is also worth noting that there are no actual zombies in the story. The character refers to zombies being simple and seems to make a connection being the uncomplicated way zombies are and uncomplicated way his life was in prison. Since leaving prison Soap appears to have wandered from one place to the next with no real direction; when he was in prison he was unable to make any decisions for himself; even wishing that zombies would attack the house so that his life could once more be simple.
He makes a plan in the story of how he would survive the attack and who he would save which seems to indicate he wants to change his life but only if drastic circumstances forced him into this change.
I enjoyed Some Zombie Contingency Plans but putting my finger on exactly why I enjoyed it has been difficult but I know I liked it, a bit like art.
Some Zombie Contingency Plans is available for free online here and is part of ‘The Living Dead’ anthology as edited by John Joseph Adams.
Read more of Mark Swain’s writings here!
Tweet Mark @DemonheadClash