"It is a zombie book!", they said *sigh*
22 December, 2013
Bob Fingerman's PARIAH has been sitting on my to-review list for a while now. I was just so thoroughly bummed out by it that after finishing it I was just too depressed to get any momentum going on a review.
Let's get the introduction out of the way. PARIAH is a zombie book. Another one. Now that alone should tell you that there were conflicting opinions on the book. Steve loves zombies and Nick thinks they have been played out. However the book didn't really satisfy either of us.
PARIAH, initially, had a lot going for it. After the initial, obligatory, "outbreak" scene we are treated to more of an examination of humanity in the worst of conditions than an actual zombie book. In fact there were really only two good "zombie" scenes in its entirety. While we know that zombie stories are only told so that we can examine the enemy in ourselves, and quit spending so much energy hating and fearing the enemy without, there still needs to be some Horror aspect. So it didn't fulfill the desire for a good Horror book for me. Not only that, but the examination of humanity wasn't very deep or thought provoking so it didn't fulfill that aspect. The book was more about starvation, masturbation, sex, boredom, and porn than anything else.
Oh yeah, don't forget the copious amounts of vulgarity.
One thing the book DID succeed with, was being just chock-full of twisted humor. But when this is the best thing we can say about a book you know it's got to be one you steer clear of. It also did an extremely good job of painting a very bleak picture for what a zombie apocalypse could be like. It wasn't a popcorn zombie bashing novel where resources are abundant. PARIAH's world would be a very frightening one.
An extremely common thread that ties zombie stories together is a very close examination of human nature and social issues. PARIAH makes it seem like it Bob was intending to do just that, but lost himself and the plot in the midst of all the depravity. It could be THAT is actually the idea he wanted to explore, but it never came through.
We spend a lot of time with these characters and, so, get to know them very well. This is another strength of PARIAH. These characters aren't the type you forget when you close the book. They are all unique, very well characterized, and with the lack of (with a couple exceptions) clichés the characters are all pretty original. Put a tally mark, for this category, in the painfully lonely "Win" column for PARIAH.
Most of the book is an exploration of these characters doing...well...nothing. OK maybe not nothing. They starve. Look at porn. Have sex. Want to have sex. Think about having sex. Look out the window. Think about sex some more. Cry. Get naked. You get the idea. There is no plot. At a certain point of the book some random chick is seen meandering her way through the zombies, without being noticed. When she starts interacting with the characters...let's just say she doesn't bring much to the table. For us, anyway. She brings lots of food to the table for the characters, which is nice. At least they have something to do now instead of whine of about food and sex. At least we can read about them eating now instead of lamenting about sex.
This random chick is called Mona, and gets zero character development, and only serves an impetus for the group to leave the confines of their safe haven. We get no explanations or anything.
PARIAH's story, for us, is one of boredom and disappointment. At no point was the book thought-provoking, as it should have been. At no point was it an examination of social issues, or the Horror genre. The book had no real depth, or plot. It was less of a zombie book (with only 2 real zombie scenes) and more of a plot-bereft study of as we said before "...well nothing".
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