Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review of David James Keaton's Zee Bee & Bee (a.k.a. Propeller Hats for the Dead)

Zee Bee and Bee (a.k.a Propeller Hats for the Dead) by David James Keaton. Open Casket press, 2011.

The premise of this novella is that certain Honeymooners might want a different kind of experience than going to Maui or Paris, namely (hopefully) surviving a zombie apocalypse. The narrator explains that this came about because of the owners' desire for their B and B to be last in the phone book, which led to them naming the place Zee Bee & Bee. And once they had the name, the rest followed. Two couples (called Camels--"strangers" a la Camut, which became Camels) are booked to share one cabin, complete with Plants (people who work for the B and B) hidden in various places (a closet, the basement, etc.). Unfortunately for the couples, there's only one real bed, which they have to squabble over, and before they can work that out, the zombies attack. But this particular session, something is wrong. Things aren't following the usual timeline. There's heightened tension among the ranks, leading to more and fiercer fights than usual, and there's something off about one of the guests. As the story progresses, Keaten manages to recreate this world we thought we were reading about and turn everything on its severed head.

Keaton has populated the story with dead-head zombie buffs who not only play the parts of zombies but know every bit of zombie lore one could imagine. The story is FULL of inside jokes and references to zombie movies (and a few books) actors, directors, etc. Think Kevin Smith but talking about zombies instead of dicks. It's a clever take on the "working stiff" story, also; these folks are so obsessed with zombies, it's easy to see how their jobs (and each other) become their lifelines. Much of their time is focused on their own squabbles and issues; some of them seem to take the job more seriously than others. Some seek a kind of stardom through their performance. Some seek connections (call it Zombie Love).

There are rules to consider, of course. Don't go in the basement is a good one; the basement always equals death, usually after being trapped, in zombie movies. The roof, of course, is the opposite. Never trust authority figures because they always get you killed. There are many more -- so many that Keaton actually includes a zombie movie drinking game after the story.

In certain ways, this book has the feel more of a love-letter to the genre than a scary story, though it takes many deserved shots at the genre as well. Many of the squabbles and fights that break out among the characters are triggered by one or the other's lack of respect for a certain movie or actor. But there's definately gore, especially in the last half of the story. Keaton manages to make some pretty disturbing, even iconic, images (which I won't spoil). Keaton's writing is sharp and clear and clever. His characters are totally believable -- he hasn't cut-and-pasted 'types' to move his plot forward, instead, he lets things happen as they should. There's love and loss and baked chicken, what more could you ask? Oh yeah, zombies, which ithas.

-CL Bledsoe

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