"A daddy is the bread winner, you dig what I’m saying? And if he don’t win that bread, he just don’t come around."
-Darth Vader, Vader Sessions.
I like zombie novels which are about something. In general, I like anything which isn't just rote repetition of tropes. One of the problems facing zombie novels nowadays is too many of them are basically just excuses for the undead to start chowing down. Even George Romero is somewhat guilty of this as his much vaunted social commentary is almost absent from Day of the Dead and the post-Land of the Dead volumes.
The Breadwinner, first novel in a trilogy, is about themes of responsibility and luxury in the Zombie Apocalypse. What does it mean to be the breadwinner? The one who has to provide for others? What does it mean to not be a breadwinner? One who lives off the efforts of another? These are some basic facts which author Stevie Kopas analyzes in this novel.
The book opens with the character of Samson, a former ultra-rich lawyer who hates his life with his trophy wife Moira and their two children. Samson has lost everything and yet feels compelled to remain the breadwinner.
Stevie Kopas creates an image of abject misery which has only been made marginally worse by the end of the world. A seemingly insane decision made by Samson earlier in the book was inexplicable, only to pay off later as we discover Samson is a much more nuanced character than he initially appears.
I initially thought Samson would be the main character for the entirety of the book so I was thrown when I discovered The Breadwinner is actually an anthology book chronicling the efforts of three separate groups of survivors.
All of them deal with either a protector-figure caring for others or the sudden loss of one after relying on them for their entire lives. The three stories converge in the end, becoming a singular narrative as yet another group of hardened zombie survivors is born.
While I liked The Breadwinner, the pacing felt a little off. The first fourth of the novel is spent around Samson with no hint we'll be switching so the transition is a bit abrupt. Some of the characters remain underdeveloped like Moira and Juliette, who never seem to go beyond being parasites on those around them. Still, I liked the character of Veronica and enjoyed her section most of all.
I do feel the resolution to Samson's plotline was a missed opportunity. A very rich man with a shrewish wife dealing with the loss of their privileges was something I hadn't seen before in a zombie novel. I liked all of the other survivors, though, and enjoyed the the story. It's an easy read and worth the money.
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