Sunday, April 5, 2015

Kezzie of Babylon review

   Kezzie of Babylon is a hard book to review.

    It has the hilarious introduction of two drug addicts landing in hot water due to the stripper girlfriend of one stealing their only means of paying off a local crime lord. They proceed to deliver a drug for said crime lord which may or may not be responsible for the zombie apocalypse breaking out in Hong Kong.

    The start is a hilarious Guy Richie-esque film from the perspective of two bickering best friends who make stupid decisions but you understand the stupidity because, well, they're drug-addicts. The problem is the book changes around the halfway point. Dramatically. I'm talking From Dusk Til Dawn, change of genre.

    The pair of them arrive at a hippie commune to lie low as the zombie apocalypse spreads, only to become prisoners of an insane religious fundamentalist called Kezzie. Kezzie possesses the power to control zombies and proceeds to hold our antiheroes prisoner for the remainder of the book, shouting nonsensical Biblical-inspired gibberish the entire time.

    And that's it.

    The book is a decent-to-above-average zombie story, don't get me wrong. The problem is I can't help but think the first half of the book would have been much-much more enjoyable to continue the theme of. The madcap lunacy and stupidity of our protagonists is hilarious to read.

    I wanted to see Zack, the male of the group, track down his perfect hippie goddess (a woman he's fallen in love with even though they've never met). I wanted to see them run into Zack's stripper girlfriend who stole from them. I wanted Zack to get it into his head Frankie, his fellow drug addict, is in love with him (or at least seemed to be) but was too drugged up to express it.

    None of this happens.

    The titular character, Kezzie, weighs the book down like a millstone. Kezzie believes God speaks to her and makes up Biblical passages to justify her every whim. She's a two-dimensional character who never shows any sign of kindness, decency, regret, remorse, or backstory. In what was a hilariously Noir comedy, she stops the zaniness dead in its tracks and you can't help but wonder why the protagonists don't just kill her. Especially once bodies start to drop by the truckload.

     Much of the book's page count is wasted on the question of what Kezzie is, whether she's a servant of God or the Devil, and I couldn't help but think, "Who cares? Either way she's a psychopath." My own interpretation is she's mentally ill rather than evil, which makes her a figure of pity rather than derision but no one attempts to help her. Instead, they walk around on eggshells trying to figure out how to get her to not kill them even though she's a mostly helpless figure.

    It's unfortunate because I kept hoping the book would return to its delightfully quirky humor from before but remains saddled to Kezzie until the very end. I also was upset with the death of a main character who was infinitely more interesting than Kezzie but dies first rather than any of the other somewhat-boring inhabitants of the commune.

    There's still much to be enjoyed once the Kezzie portions begins with the terror of Zack being quite believable as he struggles to deal with Kezzie's irrational whims. The fact he attempts to placate her rather than deal with her more permanently is a believable solution for most people. It's rare in stories we see how difficult it is to kill another human and it works well here as Kezzie's willingness to employ violence makes her the ruler of the commune rather than any belief in her divinity.

    I recommend Kezzie of Babylon to die-hard fans of the zombie genre. As irritating as the villain is, she's quite effective as a horror antagonist. The terrifying imprisonment our heroes endure keeps the story from being boring even if I can't help but wish they'd just gotten on the road after stopping by.


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