“Pfwahh. Errh Brohtt ahhr ummk.”
“Gwaack, Hurmph! Rrerrm ibb fwapt.”
Oh. I’m sorry. How rude. You don’t speak Zombie, of course. I’ll just have to narrate this little tale for you, then. My name is obviously Brohtt. You’re not stupid—you gathered that much.
You caught me talking with my dear friend, Hurmph. Perhaps “dear friend” is something of an embellishment. We haven’t spoken since we bumped into each other in the Seventh Circle while celebrating the New England Patriots initial Super Bowl victory. Hurmph has always been a delight—so full of mischief, that one.
In fact, Hurmph has been such a consistent pleasure that I feel terrible having interrupted his meal. However, just as I’m about to take my leave, he asks me a question. Because you’re almost certainly an American and speak only English, I’ll translate for you.
“Brohtt, join me, old friend. This one has such a lovely flavor, and there’s ample brain to spare.”
“Thank you, Hurmph, but I must decline.”
Hurmph asks, “Have you eaten since our arrival?”
“Alas, no,” I respond.
“But why? It’s been an hour. These vessels are made all the weaker by our possession. You must gain sustenance if you wish to persist!”
Ah, Hurmph. Such a caring soul. Well, metaphorically speaking.
I pause a moment to bask in the glory of our surroundings. Everywhere I look, fresh humans are being gorged upon by my brethren. Magnificent Mile—indeed! What a serendipitous location for our revelation from the deep. The sounds of flesh ripping, explosions, bones crunching, fires blazing, screaming, and general death throes are a symphonic tempest forcing me to smile.
Whoops. Tooth just fell out.
Bother. Hurmph is right. These earthly bodies don’t last long even under the best of circumstances. Without nourishment after their death, they wither away to dust in no time at all. Speaking of which, Hurmph still awaits my response.
“Hurmph,” I say, “You must understand. I can’t simply ingest just anyone. I am in search of the perfect victim. The first eaten is always the most special—the one always remembered. I need someone who makes my heart flutter, my eyes brighten, my—”
“But you don’t have eyes or a heart,” Hurmph interrupts.
“Well, no, not literally, not of my own, but, confound it! I’m using magniloquence, Hurmph. Please try to keep up.”
Hurmph squints at me which, unfortunately, loosens one of his body’s eyeballs and it plops out. Oh, look at that. It’s still attached. It’s like an ocular tetherball—wondrous!
“Hurmph, you’re familiar with Tom Brady?” I ask.
Hurmph appears offended while saying, “Of course.”
You must understand that we all love the Patriots—every last one of us. We see kindred spirits in them. Which clearly makes Tom Brady our MVP. It didn’t even hurt that much when he joined the Bucs. We have many, many Buc fans in Hell as well because, well, you know … Florida.
You’re confused by the mention of Hell again, aren’t you? As you have assuredly ascertained, I’m more of a humanities sort of fellow, but I’ll do my best to explain the science of it all.
Most of you think that Zombies are the result of some kind of virus. Ha! If only that were true. I’ve seen your track record with vaccines. I’ll never figure out how you all managed to survive thousands upon thousands of years. Not to worry—my friends and I will end that dynasty.
Speaking of dynasties, isn’t Bill Belichick the best? Oh, he makes my heart swoon. I’d eat him with no hesitation whatsoever. Drat! I’ve lost my train of thought yet again. Anyway, Zombies—we’re not a virus. We’re people!
To be more precise, we’re tiny little demons spawned in Hell. We just love it when we’re set loose upon the mortal world. As spirits, we burrow into the human brain where the soul resides and then we take hold. Yet, when we do so, we suck up that body’s soul, which is a problem because the soul is what keeps these corporal humans ticking. Thus, the rapid deterioration begins, and so we must find more and more souls to eat, along with their gray, mushy little containers, if we are to keep one leg moving in front of the other—or shuffling. You comprehend the gist.
We can body hop, you understand, or we can stay put. Coincidentally, when we dine upon a new human soul but choose to remain in place, that tasty snack becomes a Zombie as well, just one without a handsome little demon like myself manning the stick. Before you know it, we create a dirty rotting gang of rotten scoundrels birthed by our actions, all of whom are rather thoughtless. Honestly, it’s very much like Bill Belichick’s coaching tree.
Dash it all! I’ve once again become lost in my oral wilderness. I must make amends for offending Hurmph.
“Yes, of course you know Tom Brady—how foolish of me. As you know, Tom won’t play with just anyone. He’s very selective about who he allows into his circle. I, too, must remain ever vigilant in order to maintain the sanctity of my essence.
Hurmph hurmphed, then said, “You’re kind of an ass.”
His low-brow insult missed its target, for at that very moment, I spotted her—the one! Oh, she is perfection personified—she’s even wearing a Patriots jersey! I must have her! To feel her soft, warm brain matter sliding down my body’s throat—ecstasy!
As I saunter towards her with my body’s arms outstretched, ready to embrace my very own Rob Gronkowski, she begins screaming, “No! No! Stay away!”
I do love it when they play hard to get.
I’m so close I can smell her sweet scent even over the putrid guts and bile tainting the street we dance upon, and that’s when she aims a crossbow at me.
Who in the Nine Circles of Hell carries a crossbow?
She howls, “No means ‘no,’ mother ******!”
My, that’s some saucy language.
D’oh. She got me right between my body’s eyes. I can feel the tip of her arrow jammed in far too deep, right into my body’s brain. The clichés are true—a brain blow is the only way to expire a Zombie.
Ah, well. At least I can say I never lowered my standards. Tom and Bill would be proud—I’ll see them one day, you know. Alas, better to have loved and lost than to—
Copyright © 2021 by Scott William Foley
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.
George Mann has written an original novel utilizing two dynamic characters while blending science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres in Victorian England. But, even as these elements add up to a highly entertaining work, it is not without faults.
The Affinity Bridge features Sir Maurice Newbury, an agent of Queen Victoria, and his newly hired assistant, Veronica Hobbes. They are a fun duo, both formidable in their own right, and soon after the beginning of the novel they are thrust into three seemingly separate investigations. London is besieged by a plague of revenants—zombies, a glowing policeman intent on killing, and a dirigible crash piloted by an automaton—a robot.
Newbury, while a capable investigator, also dabbles in the dark arts and has a few incorrigible habits that shall remain unmentioned. Hobbes has a clairvoyant sister in the asylum and a secret she dares not reveal to Newbury. Their relationship is wrought with sexual tension, mutual respect, and catchy dialogue. Neither is afraid of action, and both employ behavior considered unusual for the time period.
The story comes to a satisfying conclusion, though the rising action is far more engrossing than the climax or the resolution. Newbury and Hobbes, along with Mann’s surrealistic, gritty London, are primed for another tale, one I would not hesitate to read. Mann’s story is firmly entrenched in reality, but a reality where anything is possible.
I do have one complaint, however—adverbs. Mann indulges in adverbs so often that it becomes a distraction, one I couldn’t ignore for most of the novel. It may sound petty, but most of them were unnecessary with as many as three per sentence in some cases.
With The Affinity Bridge, George Mann has created a city and cast of characters unrestricted by genre and exciting to follow. Though his use of adverbs is distracting, Mann writes quick-paced, well-plotted prose and takes care to fully resolve all subplots. If you are a fan of science fiction, secret agents, zombies, robots, unholy killers, and the Victorian Era, then I recommend The Affinity Bridge.
With all due respect to Mr. Browne, I simply couldn’t finish this book. After the first fifty pages, I knew it was a lost cause, but out of professional courtesy, I tried to press on. I trudged through half of it and simply had to call it quits.
Breathers, a story about zombies trying find their place in a world that is bigoted towards them, touts itself as both humorous and touching. I found it neither.
Browne delivers what I consider lazy writing that often contradicts itself. He also goes back to the well so many times with certain phrases and “jokes” that I literally began to groan each time I came across them. For example, Browne overused the phrase “If you’ve never blah, blah, blah, then you probably wouldn’t understand.” This was funny the first time, but after I read it at least five more times in less than half the book, it became an unfortunate distraction.
I chose this book because it declared that if I liked Max Brooks and his zombie books, then I’d enjoy Breathers. Brooks is a careful, articulate, thoughtful writer, and Breathers displays none of these attributes.
I do not recommend Breathers for even the most devout of zombie fans.
I’m not a zombie guy—no interest in them whatsoever. I’ve watched the zombie craze in pop culture, observing from afar, and simply didn’t get it. So when a hardcover came out a while back featuring a storyline about zombies overrunning the world, I quickly dismissed it.
Last week, my friend told me about an incredible book called World War Z. I said, “Isn’t that a zombie book?” He said yes, but then quickly fought to overcome my bias with reasons why I would love it.
After just mere minutes of describing the book, he had me soundly invested. I got my own copy the next day and had World War Z finished inside of a week (remember I work full time and write on the side, so a book in a week is pretty fast for me).
World War Z completely won me over because it was written as though it belonged to the nonfiction genre. The author presents a narrator who conducts a series of interviews years after a pandemic global outbreak of a zombie virus that nearly drove humanity into extinction. The interviews are typically only a few pages long and focus on military leaders, doctors, scientist, and regular citizens literally from all over the world. The reader then has the pleasure of piecing all these interviews together in order to get a broader sense of an epic story.
The sheer imagination of the author, Max Brooks, is staggering. He truly considered every possibility with World War Z. The ideas he presented as fact were absolutely plausible, and at times you forget you’re reading fiction. I caught myself thinking, “Okay, what would I do if I were in this situation?”
Furthermore, the zombies were almost secondary in the book. Brooks focused more on the human reaction to possible extinction, and the power of fear that can overcome us all. But he also emphasized the human will to survive, and the motivation to triumph in any sort of adversity. And while I wouldn’t call this a political book, I believe Brooks made a few statements about our current geopolitical climate if you read between the lines.
It’s not all roses, though. I loved the book, and I literally could not put it down, but I must admit it was probably about fifty pages too long. Near the end, things started getting a little repetitive. Not enough to quail my enthusiasm for World War Z, but it could have stood a little trimming up.
To sum up, Brooks’ imagination and style have won him a loyal reader. Remember, I’ve been telling everyone I know to read this book about zombies, and I hate zombies!