Steve Hockensmith’s new zombie novella, “Cadaver in Chief,” is the political parody we needed, not the one we deserved. With the presidential election looming and all of us taking ourselves way too seriously, “Cadaver in Chief: A Special Report from the Dawn of the Zombie Apocalypse” injects some much-needed absurdity and light-heartedness into current events.
Hockensmith (author of the NYT bestselling “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls” and “Dreadfully Ever After”) tells the story of “Washington Tribune” reporter Jan Woods as she uncovers a government conspiracy of monumentally undead proportions. Interspersed with fake news articles and packed with subtle commentary on election year politics, the journalism industry, gun control, bipartisan back-stabbing, the digital age, and veganism, the plot moves briskly and events escalate out of control at an alarming rate.
And oh yeah: the whole thing takes place during the on-going, barely-contained zombie apocalypse. “Cadaver in Chief” isn’t about the zombie apocalypse. Instead, the hostile takeover of the undead is merely a backdrop for examining the current state of the union. In this novella, the zombie apocalypse is just a fact of life, one we’ve all adjusted to by carrying firearms everywhere, driving armored vehicles, delivering dead loved ones to BDFs (Biohazard Disposal Facilities), and suffering through the associated paperwork.
As Woods is ready to throw in the towel and lament the fall of journalism, she gets a lead: The President is dead. Not only is he dead, but he has joined one of the hordes of zombies harrying the countryside and keeping the U.S. in a constant state of fear and paranoia. And yet his reelection campaign proceeds apace. So what’s really going on? And if the President’s dead, then who is that polished politician delivering speeches via YouTube because it’s too dangerous to congregate in public spaces?
By following the clues, Woods digs up the most deadly, hushed-up secret in the country. Along the way she encounters drones, assassination attempts, exasperated dog groomers, Hell’s version of the DMV, a bus full of nuns, Oompa Loompas, political conspiracy theorists, friendly meth heads, hermaphrodites, and Debbie Does Dallas.
To explain the plot further is to ruin the surprise. And believe you me, you want to be surprised.
Probably the best thing about “Cadaver in Chief” is that it is genuinely, wickedly, intelligently funny. I read a lot of zombie novels (no seriously, I’ve read more zombie novels than anyone else I know) and they generally come in two varieties: the despairingly dark and serious, and the funny. Sadly, a lot of zombie novels that attempt to be funny devolve into slapstick, hackneyed humor and missed opportunities for greatness. “Cadaver in Chief” is not one of these failed comedies. It is a textbook example of how to use zombies effectively in comedy.
The sheer volume of humor and socio-political commentary packed into “Cadaver in Chief” is all the more impressive because it is so short. At 140 pages, the novella zips by quicker than you’d expect given how much ground it covers. It is a fast, fun read, and perfectly timed for our current political spectacle.
It is the intelligent zombie political humor and social commentary we needed, not the intelligent zombie political humor and social commentary we deserved.
Stay informed, stay alive: Must have “Cadaver in Chief” right the hell now? Fear not, zombiephile. Visit author Steve Hockensmith’s website for information on how you can buy the book in print or for your ereader.
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