Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse
By Jack Strange
2016 Kensington Gore Publishing
A review by Aunty Demented
I went into this story completely blind, without even a blurb to tell me what it was about or what it was trying to do. After reading it in its entirety, I still don’t know what the hell this story was trying to do.
Young Robert Turner, an employee at a crappy TV station, is given the task of revamping the show of long dead celebrity chef Floyd Rampant. Conveniently enough for him, he has a scientist uncle who just happens to be working on a machine that can raise the dead, appropriately named the Lazarus Engine.
Don’t get attached, we won’t be seeing Robert, his uncle, or the machine for very long.
Robert runs over the neighbor’s cat, Henderson, and they decide to test the machine out. They successfully bring him back, albeit a bit squashed around the middle, not that it matters since every single character who sees a cat with a flattened body walking around alive in this book shows only mild interest in the fact.
Inspired, Robert comes up with the brilliant plan of bringing Mr. Floyd Rampant back to life. Most unfortunately, it works. Rampant wakes as a zombie, hungry, horny, and ready to use an upcoming ChefCon to make himself an army of celebrity chef zombies.
So, here’s the thing, darlings. This novel has some very good off the cuff satire here and there and some seriously good gems. Rapey prisoner vs zombie lady (hint: it does NOT end well for his genitals), Kat De Vine zombie and just horny zombies in general filled your Aunty D with unending delight.
Unfortunately, those are only a few gems and you have to dig through clunky writing (Rampant goes from ‘Hey I’m a zombie’ to ‘Take over the world!!!’ awfully quick, for instance.), bad dialogue and a story that seems unable to make up its mind in order to find them.
It seems like it wants to be an over the top horror comedy until you hit Part III when it seems to decide it wants to be hard hitting political satire. And frankly, it doesn’t work as either.
I think my main bone of contention with this story was that it wasn’t nearly over the top enough. Granted, that could be a particularly personal gripe of mine. I’m willing to forgive a lot in a horror comedy if it pushes the boundaries, including characters that are blatantly stupid. If I’m reading a story about horny zombie chefs, I want copious amounts of sex and gore and Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse didn’t give me anywhere near enough of either to satisfy my twisted little heart. I wanted celebrity chef groupies gleefully banging the undead and celebrity chef zombies giving an audience details on how to properly prepare a human body in a red wine sauce with liver and onions on the side. That kind of shit.
Part III gets us involved in the bureaucracy surrounding trying to deal with the zombie army. Also fine if that had been the tone set from the beginning, but springing it on us in the last part really doesn’t work for the story and slows the pace down even more. A hardened mercenary actually gives a shit that zombies have lawyers? Please.
Another main bone of contention is something I mentioned earlier. We’re introduced to the story through Brian Turner and his uncle, both of whom are killed off almost the second Rampant is brought back to life. Now if this had been a one time thing, I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but it happens over and over and over until we truly and honestly don’t have a main character to follow. You can pretty much bet anyone introduced will get three chapters or so giving us their backstory before they’re promptly eaten. The ones that do survive, like Inspector Jardine, the policewoman investigating the rash of murders, aren’t given enough time or characterization for us to really care about them. Or Dave Sykes, who is so fucking stupid I was actually disappointed when he didn’t die.
As far as first novels go, this wasn’t the worst I’ve ever read, and Strange has potential to build on in future novels but I just can’t get behind this one. I can kind of see what it was trying to do, but it didn’t really go far enough in any direction to live up to it.
Aunty Demented 6/26/16