Book review by Frank Sanello
Not since a reporter interviewed a certain Louis about his relationship with a vampire by the name of Lestat has the living dead come so alive as in Christopher Antony Meade’s vividly imagined new novella, The Zombie, the Cat and Barack Obama.
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Because a plot turn or twist seems to appear on just about every other page, it’s difficult to describe the story and protagonists without becoming a spoiler or tease like “Rosebud is a sled” or “The girl in The Crying Game is a guy.”
Meade takes the reader down a horrific rabbit hole that would have traumatized Alice. Along the way, the author "proves" that many myths and urban legends are real and interconnected:
Flesh-eating zombies, Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat, Pres. Obama’s ancestry, what the government is hiding at Roswell’s Area 51, the actual perpetrators behind the recession and global warming, the Three Little Pigs’ intergalactic origins, 12-Step programs, what really went down when Osama bin Laden was killed and the “real” source of Hitler’s anti-Semitism which some readers may find a bit too gallows-humorous.
Unlike most monster tales from Greek mythology to Lindsay Lohan, The Zombie, the Cat and Barack Obama leavens its Grand Guignol horrors with mordant wit reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's. (Watch Meade’s YouTube video. His voice is almost identical to Hitchcock’s and perfect for an audio book version.)
One reviewer praised the third installment of Anne Rice's vampire chronicles, Queen of the Damned (2002), for creating “universes within universes.”
The same kudos go to the multiple, interconnected universes of the Oval Office, Zombies Anonymous meetings, Buckingham Palace, bin Laden’s unlikely fetish and other surprises Meade has created and I'll try not to spoil.
Skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to find out one of the novella’s plot twists.
While on the run, a Howard Hughes-like Osama kills time by indulging his fetish for school girls in uniform with marathon TV screenings of the St. Trinian’s film series (1954-2007) about a fictional English boarding school for delinquent girls.
Osama’s behavior out grosses a similar but tamer (!?) scene in the animated feature film, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999), where Satan and Saddam Hussein engage in anal sex in hell.
END OF SPOILER
Julian Faversham, the title’s zombie, is a gentleman of the old school who happens to be a member of the living dead cohabiting with Meade’s alter ego and narrator. The fictional Meade, which a police inspector’s report says “claimed to be some sort of a writer, although neither of us had heard of him,” unwittingly invites Julian to share his apartment.
Faversham pays the “rent” by playing Chopin nocturnes and Mozart sonatas on his music-loving roommate’s piano.
The Zombie, the Cat and Barack Obama pays homage to the style of classic gothic novels but adds modern-day anachronisms that lend the book its unexpected wit.
Julian physical appearance resembles the vampire Lestat’s – only Julian's is more nauseating – and I mean that in a good way.
The figure at the piano got up…and gave me an old-fashioned, courteous bow. "It" was not a pretty sight. Its skin had atrophied , barely covering the skull. If It had eyes, they were lodged so far back in their sockets they couldn't be seen. The creature's skin, which resembled parchment paper, hung in strips from Its neck like wallpaper installed by an amateur interior decorator…
The live cadaver tried to shake hands, but I politely declined. Mouldy and greenish with flesh barely covering its bones, the hand might have belonged to a live leper or a dead anorexic.
“Julian Faversham at your service,” It said.
The following paragraphs contain more spoilers:
Like all zombies, Faversham craves human flesh, which Meade recasts in 12-Step Speak as an addiction rather than cannibalism. The clueless author/narrator presumes Faversham is having a “one-night stand” with a female cadaver he’s invited back to their apartment from the local cemetery.
But it turns out that the doomed Julian has suffered a relapse and resumed eating humans instead of Zombies Anonymous’ recommended equivalent of methadone - cat food.
What the narrator thought was Julian’s quickie with a female cadaver turns out to be a two-person ZA meeting with a "clean and sober" zombie who sits with Julian until the urge to cannibalize passes.
One final spoiler I can’t resist: the narrator's revelation that Gulliver’s Lilliputians are real and originally migrated to colonial America, where their descendants commit identity theft and other white-collar crimes.
Meade uses this “historical fact” to satirize the corruption of post-Soviet Russia’s Wild West capitalism. In the author's alternate universe dominated by post-Marxist dialectic that "greed is good," even the treasures of the Kremlin Museums are for sale to the highest bidder – or stolen by larcenous Lilliputians.
END OF SPOILERS
A series of laugh-out-loud appendices to The Zombie, the Cat and Barack Obama poke fun at paranoid conspiracy theories by blaming all of our current problems on unlikely perps.
The Gospel According to Conspiracy Buffoons insists that nothing happens by accident, nothing is as it seems, and everything is connected. The fictional Meade adheres to that Gospel.
One appendix features Santa Claus’s psychotic sibling, the Anti-Santa. Tim Burton should read this book! The Anti-Santa story within-a-story would make a great animated segment in a live-action film based on Meade's camera-ready novel.
The only complaint I have about The Zombie, the Cat and Barack Obama is that Meade hasn’t given us more to nosh on, pun intended. This is one of those books you wish would never end.
Contact the author and urge him to write a zombie trilogy.
A series of tales from the crypt and Faversham's rented room might top Anne Rice's rankings on best seller lists.
At the very least, Meade's future trifecta of zombie novels will be sure to equal or surpass the vividly imagined "universes within universes" both authors have demonstrated their mastery of.
Christopher Meade - the new Anne Rice?
Causes Frank Sanello Supports
ACLU, ASPCA, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders