Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse by Jack Strange is different. The title alone should be a hint that the humor outweighs the horror aspect of the book. Sure, there is the ever-dependable gore factor we’ve come to expect with zombie stories, but in the end, the surreal cleverness is what makes this an entertaining read.
Robert Turner had to come up with the next big idea at Fave Repeats TV, a struggling digital channel devoted to airing age-old reruns. How do you make old shows new again? It just so happens that FRTV holds the rights to some classics, including a series starring the former celebrity chef Floyd Rampant. The fact that Rampant is fifteen-years dead would present a bit of a problem to most other television stations fighting for ratings. But as luck would have it, Turner has an eccentric old uncle who recently invented what he called the Lazarus Engine, a mystical machine capable of bringing the dead back to life.
Problem solved. “Having a dead chef as a front man would be a television first and it’d be a sensation.” Well, that is until the chef is re-animated. The aftermath will change the world forever.
The storytelling of Jack Strange is fast paced, slowing down only on occasion to let the reader catch a breath. The dialog is sometimes forced as the real world intertwines with the macabre existence of flesh eating zombies. But at the same time, the author’s humor comes through with a dry narration that makes the bizarre setting seem almost natural. Almost.
Even before the horrors begin, the subtle foreshadowing of just how creepy our ordinary everyday lives may appear becomes the perfect setup for what’s to come. If you’re looking for a comparison, Simon Pegg’s cult classic Shaun of the Dead would fit the bill. As the world around our heroes deteriorates in rotting flesh, the core development of the characters seems to remain intact. Yet the visual diction of the author is what makes it all seem so – well, comfortable.
“Henderson loved his early evening naps. This was because they were preceded by a stroll down the road which allowed him to watch his neighbours as they arrived home from work. There was something he found wonderfully gratifying about seeing them all looking exhausted from their labours when he’d spent his entire day lolling around and doing very little.
In particular, he enjoyed the sight of Brian Cartwright staggering wearily up his garden path. Henderson took a delight in the fact that Brian was a sewage contractor who always arrived home caked in shit and looking pissed off. Even though Brian lived at number seven, which was at the other end of the road, at least ninety yards away, Henderson could smell him keenly, and he kept his distance.
When Brian had gone indoors, Henderson chuckled to himself and made his way back to his own drive at number forty- three, which he shared with forty- one.
Seeing Brian had reminded him of how tired he was.
It was nap time.”
The author of Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse is a bit of an enigma. According to the bio on his webpage, Jack Strange has worked a variety of jobs, but his interest in writing seems to have been stewing since a young age. And though this book was his first novel publication, fans of his work will be happy to know more is yet to come. Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse closes with a satisfying ending, but there is just enough of a tease for the possibility of more carnage.
But if you need more now, Amazing Stories posted an excerpt a couple weeks ago of his latest yarn, Confessions of an English Psychopath here.