A few of us were in the AHML Call Center a couple of months ago trying to select trending topics for the Marketplace. World War Z was being released at the theaters that upcoming Friday, so I chose the Zombie genre. Book titles were furiously flying around when Jeremy proposed Zombie, Illinois. It got a big laugh, mostly because we thought he was joking...tossing out a gag title.
Turns out it was no joke. Author Scott Kenemore is carving out a small niche for himself in the ever-growing zombie genre. His two previous books were: Zombie, Ohio: A Tale Of The Undead and Zombies Vs. Nazis : A Lost History Of The Walking Dead. Although this book's entitled Zombie, Illinois, it could have easily instead be called "Zombie, Chicago."
The story takes places entirely in Chicago, on the night that zombies literately hit the beach. It is told in alternating first-person narratives from the perspective of its three main characters: Ben Bennington, Pastor Leopold Mack and Maria Ramirez. Ben is a reporter for "Brain's Chicago Business." He's a lonely, outta-shape, middle-age hack that’s always on the hunt for that one big scoop that will launch his stagnant career. Pastor Mack heads the congregation of "The Church of Heaven's God in Christ Lord Jesus." Though the church's name is more than a mouthful, Mack has the undying respect of his flock and some deep-hidden skeletons stashed in his closet. Maria's closet also contains some dark secrets, but what you see is mostly what you get. She is the drummer for a female Chicago-based rock band that is moderately popular. Can she help it that her old man is a former wife-beater and child-abuser who has transformed himself into a prominent city alderman?
The plot is simplistic: Zombies arrive and begin to eat their way through the city while the graveyards expel tons of reinforcements. The corrupt city leaders choose sides and try to use this apocalyptic catastrophe to position themselves into power. Our three reluctant heroes join forces and for selfish reasons try to save themselves and their city.
From chapter to chapter it becomes obvious that Kenemore cannot be a Chicago native. His jaded view of our city seems to rise at times to comic proportions. Poetic license forces one to give him credit where credit may or may not be due, although the many references to Chicago landmarks and neighborhoods, on the most part, remain accurate. The narrative style makes it refreshingly different for a zombie novel. I will not spoil the story by disclosing whether the zombies are fast-moving or operate in slow-motion. Sorry, you'll have to read the book.