Are you an attractive white male raised in the suburbs and brutally misunderstood by your family? Have you come to the city looking for love—and found enslavement in its many forms? Upon meeting someone new, do you fall to your knees and beg for a violent blessing? Then perhaps you are, like Zero, the protagonist of Brad Gooch’s new novel, Zombie 00, a zombie—or, as Zero’s friend “Wendy the feminist” puts it, one of “those who allow others to control them through psychological ploys and the manipulation of fear.”
In language that often seems lifted from the self-help genre, of which he is a veteran (“I’m always searching for my identity through the force field of a director,” Zero confesses), Gooch describes his zombie’s coming-of-age through a series of abusive relationships with men. His journey begins with the delinquent Mitch back in Truckstown, Pennsylvania, and concludes—thanks to the intervention of Nancy, a Harvard-trained ethnopharmacologist with an “extremely worked-out body”—on a strange retreat for zombies in Haiti ruled by the muscular Carlos (nicknamed “Raw”). Along the way, Zero learns to worship, serve, and act as sexual valet for a substance-abusing doctor and—most memorably—for a minor cable-TV star named Control Freak (“He was endlessly watchable, like a hypnotist’s watch that swings back and forth, back and forth”).
What about emancipation? Will our zombie ever find the boyfriend within? Not exactly—but the novel ends with Zero safe in the loving company of Wendy and the other staff members of the Crypt, a sex club in Manhattan, mopping up the floors and swabbing down the cubicles in the empty afternoons, at peace—at last—with his zombiehood. “Whoever’s motives were the most incomprehensible,” Zero reflects on the Crypt’s clientele, “were the most beautiful. I loved these people.” Readers who bring a similar sense of generosity to Zombie 00 will find much to admire and even more that will amuse them.