Monday, February 9, 2015

Brew: A Review

Bill Braddock's Brew (Permuted Press) is a zombie-like apocalyptic tale set in the College Heights (aka College Park home of Penn State) after the hometown team has one a big football game.  Everyone is partying it up and having fun until....

Bill Braddock (book site), a pseudonym (see below), is from Towanda Pennsylvania where his parents apparently mostly lived off the land.  He attended Penn State, where he boxed, and started Seton Hall's Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program. He  now lives with his wife southwest of Philadelphia near the Revolutionary War historic Battle of Brandywine battlefield site. He is a former 8th grade English teacher,  stone mason, bartender, boxer, and prison tutor.  He has noted that he has published under other names (John Dixon [alt. link]) where his YA novel Phoenix Island became the inspiration for the CBS TV series Intelligence, and thus left him with insufficient time to finish the previously noted 3-year Seton Hall MFA program .  He is apparently a big fan of writer Richard Laymon, (a splatterpunk-horror writer) and notes that this novel is an homage to him.
Allright, so it's the day of the big game.  But which big game?   We know that our little town is a stand in for Penn State.  One of the characters notes that it is Veterans Day (always on Nov. 11), and it is obviously the day of a football game (Saturday) which puts our next available Saturday, November 11,  in the year 2017 (link).  So the unmentioned opponent is Rutgers at home.  Rutgers won the first college football game ever (against Princeton) and now apparently they are participating in the first college game followed by zombie riot.
I'll give a short story blurb that won't give much more in the way of spoilers than the book's advertising blurb, and the story itself, already provide you with.  Naughty people spike the favorite hometown beer with chemicals that have a very bad, shall we say zombie-like effect, on people imbibing it. The chemicals have a delayed release so that it will all go off the evening after the big home game.
The zombie-like effect essentially causes people to become violently enraged while at the same time loosening up some of their inhibitions.  This allows for zombie men who rape, and zombie women who bite off male sex organs.  The author likes this particular effect, so we see it more than once.  The zombies are fast, and can have a little more reasoning capability than their dead brethren.  However, since their zombie-dom is chemically induced, they don't create more zombies with their bite, and as we know from the start of the novel, the effect will only last one night.
All of which is an excuse for a violent novel, with a lot of variously evil people circulating around the event.  The author likes to kill off his characters, so not many make it through the mayhem (nice or evil).  Given that most of the characters are either evil, or bit pathetic, it is hard to get too worked up about the whole plot line.  It is not completely clear if the author himself makes the connection that the small time drug dealers/and their clients have, unwittingly, helped to bankroll this whole fiasco as he allows them to come off as a little more heroic than some more innocent folks.
So did I like it?  Well it wasn't awful, but I can't say I really enjoyed it.  The mayhem was repetitive at times, and when you get to non-zombie folks, they really aren't a particularly interesting bunch. I like the Robert Bloch quote from the splatterpunk Wikipedia entry: "there is a distinction to be made between that which inspires terror and that which inspires nausea". 

There is a lot of point of view switching, which helps expand the story, but adds a lot of discontinuity, and kills the attachment to the characters even more so. This makes the rare attempts at a poignant scene fall flat. If you simply want to read about a lot of zombie-like rape and mayhem without too much slowing up of the proceedings for plotline, than I would say it is a perfectly adequate book.  I am sure lots of/some people would like that, but that's a pretty constrained niche.  So I will say that it is a qualified no.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
Realism?  Zombies are one of the few causes of fictional apocalypses that tend to effect the "realism" beyond the initial starting point of the collapse.  Those darned biters just keep showing up.  Fast zombies, by their lethality, can be used to represent an isolated survivalist situation, but with the books main events (not including retrospective flashbacks) only taking up one night, that won't really work here.  Still, the zombie event, if a bit fuzzy in the details, is given a weird-science sort of rationality, so I am not going to put it in the elves and hobbits category.  There is a little bit of a stab at some rationality for escape in a mayhem situation.  So I will be generous and call it a three.
Readability is straightforward.  At 238 listed pages (I read the kindle version) it is at a nice quick-read length, and while not always a page turner it does move along reasonably well, with very little in the way of non-obvious symbolism.  The jumping around noted above looses it some of its momentum.. Call one above the midpoint: a 5.

No comments: