Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pariah by Bob Fingerman - review

It's been a long time since I wrote a review, I've been in such a mood.  It's time to pull myself out of the "funk" and dive into a book review.
Though I haven't read many novels recently, the ones I did manage to finish reading were very good reads! :)
One of them was a little strange, keeping my interest in an odd quirky way.
Let's see if I can do it justice....


****** (six out of six stars)

cover - The cover actually gives you a glimpse of the novel.  There are the zombies, kind of lurching around (though in the book, there's quite a few more zombies lumbering around) and there's this girl - walking unfazed through them.  Unfazed and unmolested - just strolling through.

Unlike your average zombie book, this one doesn't focus on the initial zombie outbreak and crisis.  Pariah tells the story of a bit later.  What happens after a small group of people have holed up in an apartment building, figured out how to stay away from the zombies, and have been coexisting if not happily, then uneasily with each other.  It's quite a group of individuals.  Two "jock" ex-hockey players, who are sharing an apartment (and maybe a bit more) - one is kind of nice even though he's a follower and the other is an asshole.  A bigoted ass who looks down on everyone but himself.  There's an elderly couple who love each other, but have been married for so long that they aren't that nice to each other.  A single young man living by himself, the son of a religious zealot - who ran away from home to live in sin in the big city. Except he didn't find the kind of sin he would have liked to find.  Then there is the young couple - suffering from a recent loss, they're trying to hold on to their love for each other and survive.  The artist, another single man who lives on his own, he's been drawing pictures of the zombies he sees from his window, and harboring a longstanding secret crush on the young wife of his neighbor.  Last, and certainly not least - is the man living on the roof.  A guy who tried to make it home to the projects, and ended up stuck at this apartment building - rescued in a rare case of heroism by the asshole jock, he's been keeping himself on the roof, throwing bricks and loose masonry on zombie heads, doing his part to destroy the zombies one zombie at a time.

This group is not your average group of friends, but they're all they have left of society.  Unfortunately, they are also living on the last of their supplies, slowly starving to death because they can't get to the store that lies tantalizingly in reach yet completely out of reach.  They are just about at the end of their rope - in more ways than one, when along comes....

This girl.  Who is seen just walking through  a horde of zombies.  and the zombies are leaving her alone - even clearing space away from her.  The elderly man sees her first, but no one believes him, and by the time people finally come to his window, she's gone.  A little later, she's back, and finally is seen.  They call out to her, and it's hard, because they're also dehydrated - but she finally hears them and walks over to them.  They're saved!  She - with an extremely flat affect, agrees to go to the store and get them supplies.  That night, they have their first feast in forever.  

Seems like a happily ever after moment - but no.  After they've managed to come away from the threat of starvation, and there is hopefully a large supply of food and other items available to them, other matters start to occupy them.  And this is when things really start to go south.  They've been so focused on just surviving and conserving the teeny bit of food left, that's all they could think about. 

Now they have the energy and time to obsess about other things, and to misbehave.  This comes out in a variety of ways.  One man begins to think about the end of times, and starts to wonder if the girl is a demon, come to tempt them.  The asshole jock begins to obsess about the new girl.  In fact, each of the group is affected by this strange, flat young girl differently.   Jealousies arise, and problems surface.  Through it all, the girl remains oddly unaffected, ultra calm, and short of words.  She doesn't have much to say, yet will traipse all over this huge destroyed city to pick up whatever supplies the people need, and some they didn't realize they needed.

Fingerman did a great job of pulling me into the story of this small group of survivors - each character's point of view is exposed, and each character has a distinct personality and voice.  Each character had a distinct way of talking, and their own way of thinking - some good, some not so good, some downright horrible.  Their inner narration/thoughts were superbly managed through his writing.  Bad things happen to this group and yet some good things also take place.  We see the best and worst of each of the characters.  A very interesting novel,  exploring the possibilities of human behaviour and reactions; our good impulses vs our bad impulses.  By the end of the book, you're left thinking they just might make it, though the world is not going to be even remotely close to before.  Left up in the air is just how these people are going to survive, are they ever going to be able to fend for themselves? grow their own food?  meet anyone else besides this very strange young woman who can walk among the zombies?

I enjoyed the hell out of this novel.  :)

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