Despite being ineligible for the Sexy Zombie Awards, Married With Zombies serves as further evidence that zombies really are the trend of the moment. Taking its cues from Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead, Petersen’s tale is a romantic comedy about a couple whose failing marriage is given a new lease of life by a zombie apocalypse.
The story kicks off when the couple drive to their regular marriage counselling session to find their counsellor munching on her previous clients. Dispatching the counsellor with her own stiletto heel, Sarah and David go through a series of farcical zombie encounters whilst trying to escape Seattle, finding along the way that they are natural born zombie killers and that the end of the world has had the unforeseen benefit of fixing their relationship.
The premise that surviving marriage is akin to surviving a zombie apocalypse is an interesting take on the genre, but not one that is deep enough to sustain an entire book. The romance element is underdone, as we are not given sufficient information about the couple’s relationship to have any emotional investment in whether they stay together or not, and the comedy is misjudged and painfully unfunny.
David seems like a decent guy, albeit one who has made some human errors, but Sarah comes across as an unlikeable bitch which effectively ruins the book as we are trapped in her point of view. Mercilessly unsympathetic to her neighbour Amanda who is shocked and disbelieving of the zombie outbreak (“But she kinda reminded me of a cute puppy. You couldn’t blame her for being as dumb as a rock. And that might be insulting to rocks” (p46)), she then takes David to task when he voices similarly uncharitable thoughts along with a multitude of utterly minor complaints. Her narrative includes observations on fashion that intrude at truly bizarre moments, such as when she remarks that her counsellor’s manicure and pedicure match when the woman is trying to eat her, or noting that her vomit and the cushions on the office sofa are a similar shade. The comedy is mainly situational punctuated with dreadful one-liners.
“Sorry Cindÿ,” I muttered as I raised it over my head. “This is the cash-only line. We don’t accept gnashing teeth as credit.” (p194)
Petersen also seems to be fond of the (un)dead/die/death joke (“I was about to die, er, undie and it really sucked.” (p105)), so much so that she scatters variations of the above throughout the book. The only decent humour comes in the form of relationship tips at the start of each chapter, such as: “Put the small stuff into perspective. It’s better to be wrong and alive than right and eating brains”. Well, comparatively speaking at least.
For such a short book, it’s unfortunate that we are treated to the same thing over and over again. Sarah and David meet a new survivor, kill some zombies, flee for safety and repeat. The first couple of encounters are where the bulk of the farce is concentrated, but soon after the melodrama is piled on in predictable ways (look, our companion has become zombified and we must kill her – oh noes!) and things become rapidly dull.
If the romance was better handled or the comedy less flat-footed, then perhaps this could be recommended as good light reading for zombie fans, but really it doesn’t do either genre well. One for the masochistic zombie completist only.