I am not doing well, I think. Or maybe just O.K. I know they are writing reports. But I am not allowed to see. If one of these was a woman I would do better, I feel. They believe you, they are not always watching you. Eye contact has always been my downfall.
This book is not your typical Joyce Carol Oates. Zombie follows Quinton, a psychopath interested in building his own zombie that can function as his personal slave. He aims to make this zombie by lobotomizing a human, thereby leaving an empty shell of a man that Quinton and do with as he likes. According to Quinton, his zombie will enjoy anything his "master" will do to him, simply because he is the master. Echos of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the real-life serial killer Jeffery Dahmer are found throughout the plot. The novella is told in a first-person narrative to bring the reader into the mind of this functioning sociopath. Don't let the petite, soft-spoken image of Joyce Carol Oates fool you; she can get down and dirty. I had no idea she has this in her. We are talking anal raping and ice picks to the face. Needless to say I wasn't able to read this book while eating lunch.
However, the novella isn't sick for the sake of being sick. Rather, it reveals the inner workings of the mind of a sociopath. It explores the way he interacts with others through manipulation, how he depersonalizes his victims, and how his understanding of the outside world is so different from that of a sane human. Oates also seems to be critiquing American medicine and some of its older, cruel practices of drugging and prodding at its mentally unstable patients, creating a form of zombies themselves.
A true ZOMBIE would be mine forever. He would obey every command & whim. Saying "Yes, Master" & "No, Master." He would kneel before me lifting his eyes to me saying, "I love you, Master. There is no one but you, Master." & so it would come to pass, & so it would be. For a true ZOMBIE could not say a thing that was not, only a thing thatwas. His eyes would be open & clear but there would be nothing inside them seeing. & nothing behind themthinking. Nothing passing judgment.While I did enjoy the book, I have to say I don't prefer it to the other works of hers I've read. Because our narrator was a crazy nut, the prose felt jagged, crude and rushed. Much of the book read as the passage above and while it was fitting to the story as a whole, I did miss the eloquent, rich writing of which Oates is a master. However, I am now more aware of her diverse talents as an author and appreciate her that much more. If I were to put this next to another first-person psychopath killer novel, I'd chose The Killer Inside Me. It's disturbing and bizarre, but above all, memorable.
Publisher: Dutton Books, 1995