Today we’re going dark. I’m talking pit-of-despair dark. I just finished reading Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates. I purchased it because I like Joyce Carol Oates, I like zombies, and I like Kindle books offered at sale prices. Much to my disappointment, this wasn’t about zombies in the traditional sense. Although, it had quite a bit to do with BRAAAAAAINS.
You ever watch Criminal Minds or Hannibal or Dexter and get completely creeped out to be inside the mind of a serial killer? Yeah. Well, if those give you nightmares, skip this book. Our narrator, Quentin aka Q_P_ is a very sick man. He is obsessed with the idea of kidnapping a young man and giving him a lobotomy. An ice pick lobotomy. A One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest lobotomy. Q_P_ wants a human-like creature to be his slave. To cater to his sexual whims. To do his bidding without question. Q_P_ dreams about it. Obsesses.
Q_P_ makes several attempts to carry out his plans. On his first attempt, he was caught with his test subject. The mentally disabled boy managed to escape Q_P_’s pedophile wagon during the initial sexual assault. No ice pick ever neared his eye sockets, and Q_P_ is merely charged as a sex offender. After his arrest, Q_P_ is treated by a respected psychiatrist, he participates in group therapy, he lives in a dwelling with other people, and he’s visited regularly by a parole officer. All attempts at rehabilitation are being made, but Q_P_ is clever. He STILL manages to carry on with his illicit activities, in spite of the heavy monitoring.
In some ways, being inside Q_P_’s head reminded me of reading Lolita, particularly when he’s obsessing about and stalking a teenage boy he dubbed “SQUIRREL.” Q_P_ shared Humbert Humbert’s peculiar fascination for the underage set, though Q_P_ preferred the dudes to the ladies. I never would have thought I’d hold Humbert Humbert up as a paragon of virtue, but he never did attempt to perform an ice pick lobotomy on anyone…
I’m not really sure what else to say. It was a well written book, and Oates got under my skin as she always does… But thank heaven it’s fiction. The subject matter was beyond my comfort zone, but the writing was so compelling I couldn’t put it down. I don’t feel that I can say that I liked it though, because it seriously disturbed me. You’d think I’d learn to read the abstracts by now! I tolerate ACTUAL zombie lore much better than this tale of zombies… I prefer the scary things in my books remain firmly on the side of the scientifically impossible, and there are real Q_P_ types out there. Heebie jeebies all around.
I know there’s a set that digs serial killer stories. It’s practically a genre unto itself, really. Is this type of story your thing? Is the allure getting inside the dark and twisty mind of the homicidal? I’m curious to hear your take on it, Bookworms. Anybody out there a fan of the genre? What appeals to you? What pushes you beyond your comfort zone?