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Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

Zombie (1995)

by Joyce Carol Oates (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7603712,204 (3.53)103
  1. 10
    People Live Still in Cashtown Corners by Tony Burgess (ShelfMonkey)
  2. 00
    The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (sturlington)
    sturlington: Told from the psychopath's point of view.
  3. 00
    The Seven Days of Peter Crumb: A Novel (P.S.) by Jonny Glynn (crazybatcow)
    crazybatcow: Similar content. Though, believe it or not, Q_P_ in Zombie is a more functional psychopath than Peter Crumb.
  4. 00
    The Collector by John Fowles (SomeGuyInVirginia)

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» See also 103 mentions

English (35)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (37)
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
JCO gets into the mind of a serial killer?
Who knew?
There is no other view point in this terrifying study of murder, torture and love. Yes, love.
that deranged mind was looking for a Zombie to love him.
Ms.Oates is such a versatile writer, not many could pull this off.
Yet she does with quite the flair for the macabre. At times i wanted to put the book down and could not.
Quite a story. ( )
  sogamonk | Apr 7, 2015 |
A gritty, disturbing portrayal of a serial killer and rapist, this short novel takes the form of journal writings of Quentin P, a registered sex offender on parole. Joyce Carol Oates is an excellent story-teller, and she varies her writing style to suit the story she is telling -- in this case, with great success. ( )
  LynnB | Dec 31, 2014 |
This book makes me want to read everything Joyce Carol Oates has ever written. The style of writing fits so well with the story and main character, it was scary. Let's just say that I wouldn't want to meet Quintin but what if I have? What if it's someone I know? Oates made this character so believable it sent chills down my spine. Her writing is poetic and realistic at the same time. I can't wait to read more of her writing and will be running back to the library to pick up whatever I can find. ( )
  yougotamber | Aug 22, 2014 |
Joyce Carol Oates's Zombie is the first person journal narrative, complete with crude Magic Marker drawings, of a registered sex offender turned serial killer named Quentin P____ (one of whose aliases is Todd Cuttler), who prowls the lower peninsula of Michigan (primarily the fictional university town of Mount Vernon, near Lake Michigan, although sometimes he ventures as far afield as Lansing, Detroit, and Ann Arbor) in search of "love" -- really, sex slaves -- in the persons of various, largely non-white, teenaged boys and young men; Quentin P___'s journal documents, in more or less linear fashion, his progression from an inept "kiddie fiddler" to an impulsive, obsessive serial killer in his late thirties as he attempts to create a "ZOMBIE": a lobotomized sex slave (to this end, he visits the dentist at his mother's urging, and steals one of the dental picks there since he sees it as an ideal tool to perform a transorbital lobotomy on his victims) who will obey his every command:

"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 that was. His eyes would be open & clear but there would be nothing inside them seeing. & nothing behind them thinking. Nothing passing judgment.


"A ZOMBIE would pass no judgment. A ZOMBIE would say, 'God bless you, Master.' He would say, 'You are good, Master. You are kind & merciful.' He would say, 'Fuck me in the ass, Master, until I bleed blue guts.' He would beg for his food & he would beg for oxygen to breathe. He would beg to use the toilet not to soil his clothes. He would be respectful at all times. He would never laugh or smirk or wrinkle his nose in disgust. He would lick with his tongue as bidden. He would suck with his mouth as bidden. He would spread the cheeks of his ass as bidden. He would cuddle like a teddy bear as bidden. He would rest his head on my shoulder like a baby. Or I would rest my head on his shoulder like a baby. We would eat pizza slices from each other's fingers. We would lie beneath the covers in my bed in the CARETAKER's room listening to the March wind & the bells of the Music College tower chiming & WE WOULD COUNT THE CHIMES UNTIL WE FELL ASLEEP AT EXACTLY THE SAME MOMENT."

-- Chapter 15

The model for Quentin P___ is Jeffrey Dahmer; while Zombie is a short novel and a quick read, it's not without intellectual interest, particularly in Quentin's references to current theories in physics (such as dark matter), and in passages that recall the work of the so-called godfather of the Beats, William S. Burroughs:

"BIG GUY lived maybe fifteen hours I think dying as I was fucking him in the ass (not in the tub, in my bed) to discipline him as a ZOMBIE & I only comprehended he was dead when during the night waking needing to take a piss I felt how cold he was, arms & legs where I'd slung them over me & his head on my shoulder to cuddle but BIG GUY was stiffening in rigor mortis so I panicked thinking I would be locked in his embrace!"

-- Chapter 19

Come to that, the whole of Zombie is more than a little reminiscent of a distillation of much of Burroughs's work, given its obsessive, drug-and-alcohol-addled, deeply misogynistic protagonist with a narrow band of autodidactic learning, a tenuous grasp of reality, a bottomless well of rage alternating with inanition, and a perverted sex drive wholly wedded to a taste for violence and domination; add some psychic, giant, transdimensional centipedes, gunslinging boy-whores from the Old West or New York City's Lower East Side c. 1920, orgone projectors, dubious and absurd covert organizations, and an incompetent, junkie surgeon (paging Doc Benway...), and you'd have a full-blown Burroughs pastiche.

Zombie does have a fair share of acidulous, mordant humor, but it is by definition not to everyone's taste. Gore crows seeking another Michael Slade or Dexter or Hannibal Lecter are likely to be disappointed in Zombie, finding it too highfalutin and not nearly bloody enough (and, possibly, too "gay"); readers looking for more obvious literary merit are also likely feel let down by Zombie, finding it too lowbrow and too pulpy for serious consideration.

While I respect Ms. Oates's career and mostly admire her as a critic (although I think she is misguided in her evaluation of James M. Cain's Mildred Pierce), from what little I've read of her fiction thus far, I find that I admire her more than like her; her fiction seems almost wholly intellectually-driven, like Graham Greene's (he of the machine-tooled prose): it lacks that ineffable spark of life that characterizes my favorite works. In the end, Ms. Oates's fictional creations don't quite convince; they are cleverly crafted constructs, puzzled out at an emotional distance that prevents them from inspiring in their readers that frisson of truly great works.

Keeping these caveats in mind, Zombie is by no means a waste of time; I suspect that it is not truly representative of Ms. Oates's fiction, but it is an interesting oddity for all of that. ( )
  uvula_fr_b4 | Apr 5, 2014 |
This was such an unpleasant story that, although well written, I didn't want to come back to it whenever I set down the book. ( )
  LynleyS | Feb 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Oates, Joyce CarolAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harris, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My name is Q__ P__ & I am thirty-one years old, three months.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452275008, Paperback)

A hero who gets into the mind of a serial killer is a fixture of television crime shows, but such stories are usually disappointing, because the viewer knows it's just a gimmick. Not so with this unusual little novel, which The New York Times called a "note-perfect, horror-comic ventriloquization of a half-bright, infantile serial killer." Joyce Carol Oates has so convincingly written through the voice of a killer, you will feel nervous while reading at how familiar, how human, he is. Part of how she achieves the effect is through sparing use of bizarre capitalization (e.g., "MOON" and "FRAGMENT") and crude drawings done with a felt-tip pen. But the language is what makes it come alive, as in such weird statements as "My whole body is a numb tongue." This book was winner of the 1996 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:11 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Oates's ostensible diary of the paroled sex offender Quentin P. provides a psychologically astute portrait of the way cold calculation and dark obsession combine in a serial killer to make him both horrifyingly successful and maddeningly elusive.

» see all 3 descriptions

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