Jingle Brains, Jingle Brains: Cassie-la Dissects “I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus” by S.G. Browne

I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus: A Breather’s Christmas Carol by S.G. Browne (Advanced Reader Copy)
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Genre: Fiction, zombies, dark humor, satire, Christmas but with more brain munching
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

SummaryFormer zombie rights activist and member of the undead Andy Warner wakes up to find himself dressed like Santa with a giant gaping hole in his head and no idea how he ended up on a body farm. All while his elf helpers chow down on some brains next to him. What follows is a Christmas novella of love, redemption, equality, and the unbreakable nature of the undead human spirit. It will have you smiling, cheering and gagging in equal measure as you find yourself siding with the decomposing corpses who populate its pages.

This sequel to Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament (S.G. Browne’s first published novel) is every bit as wonderful- if not more wonderful than its predecessor. I could read a whole series of books set in the Breather‘s universe! Set one year after the first book, I Saw Zombies contains some spoilers to the original including the fate of its main characters. But, if you merely want to read a, “… Holly-jolly- zombie Christmas” story about a girl and her zombie who spreads Christmas cheer you don’t necessarily need to read the first book. But you should.

The novel and the novella are both set in a world where resurrections are a semi-regular occurrence, but beyond researching on the undead and locking them up in pounds, not much structure is in place to deal with them. Having been officially labeled dead by the government, all zombies are stripped of their social security numbers and their rights. They are literally the living dead in the eyes of the world. It’s enough to break your still beating heart.

Main character Andy is the former poster boy for the zombie rights movement, but due to the events of Breathers, he is being held in and quickly escapes from a local research facility. The novella itself opens on a body farm where research for Reanimant Forensics are done on the most unlucky zombies in the bunch. Since Andy has a giant hole in his head, the the narrative pieces together the missing bits of his memories, from his research facility escape all the way through his Christmas antics to how he wound up surrounded by decaying peers. Just another day in the life of the undead.

Inside the research lab, zombies are tested on. They have their mouths sewn shut, have horrible tests performed on them and are basically treated like animals. Not that animals should be treated in such a manner either. Ugh. Don’t worry, there will be a PETA satire that I’ll discuss a little later.

The silver lining is that through reading about these inhumane practices, Browne teaches us a little bit about the zombie science in this alternate US of A. In the lab, researchers are looking into the Resurrection Gene which only a small section of the population has present in them. This gene allows them to regenerate after death and might hold the key to curing disease and reverse the effects of aging. Through the pain of zombie test subjects of course. Worst catch-22 ever. You can be immortal, but we have to torture your resurrected relatives to do so! ARGH!

A new addition in this novella is that POVs are given to characters outside of Andy, and they’re female! In all the other S.G. Browne works I’ve read (Fated, Lucky Bastard, and Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel) this is the first time he’s given us a female narrator. That I can remember- there were a lot of wonderful short stories in Shooting Monkeys and I certainly don’t remember the gender of that shampoo bottle.

Anyway, female narrators. Yes, that’s where I was. Browne gives narrative power to one of the researchers, specifically Shannon, a bald headed lady with a heart of gold and a secret weakness for RC-1854- reanimated corpse 1854 (Andy). It’s through her that we get to learn all about the Resurrection Gene and the attitude by the researchers toward the zombies. The are not people, they are not even their genders. They are its. It’s a testament to Browne’s character building that you learn to care for these characters, they’re not rotting and dismembered its they’re people. Albeit smelly people. Zombies are people too!

The second POV is given to a young girl with a not too cheerful childhood (a dead father, an alcoholic absentee mother) who gets a little Christmas cheer from her new zombie Santa friend. The ways in which they help each other deal with their inner pain will warm your heart. D’awwwww. Just the perfect touch of love you want out of your Christmas reads. Plus brain eating, although these two plot lines don’t necessarily go hand in hand, or brain in mouth.

As with S.G. Browne’s other works, this novella is chock full of satire. First is the appearance of PETZ (People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies) on obvious play on PETA, who arrives to release the zombies from their cages but don’t actually help  them beyond that. Sounds about right, helpful but not necessarily effective. PETA, you have your hearts in the right place but that doesn’t mean you always accomplish anything helpful. What do you plan to do with those 20 rabbits who have been testing lipstick!?!

My favorite parody however would have to be Andy’s rendition of “If I Only Had a Brain”, retitled to the appropriate “If I Only Had Some Brains”.

I could gnaw away the hours
Delightfully devour
Digesting John and Janes
And my mouth I’d be fillin’
While my hands were busy killin’
If I only had some brains

Finally, to indicate the changing zombie sentiment since Andy’s capture we are given a glimpse into the zombie reality television choices available for the masses. When Andy last watched television Dancing With the Undead dominated the airwaves, but things have changed since then. Once he’s returned to the land of the living however, people are entertaining themselves with World’s Wildest Zombie Chases. Ruh-roh. Looks like there needs to be a third book in this series (SURPRISE TRILOGY!) to track Andy’s efforts in reversing zombie animosity again. ::puppy dog eyes::

Less zom-rom-com (zombie-romantic-comedy) than Breathers and more a satire on the animal testing industry and the importance of connections with family (read: the true meaning of Christmas) I Saw Zombies is the perfect addition to your Christmas/Halloween cross-over collection, right next to The Nightmare Before Christmas! It’s a niche market, but one that has double the potential because it can be enjoyed twice a year. Love it.

THE GOOD:
-Zombies you can actually empathize with and might want to hug
-Same dark humor and satire present from original
-Takes Breathers and expands upon the world, YAY more back story!
-Learn some great new zombie songs to sing to your kids

THE BAD:
-I got nothing, your move internet

I was lucky enough to finally get to meet Mr. Browne at SDCC this year, albeit dressed like a zombie girl scout and with black gunk all over my teeth. I’m sure I made a great first impression. I was also lucky enough to have my copy of 21st Century Dead signed, taking my total S.G. Browne signatures up to four (three of those might not count since I won his Name My Monkey Contest, but I’m still tallying them and you can’t stop me!). Regardless, he should still visit the east coast.

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2 thoughts on “Jingle Brains, Jingle Brains: Cassie-la Dissects “I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus” by S.G. Browne

  1. […] All of S.G. Browne’s books are worth adding to your to-read list, but I’m especially partial to Big Egos (in which drugs give the personalities of famous celebrities and fictional characters), Fated (a story about the actual, real-life personification of Fate), Breathers (the zombie romantic comedy that started it all) and the Christmas-themed Breathers novella I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus. […]

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