I've never read a book in the Bizarro genre before I came across Carlton Mellick III's Zombies and Sh!t. I was drawn to the book by my love of zombie fiction and decided to take a punt with this whole "Bizarro" thing - apparently Carlton Mellick III is from what I gather one of the top authors in this genre so I thought it would either be a gamble that paid off, or a big bizarre flop.
What is Bizarro? A bit of research (internet based) has led me to the understanding that Bizarro mixes fantasy and satire with the grotesque, the surreal and sometimes a touch of science fiction or horror. A bit like Pratchett meets Hutson with a dash of randomness and a side dish of weird pie. Don't be put off - if my first foray into Bizarro with "Zombies and Sh!t" is reflective of the wider genre then it did seem to work and wasn't as messy as the description suggests it could have been. There was an uncomfortable scene with some zombie sex in this book, but I'll allow Carlton Mellick some leeway with that. Let me explain what the book is about.
Similar to the start of the film "Saw", a group of people wake up in a boarded up hotel, surrounded outside by zombies. They are unwilling contestants in a reality TV show called "Zombie Survival", which is filmed by floating camera balls and beamed live to residents of the Platinum Zone, where only those people who are rich and important enough live as it is a zombie free zone. The people in the hotel don't know each other, with a few small exceptions. These people have been kidnapped by the programme makers and are now the show itself - they have to get across the city to meet a helicopter which will airlift just one of them to freedom, if there is more than one contestant left who makes it to the helicopter, well, they know what they must do.
I liked the way that every few chapters there are 20 passport style pictures of the contestants, which are blocked out when / if they die. There is actually a story here - I was expecting the bizarre / absurd element of the genre to give the author the excuse to write any old twaddle, but it's nothing some of my first Dooyoo reviews and actually has structure and a plot with meaningful content!
I appreciate that this won't be to everyones' taste, but apart from an uncomfortable sexual encounter between a contestant and a zombie, I found it to be very enjoyable and gripping. There's plenty going on with the 20 contestants to have kept my interest, coupled with the way he mixes comic absurdity with dark seriousness - if you've read the book think Laurence meets Xiu. If you haven't read the book then apologies for the in-joke.
I suppose most importantly from Mellick's point of view, I enjoyed this book enough to have put more of his work onto my Amazon wish list. Not quite perfect, but worth four stars in my opinion and I would recommend it to someone either into zombies, Bizarro or just looking for something different and not too heavy to read.