Title: The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten
Author: Harrison Geillor
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Release Date: September 14, 2010
When the dead begin to rise and consume the living, the residents of the small, quiet town of Lake Woebegotten, although alarmed, are confident that the long, harsh winter ahead of them poses more of a threat than the shambling corpses wandering the woods around town. What the Lake Woebegotten residents didn’t take into consideration, however, are the shocking secrets harbored by many of the small town’s inhabitants — parishioners, friends, even family members — and the consequences these secrets will have for the community when the zombie plague destroys the nation’s infrastructures, even further isolating Lake Woebegotten.
The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten, written by Harrison Geillor, is composed of three sections, or “acts”: the first chronicles the events leading up to the all-out war between the living and the dead and introduces readers to the novel’s various protagonists and each of their particular quirks. Admittedly, I didn’t expect much from a book with a title like The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten, and the first section of the book reads very similarly to a number of other contemporary zombie fiction, but Geillor takes a chance with the book’s second act and it’s a gamble that certainly pays off for the reader. The novel leaves chronological storytelling behind in the second section, instead recounting the events of the winter in Lake Woebegotten with “Twenty-some-odd scenes from winter, in no particular order, certainly not chronological,” as the second act’s title proclaims. The decision to structure almost a third of the novel’s 300 pages this way is a bold move that forces readers to be more active participants in the story, requiring them to reconstruct mentally the timeline of events at Lake Woebegotten in order to see the complete picture unfolding on the page before them.
By the time the first portion of Geillor’s novel wraps up and readers delve into the collage of events presented in the second, readers are familiar with Lake Woebegotten’s interesting cast of characters. The group ranges from a power-hungry mayor’s wife, a café owner, a college kid and his uncle, a small-town sheriff and his part-time deputy/local bartender, a priest and a pastor, Lake Woebegotten’s resident drunk, a conspiracy theorist, the local grocer, and many more. The third and final section of The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten brings the story to its bloody climax, pitting those residents of Lake Woebegotten (un)fortunate enough to survive both the hardship of the long, cold Minnesota winter and the threat of flesh-hungry roaming zombies against one of their crazed neighbors as he makes a last ditch effort to single-handedly determine the fate of the town.
The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten is a well-constructed novel that offers a tongue-in-cheek, solid and fast read. Geillor does an excellent job of character development, not only creating intriguing characters, but also placing those characters in situations that will push them to the limits of their own abilities and force them to see the other members of their community in a whole new light. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the novel’s take on religion during the “end of days” events described within its pages; rather than using the priest and the pastor as simple allegories for the religious institutions in the U.S., Geillor portrays these men of the cloth as three-dimensional characters, each of whom has an unusual (or unusually logical, you might say) take on the zombie menace and the connections that exist between science, faith, and morality.
This zombie novel, published by Night Shade Books, is a humorous, yet creepy portrayal of the type of paranoia that could envelop a small, isolated community like Lake Woebegotten when the comfort and safety provided by national infrastructure collapses. It is a must-read for fans of mash-up or zombie literature like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Lucky for all you zombiephiles, The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten releases today and is available wherever books are sold.
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars