Breathers tells a story about a world where zombies are real, sentient, and seen as a gross nuisance to those they’ve left behind. They have no purpose, no civil rights, and no means of making any kind of a new life for themselves. If a zombie decides to venture out in the world, they’re mocked and shunned by day, and actively hunted by frat boys by night.
So, Andy spends his days drinking his parents expensive wine and watching terrible daytime TV. He spends most of his nights the same way. Twice a week he meets with his Undead Anonymous support group. Things stay pretty well the same, until Andy meets a new friend, and decides to start encouraging social change.
I’m not normally one for sentient zombie stories, unless they are particularly funny. With a story that revolves around support groups, undead civil rights and secrecy, Breathers feels like it wants to mix 2 parts Fight Club with one part True Blood, and for the most part it works well enough. It’s much more light-hearted, and not nearly as preachy, as either Fight Club or True Blood. Which is good fucking news, because zombies should either be making you laugh, or making you think. The truly great works can make you do both, but it’s an incredibly difficult balance to achieve. Most times I’d rather see someone pick a side and stick with it, than fall flat on their face trying to do both.
The pacing of the book is dreadfully slow for at least the first half. It seems like Browne is trying very hard early on to create an undead Jack the Narrator, having Andy visit his support group, frequented by a mysterious and attractive female zombie, while bemoaning his mundane existence by writing witty haiku.
It starts to pick up around the halfway point. From there, we take some pretty predictable turns as Andy attempts to slowly become an undead Tyler Durden. Finally, though, in the last 30 or 40 pages Browne realized “Hey, I’m writing a fucking book about zombies, here.” and really livened things up. The end of the book was good enough, and surprising enough that I (briefly) strongly considered a 4th star on the rating.
It’s not enough though. At least 150 of the 310 pages are meandering whining, or Andy redundantly relaying how miserable he is. The dialogue and narrative are written well enough, but the story, the real meat of it, just takes too long to get into. This is particularly annoying, since the blurb on the back spoils a large amount of where the story is going in the first place.
This is not, and isn’t trying to be, The Walking Dead. Overall, I definitely liked the book, and I’d recommend it to fans of Young Adult fiction, and light-hearted undead fiction.