Jul 1, 2010

Play Dead - Ryan Brown

I bet everyone knows that feeling, when you need something completely brainless to read, just some relaxing dumb fun. Sometimes you don't even know you need it, until you bump into the right book. I was browsing my local bookstore, looking for Clive Barker's Weaveworld, when I suddenly saw that awesome kitsch cover. Then I read the blurb, and I was hooked. Suddenly Play Dead was just what I needed to read.

Also, look at the author. You can't say no to this smile!

So, anyway. The story is set in a little Texas town called Killington. On the morning before a major football game, high-school quarterback bad-boy Cole Logan (I'm wondering if that's not a little subtle, Ryan. Should've named him Brock Jockson; then we'd be sure he's a bad boy) is attacked in his front yard and has two fingers of his left hand cut. The assault comes with a warning - if he doesn't back from the game, his teammates could be next. Being a bad boy, Cole laughs in the face of danger and proceeds to announce in front of the whole school that the game is on, while bleeding almost to death in the process. It turns out the game is not on for him, because the coach forbids him from playing, but the enemy - the big champion team from the neighboring town of Elmwood - doesn't know that. So the Killington Jackrabbits bus ends in the river and the whole team except for Cole and the coach drowns. But being a really bad boy, Cole doesn't let things go, and with the help of mystical cat-loving lonely widow and football fan Black Mona, he raises his teammates back from the dead. However, they are not quite alive, and what's worse, they have only two day before they change into mindless flesh-eating monsters. In that time they must win a game against the Elmwood Badgers, or their souls will be damned forever. So Cole sets on a desperate quest to help his tortured friends, with the help of gorgeous-yet-intelligent Savannah, daughter of the coach and reporter for the school paper.

Yes, Play Dead is exactly as ridiculous as the synopsis suggests. It is corny, takes itself WAY too seriously, and is filled to bursting with football heroism. In one word, it is gorgeous! Ryan Brown's debut reads with the speed of light, and the feeling of white trash supernatural midwest horror is one I've always enjoyed. The book is poorly written, with pages of one-line dialogue, delivered by half-dimensional cardboard characters. There are infodumps galore, integrated with the subtlety of Cole Logan's name. But somehow it's all way too cool for the reader to really care. The language is simple, but does the job, and the sloppy style doesn't slow you down.

So, this is a story about zombies fighting for their souls with the help of heroic characters, who overcome their personal flaws in the process. In a football game. If you can read this description, and still think Play Dead might be the book for you, then take it from me - it most certainly is!


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