Changed, The (Book)
Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by BJ Burrow
Published by Apex Book Company
If you're a fan of zombie books and movies, you may think you've seen it all. It takes a rare kind of talent to bring something new to the zombie-fic genre, so good reads are few and far between. Then someone like BJ Burrow shows up and creates something original, well-written, and poignant that makes it seem like the genre may just have some more life yet. The Changed is an impressive debut, to be sure, but more, it's just a damned impressive novel.
The standard premise, a world where the dead start getting back up, is nothing new. But the premise that they go right back to work, feel better than they have in years, and act like living people is, to say the least, different. Lead character Christian opens the book with his dead office-mate getting fired for being...well...gross and disturbing to look at. Christian and his fiancée both have issues with the "changed," mainly because they believe the dead should stay buried. But when a freak accident involving a shorted-out coffee pot kills Christian, the shoe is on the proverbial other foot.
Romero made a career out of social commentary through his zombie flicks, and Burrow follows suit with deft glee. The whole book can be seen as an allegory of whatever type of discrimination a person decides to put in. Characters that start off as bigoted and angry discover, once the discrimination is directed at them, that such feelings aren't right, and they grow from it. Without being heavy-handed, Burrow drives his point home on many occasions, most notably of which is at the book's end.
Strengths for The Changed are many. The writing and storytelling are genuinely good, the characters are well developed, and the plot follows a logical pace. Burrow also injects his own sense of humor into many scenes (my favorite being the "changed" pro wrestler that now is sad when the crowd boos his heel character), and does not shy away from the gore, as evidenced in the first scene in the book in which a zombie cow eats a guy's face.
This is Burrow's first novel, but not his first foray into horror. His film Natural Selection (which was renamed Monster Hunter by the Sci-Fi Channel) starred David Carradine in 1999. Keep your eyes open for the next book of Burrow's. He's a writer that will just improve over time.
4 out of 5
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