By Corey Redekop
ECW Press, 311 pages, $19
The will to survive is inherent in all, even the undead.
Fredericton-based former Manitoban Cory Redekop takes a twist on the zombie craze with his second novel and first stab at splatterpunk, a gorified version of horror fiction.
Fans of transgressive U.S. writer Chuck Palahniuk or Jerry Stahl's gonzo novel Painkillers -- which theorizes that Nazi physician Josef Mengele is alive and living in San Quentin State Prison -- will appreciate Redekop's dark humour and the wild twists and turns Husk takes.
Husk follows a reanimated cannibal corpse who must find a way to balance his flesh fetish with family and career.
The story starts when Sheldon Funk, a 30-something out-of-work actor, wakes up dead on an autopsy table. Partially gutted and very confused, the undead thespian grabs his organs and gets out, but not before grabbing a quick bite of his dumbfounded dissector.
An insatiable hunger for human meat isn't his only problem -- Funk must also deal with the fact that he's half-exposed and beginning to decompose. Try explaining that to a doctor, especially when you can't talk. A pair of deflated lungs (zombies don't need to breathe) greatly impedes Funk's ability to speak. But after getting the mechanics of respiration down, Funk manages to verbalize, albeit in a tone that could make Satan cringe.
With that, he makes a call, not to his doctor, not to a family member or friend, but his agent. He may be dead, but perhaps he can revive his acting career.
And that's the mangled heart of the matter. Even though he's dead, or at least undead, Funk feels he has something to live for.
It's not even pure selfishness. His mother is in the latter stages of dementia and he wants to move her to a better health-care facility. There's also his pet cat Sofa and a gay lover. Oh right, Funk is a gay zombie.
Throw in the fact that his mom is a Christian fundamentalist who has never accepted his sexual orientation or his career choice and Funk's got a lot on his plate, not to mention the blood thirst and odour issues.
It's got a humanistic side, but Husk is indeed a zombie story and Redekop infuses the strange storyline with sickeningly sweet detail.
"A sucking sound, a boot extracting itself from mud," the former Winnipegger writes, describing the noise Funk hears when his heart is pulled from his body mid-autopsy.
For squeamish folks' sake, further disgusting detail will be omitted, but as much as Redekop's language is intended to shock, it never seems overblown. If anything, it's just thorough. Redekop is telling a story from the zombie's perspective, he needs to be as meticulous as possible or it wouldn't seem real.
Plus, it's super interesting. Who doesn't want to know how the undead defecate?
Indeed, Redekop possesses a black wit, but wit nonetheless, most of it culled from the sheer ridiculousness of the situation at hand.
Jared Story is a Winnipeg freelance writer and standup comedian.