The zombie apocalypse has already taken place, and now the rest of the world is trying to deal with the fallout. Thousands of the dead have risen, and every month thousands more crawl out of their graves. Shambling, mostly mindless and completely harmless, the risen dead still need food and shelter, straining the world’s economy as countries are burdened with more and more mouths to feed. And anyone who tries to kill a Second Lifer (the PC term) is killed horribly by a force as mysterious as the one that reanimates the dead in the first place.
Sounds like a pretty fascinating idea for a book, doesn’t it? Well too bad, because all of that is just background noise to a completely different story. Lesser Creatures tells us of a doomed love drawn out by a magical power that’s annoyingly unexplained. The main character is a bored advertising executive who comes across as instantly unlikable, and yet who we’re supposed to sympathize with for most of the book. Eric Cooper jumps from a near mid-life crisis to a kind of reawakening, followed by a shock that makes him almost hit rock bottom, just before he and his mother rediscover their compassion for Eric’s deceased father in time for Eric to bond with a zombie-who’s-more-than-a-zombie for reasons that are never clarified. There’s also a two-dimensional scheming CEO and a priest who’s operating under the best intentions but who may be completely unhinged. Other than the very beginning, the very ending, and a couple of bit parts, the risen dead are no more of an element here than a bad thunderstorm taking place in another city. There were times when I wanted to shake the characters and yell, “Damn you, what did you do with my zombie story?!”