According to Haitian tradition, to create a zombie, a Bokor (sorcerer or witch) needs to revive a dead corpse using necromancy. The zombie then becomes the Bokor’s personal slave with no will of its own. It’s a belief that has roots in traditions brought over by enslaved Africans who believed that Baron Samedi made them from the bodies of those who offended them (although some have suggested that the belief came from the native Taino people). There are also simpler explanations.
Wade Davis, a Harvard Ethnobotanist, has argued that it is possible to turn a living person into a zombie by introducing two special powders into the bloodstream. Combined, the powders could induce a deathlike state in which the will of the person would be subjected to that of the Bokor. This suggestion has been widely criticized, but it’s not the only hypothesis.
There is also a sociological explanation that zombies are actually a case of mistaken identity. Wandering mentally ill strangers were mistakenly assumed by bereaved families to be their loved ones returned from the dead. There are many explanations for zombies. These explanations are thoroughly explored in Wicked Weeds: a Zombie Novel a disappointing disorganized (deliberately) novel about a zombie who seeks to become a living human.
A Zombie with A Quest
“Right off the bat I should clarify that for a zombie, I think I’m doing quite well.”
This book is many things, but mainly it is the diary of a Caribbean Zombie, and his attempt to decipher what it means to be human. Externally, the zombie looks no different from any other living person. He died rich, which meant that his family could buy an expensive coffin. No insects nibbled on his body, he is more or less parasite free, and expensive lotions and fragrances conceal his decay (the living dead are a niche market). He’s still a zombie though, and he knows it.
The zombie had all the time in the world. Therefore, he got degrees in pharmacology and chemistry, and became the executive VP of the R&D division in a pharmaceuticals company. Everyone adores him (but he can’t comprehend affection). With endless money and lots of time, the zombie can now struggle to find a remedy for his condition. He’s going to need help though in understanding humanity; help that the women who work directly under him are desperate to offer.
The zombie’s personal diary though is only one type of chapter in this book. Wicked Weeds also includes excerpts from a detective interview with the women of Laboratory 3: Doctor Issadore Bellamy, Patricia Julia Caceres and Mathilde Alverez. These are the women who are determined to get their manager to notice them as women.
The other two chapter types are Doctor Bellamy’s lab notes on the makeup of zombies, and personal diary. The book itself is her scrapbook. She is the one who decided how to messily divide up the chapters for each part, and she is the one who created a very messy reading experience. It was all her, and not the man who wrote her (insert sarcasm font).
“And so we issue a warning to the diligent reader, the one who will read in rigorous compliance with the page numbers: Your meticulousness and zeal will get you nowhere, for even following that path you will wind up in chaos. And chaos is a dark well where I cannot guarantee you’ll find any comforting notions.”
There is a warning at the beginning of the book. Readers can either read the book in a linear fashion, which is chaotic. Or they can read the chapters according to how the category they are grouped under in the table contents, which is not the way the author intended. Either way, you’re going to lose out.
I chose chaos and read the book in a linear fashion because jumping back and forth to the TOC in a digital book would have been a pain. It was still a pain, but I learned a lot about zombies.
This book provides a lot of information about everything zombie, such as: the chemical makeup of zombie dust, zombies in popular culture, zombie lore, and the ultimate zombie novel (Pinocchio). Most fascinating though, and also most disturbing, was the zombie perspective. Mainly disturbing though.
Our zombie is very much aware of the pleasures of the flesh. He can describe in great detail the food he and his coworkers eat, it’s physical makeup, and what chewing is like. The zombie can also describe, and frequently does, the physical attributes of his female team members. He does so in great detail, repeatedly, and is completely oblivious to what it means.
In doing so, I as the reader am supposed to be enjoying what the zombie is unable to enjoy and experience what the zombie is missing. Except that you can very obviously tell that these scenes were written by a male author who enjoys describing in great detail all the things that a decent human being shouldn’t be staring at, especially if they are a manager. Reading these descriptions made me more than a little uncomfortable.
The book is written from both a male and female perspective. The male perspective is the zombie’s diary and the female perspective is Doctor Bellamy’s diary. Her chapters provided a glimpse of the city/village class divisions of the Dominican Republic. Doctor Bellamy learns the hard way that being part of the village sucks and it’s better to suck it up to impress the rich people who live in the city. It didn’t really work for me.
Her diary is written in the gender-neutral first person, which meant that it took me a while to realize that I was reading something written by a woman. I really thought I was reading the words of a male character, and I think this is because the author doesn’t know how to write women.
Both diaries created a very inauthentic reading experience. That and the deliberately jumbled order of the chapters meant that I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I should. It’s a shame because I felt the book had a lot going for it.
Maybe the author IS a zombie?
The Omer Today is foundation in grandeur. I found neither in this book. The fragmented nature of this book meant that the foundation is deliberately lacking, making the story liable to collapse at the slightest nudge (and it does at the end). Grandeur and zombie culture (in this book) are incompatible as the living dead have no concept of beauty. There is room, of course, for grandeur in a zombie story, as you can write about the swamp, loas Bokors and voodoo, but that isn’t the story I read. I read a rather banal zombie experience, but then again ordinary zombies also deserve a voice.
About The Author
Pedro Cabiya is a poet, screenwriter and award-winning author of the bestselling novels Trance and The Head, as well as the seminal short-story collections Historias tremendas (Pen Club Book of the Year) and Historias atroces. His work has been featured in numerous international anthologies, and his open letters, opinion pieces and essays on politics, religion, human rights, art and science regularly become viral phenomena. He has lived in Spain, the United States, Haiti and Puerto Rico. He currently resides in the Dominican Republic, where he is Dean of Academic Affairs at the American School of Santo Domingo and Senior Producer at Heart of Gold Films. Follow him @Pedro-Cabiya and www.pedrocabiya.com