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Sowmya Rajendran

By Mainak Dhar
Duckbill Books, Chennai, 2012, pp. 248, Rs. 199.00


Reading Zombiestan is like watching a slick Hollywood action thriller that has all the right elements going for it—the ever popular war against terror, a bit of romance, some coming of age, lots of guns, and heroic sacrifice. But despite this predictability, Zombiestan is still edge-of-the-seat stuff. The writing is fast paced, the humour is wry, the one-liners are stylish, and the characters are people you end up rooting for, even if you feel the politics is on shaky ground.   The story begins in Afghanistan, just months after Osama Bin Laden’s death. The Taliban have re-grouped and this time, they have gained access to a very powerful weapon—a deadly cocktail that can turn dead people into zombies! A bite from a zombie can turn a person into a zombie, too! The zombies remember something from their ‘terrorist’ days, so they wear black turbans and say things like ‘Jihhhaad’ and ‘Kaaffrrrr’ in an especially creepy fashion. Thrown into this frightening world are seventeen-year-old Mayukh Ghosh, the son of a cop, David Bremsak, a Navy SEAL, Hina Rahman, an old college professor who also writes corny romance novels, Swati, a schoolgirl, and Abhi, her three-year-old brother. Fate brings these characters together and they must work as a team if they are to survive this apocalypse.   Mainak Dhar is certainly not an author who talks down to the young adult audience. The book has its share of violence, kissing, and expletives. But this, one believes, is its strength—it does not shy away from reality but instead, makes good use of it to provide authenticity to the characters, their motivations, and actions. Even though the theme isn’t new and the plot isn’t anything unheard of, Zombiestan is a definite page-turner. One wishes that there had been less of the machismo though—by the time the book ends, one is led to believe that ‘becoming a man’ involves killing evil forces, rescuing damsels in distress, and becoming a protector of the innocent. Phew. The politics in the book is somewhat problematic as well—it pretty much follows the American war on terror rhetoric, casting the Middle East as a center for terrorist activity without providing sufficient background to the whys and hows behind it all. There is an attempt to do this in the beginning but it is sketchy at best. Perhaps the history would have been distracting in ...

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