The basic premise behind Raymund Hensleyâ€™s Get Kilt is not an unfamiliar one: Scientist tries to improve upon natural processes of life, â€śimprovementâ€ť backfires and creates zombies, gory chaos ensues. Before your â€śbeen there, done thatâ€ť reflex kicks in, though, let me assure you that youâ€™ve certainly never been anywhere quite like the place where Hensleyâ€™s weird wild ride of a short novel will take you.
This take on the zombie genre plays out as if youâ€™re reading it through bizarre-o-vision goggles. The hottest new trend in energy supplements is Kilt, an enormous pill not intended for â€śchildren 79 or younger.â€ť The over-80 crowd gleefully gobble down the pills and find themselves filled with renewed vigorâ€”more so than in their lost youth. Much much more so. In fact, the pills endow the elderly with superhuman strength, leading a newscaster to dub them the â€śsupelderly.â€ť Unfortunately, the supelderly happen to be much more dead than their spritely antics would lead you to believe. And they have a nasty tendency to dismember any non-supelderly with whom they come in contact.
The tale really begins with Janice Altair, a veritable youngster among her peers, at a very spry 80. Despite keeping herself in good shape, both physically and mentally, Janice starts the novel by being checked into a nursing home, where she strikes up a ratherâ€”ahemâ€”intimate relationship with a resident named Jackson Coontang. It quickly becomes apparent that 90-year-old Pepper Annâ€”a reputed witchâ€”is jealous of these developments. Before long, the Kilt hits the fan and supelderly are running around killing and maiming with youthful vigor. I wonâ€™t spoil the plot twists and turns, but I will say that they happen with refreshing rapidity. One of the reasons the book is so short is that events happen quickly. Hensley gets things done and doesnâ€™t throw in a bunch of unnecessary gristle to space out the juicy bites he offers.
If Get Kilt werenâ€™t so twisted and gory, Iâ€™d be tempted to classify its tone as whimsical. But all things continued, Iâ€™d say it more closely resembles whimsicalâ€™s older, darker brother. The one whoâ€™s done a lot of drugs and spends much of his time making strange noises in the basement. There is certainly a good dose of playfulness present â€¦ even if the play at times takes the form of jumping rope with human intestines. Weâ€™re talking about zombies here, guys. What did you expect? A nice polite chess match?
The one thing I feel Get Kilt is missing is a really thorough edit. The narrative voice is divided up among the main characters, who are all ordinary everyday folks, so I can accept a colloquial tone. Where I was put off was when the flow of the language stumbled up against typos and missing words. I wanted to surrender to being at once disturbed and amused by the wacky, bizarre world Hensley created, but I often found myself distracted by the automatic edits my brain kept proposing.
I also feel a certain responsibility to warn you that Get Kilt is not a great pick for a reader who is easily offended. But what it lacks in technical perfection and political correctness it makes up in abundant creativity. Youâ€™ve never read a zombie bookâ€”or any book, for that matterâ€”like this one.