Written by Andersen Prunty
Published by: Grindhouse Press
Publication Date: 2010
Format: Black / White – 150 pages
Rarely are readers of horror given the opportunity to laugh while wanting to throw up in their mouths a little bit. “Zombie” fiction (and the term should be used lightly here, as the lumbering corpses are never referred to as capital Zs) tends to lean more towards the horrific and generally contains little, if any, humor, laughs being had in tiny corners of the narrative that only last for a few moments before returning to the nightmare of a tide of mobile cadavers breaking against humanity.
Andersen Prunty’s short novel Morning is Dead is, honestly, more humor than horror, though it has a few moments of intense creepiness that, coupled with the rotating perspectives employed throughout the narrative, work incredibly well. It’s like peanut butter and chocolate, if peanut butter and chocolate were laced with rust, vomit, blood and oozing green radiation byproducts.
Alvin and April blue are seriously estranged. Alvin’s been laid off from his job at the Point, a vaguely sinister plant looming over Dayton, Ohio that seems to employ almost every member of the community; April, a nurse, has been sleeping with a colleague, Dr. Brett Morning. When the novel begins, Morning has been murdered and April injured, supposedly in an attack perpetrated by Alvin, who lays bandaged in a coma in the same hospital where his wife has been working and sleeping around.
As April sits in vigil at the foot of Alvin’s hospital bed, listening to the sounds of the various monitors hooked up to his motionless form and trying to make sense of the senseless, Alvin races through a Dayton of perpetual night, a cracked-mirror reflection of his hometown populated by crooked cops, abortion whores, shambling irradiated corpses with needle tip fingers and a twisted madman named Archer who likes to hunt the “rades” for their explosive pelts.
Morning is Dead contains all of the earmarks of bizarro fiction. It’s funny when it really shouldn’t be, though the laughs are placed deliberately. There’s an element of the nonsensical present, from completely inappropriate sexual situations to characters suddenly becoming way more dangerous than they ought to be. People are given symbolic (Alvin Blue, Benjamin Teats, John Strange) and/or comedically ridiculous names (Officers Fuckpants, Bitchhole and Cuntbanger). Situations that make absolutely no sense are offered up as-is; they just are, and any attempt on the part of the reader to insert logic into them will be met with frustration and failure. Why are the rades’ skins explosive? Why are homes arbitrarily wired up and detonated? Why, in Alvin’s always-night version of Dayton, are most of the people comatose in their beds? Don’t ask, as you will never get a solid reply. Nature and logic have taken a back seat for this one, and they may have fallen asleep back there.
At the end of the book, it’s still impossible to tell for sure how much of the madness is real. It could all be the result of extensive drug use. It could be the demented imaginings of a man deep in psychosis. It could be an honest-to-go mirror universe that sucks people in, chews them up and appropriates their corpses for its own agenda. Nothing is clear and no answers are handed to the reader for easy consumption.
At a fast-paced one hundred and forty-two pages, it probably doesn’t even matter. The story stands on its own, despite the surreal quality of the backdrop; it is what it is, and what it is is fun.
Available at Grindhouse Press