Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Last Christmas Gift

This is a review of The Last Christmas Gift by Nathan Shumate. It's an honest review, given in exchange for a free electronic copy of the book.

I wanted more out of The Last Christmas Gift.

Don't get me wrong -- this novella by Nathan Shumate is a wonderfully creepy tale of dead grandfathers, voodoo dolls and about the creepiest zombie I've ever encountered in print (if you think regular zombies are creepy, consider a suspected pedophile zombie as even creepier -- eeeough). it works on the creepy zombie novella level. It could have gone up another notch or two, however -- skipping the notch of mawkish Christmas tales completely -- with a heavier whisper of message (likely not Shumate's goal) that wouldn't even have to be all that Christmassy.

Shumate does have an ear for looking at death through a child's eye. His main character Malcolm reacts to death (he attends a few funerals, lives across the street from a cemetery, has to spend the night with his Grandpap's dead body in the same house) with the same kind of questioning and assumptions I recall from when my grandmother died when I was nine. (In contrast, the passing of my father fifteen years ago brings back memories and feeling that are nothing like what Shumate has Malcolm experience, adding to the veracity of his storytelling.)

What's the more I'm missing? I can't quite put my finger on it, but the books' tone shifts (obviously) at the moment Malcolm's voodoo chant (enabled by instructions found in a doll his father sends from Vietnam) summons the dead from the cemetery across the street. The tale shifts from a bittersweet story of a kid dealing with his grandpap's death do dead grandpap and kid defending the house against zombies (including the aforementioned suspected pedophile). Shumate doesn't get mawkish with sentiment -- but he does so by avoiding the sentiment of a reanimated father figure almost completely in exchange for a pedestrian telling of zombie hijinx.

One question for zombiephiles out there: Does the freshness of a zombie corpse influence behavior? Cause grandpap is grandpap, while everyone else (including grandpap's reanimated wife) is just the typical rotting shuffling zombie, motivated by what I'm not exactly sure, given that I'm not a regular reader of zombie literature nor do I watch zombie movies.

This isn't the first Christmas story to involve the netherworlds -- Dickens' A Christmas Carol certainly comes to mind. But Dickens' wasn't just a spook-fest, either.

No comments: