Thursday, March 13, 2008

J Robert Lennon's "Zombie Dan" (short story, science fiction: Is he a zombie, or is he a superman?

Quote from short story titled Zombie Dan by J Robert LennonThis is actually a bit longish - may be novelette length. I didn't do word count.

Story addresses dark subjects, but often in a light way - sometimes even in humorous ways. And there is liberal sex talk - not too much, but enough to annoy some; take care before looking it up.

Story summary.

Technology has recently become available to revive the dead - at least some of the dead. "To be eligible for revivification, you had to die a certain way. Drowning was the best. Suffocation. Anything that resulted in a minimum of the harm to the body, other than it's being dead. Freezing wasn't too bad, & a gunshot wound, if tidy, could be worked around. Electrocution was pushing it, as was poisoning. Car crash, cancer, decapitation, old age? Right out."

Only catch is - it's very expensive procedure, & available at very few places.

Zombie is a popular term applied to them; hence "Zombie Dan". Also because they never quite get the motor control right.

This is the story of Daniel "Dan" Larsen, 25, who died after falling off a yacht. Or rather, of his revival using this procedure. He had been dead 6 months.

His mom, Ruth, has enlisted the support of several of his childhood friends (including narrator) for the procedure. You see, after revival, you need to remind the patient of old times - for his memory to return (haven't we seen this in several movies?).

But the revived ones ("rivivs") "were definitely not quite right". They also came back very dumb - or rather, childish. Like truthfully telling, in front of a lot of people, that one of them once stole something. This is made even more complex because Dan now has telepathic ability - he can read other people's thoughts! Of course, people are uncomfortable around them.

Most of the humorous portions relate to this aspect of Dan's revival. In the background, we keep learning bits about various characters' past - pieces of memory long forgotten - the kind that is best left forgotten.

In the end, his mother is so fed up, she considers him a monster: "that thing is not my son... It is a monster, & it must be stopped. It can read my thoughts. It remembers things about me that I worked very, very hard to forget." Also, "It's true about zombies, you know. They do eat brains... Their souls are gone, so they want yours, & mine. They can steal them, right through thin air."

And hires narrator to kill her son!! Only, Dan can read the thoughts! Narrator will be disarmed on entry to Dan's apartment, & told this is not the first time Dan's mother has tried it. And Dan will learn something about his own past - read by Dan from his long forgotten subconscious. We clearly know Dan is not evil.

Fact sheet.

"Zombie Dan", short story, review
First published: Playboy magazine, March 2007.
Rating: B
All stories from Playboy magazine.