"Zee Bee & Bee (aka Zombie Bed & Breakfast)" Book Review
Written by David James Keaton
2011, 148 pages, Fiction
Released on January 1st, 2012
There's a glorious moment in Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon where all of the feel-good comedy of the first 3/4 of the film is extinguished in a flash and things get real ugly real fast . It's so slick, when you realize what has just happened, you are taken aback. It's a wonderful feeling. Author David James Keaton manages to pull off a very similar thing in his novel Zee Bee & Bee (aka Zombie Bed & Breakfast).
Let's face it, for most men there is nothing exciting about a bed and breakfast. The reason the majority of us go with our significant other is for sex or to avoid an argument (or maybe a little of both). However, I think those of us that have no interest in the traditional bed and breakfast would be all over the one presented in Zee Bee & Bee. Instead of a taste of the country (or whatever the hell is offered outside of a continental breakfast at these places), the B&B in Zee Bee & Bee offers up a chance to hole up for the night in a house while the walking dead outside try to get in and eat you, a la Night of the Living Dead. This is my kind of date.
The employees playing the zombies in Zee Bee & Bee are slackers to nth degree. Instead of doing their job full on, they spend a majority of the book bickering, discussing film (zombie movies, of course), arguing and making fun of one another, the typical things teenagers do without a boss around to supervise. But as night comes and it's time to shamble on to the house for a little meet and greet with the guests, the good-natured banter disappears and is replaced by something far more sinister.
A good author can make a rail-thin plot irrelevant. David James Keaton is good author. Zee Bee & Bee's plot is virtually non-existent. It's a bunch of kids sitting around bitching about their job and discussing the finer points of zombie movies. The only arc is the one that they eventually have to do their jobs and make their way to the house where the customers await. But Keaton doesn't care about all of that ‘need for a plot’ nonsense and just writes incredibly good dialog that sucks you in and keeps you entertained. He throws down a knowledge of zombie film without being annoying and mixes it into the conversations of the characters without it being forced.
Yet even with all of that, where Keaton really shines is the turn towards the end of the novella. There are definitely subtle hints to where this is all leading, so there's no cheat at all when you get there, and in hindsight I should have seen it coming. On some level, I suspect I did, but once I was on the path Keaton so expertly led me to (whether I wanted to be there or not), I was still a little surprised to find myself there. He gently led me from a land of rainbows and unicorns to a world of darkness. It was quick. It was subtle. It was expertly done.
I'm aware I'm being vague on what the ending entails, and that is quite intentional. To spoil this for the unsuspecting reader would be unforgivable. It's not that the ending is twistarrific because I suspected it was coming as the clues are there, so the finale itself should be no surprise. But the darkness that accompanies it is what sells it and elevates Zee Bee & Bee from being just another zombie book. It's almost as if there are two different stories going on in Zee Bee & Bee and both are well worth the read.