Kim Paffenroth’s Orpheus and the Pearl

This is a zombie tale, no doubt about it. But it is also an unconventional approach to the genre. There are no menacing hordes to fight, no gore, no bloodshed. Gorehounds may be a little put off with that. Enough reviewers have spoken of the zombie renaissance of the past few years that I don’t need to go over that ground again. Suffice it to say that we’ve seen zombies in many permutations now. We’ve seen them as the backdrop for survival horror. We’ve seen them as metaphors for the social ills of modern America. We’ve seem them as comedy and agents of the apocalypse. But I guarantee you you have not seen zombies like the one in Orpheus and the Pearl.

This is a quiet tale, but one that runs deep. Going through it, I found myself enjoying the story for its wonderful gothic elements. There are echoes of Jane Eyre and Frankenstein and Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” and yet it always retains its own clear voice. Paffenroth’s version of the madwoman in the attic is harrowing. It is a short book, and it is played by a small cast, but it is a big story. If you are a fan of the zombie genre, this is a must read because it takes you far afield of what you’ve read before. If you are a fan of the gothic, you will find yourself making wonderful new connections to old favorites. I loved this book. I bet you will too. One thing for sure, you will never hear the phrase “milk bath” again without thinking of a certain scene from this book.

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