Zombie Baseball Beatdown

Author: Paolo Bacigalupi

Publication: 2013, Little Brown

Pages: 298

Overall Rating: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary: Friends Rabi, Miguel, and Joe literally smell the trouble coming.  The odor from the local meat packing plant is way more foul than usual and the cows are behaving kind of strange.  But that’s nothing compared to seeing their baseball coach wander out of the corn moaning for brains.  Only problem, no one believes them.  So the race is on to prove what Milrow Meats is doing before the zombie plague takes over their entire town.

Age of Main Character: 12

What I Liked the Most: On the surface, this might look like your average B-grade zombie splatter fest.  And it does have its moments of zany mayhem.  The zombies shamble along moaning for “brainssss!” and Rabi and his friends are quick with the one-liners.  They even carry a moaning, decapitated cow head around with them for several chapters.  But the gore is restrained, and Bacigalupi deftly takes the story in some very unusual directions, delving into topics as far ranging racism, immigration, poverty, corporate corruption, and the dangers of factory food.   This is zombie mayhem elevated to hard hitting literature, covering difficult issues in a way that tweens will find easy to relate to, all wrapped up in a package of slightly gory screwball comedy.

What I Liked the Least: My only complaint, and it’s a minor one, was that Milrow Meats felt a bit too over the top in both its corruption and its ability to operate with impunity.  They’d don’t just engage in a food experiment gone wrong, producing tainted zombie cows.  They intentionally corral those cows off, harvest them, and package the meat – knowing full well what the cows are like.  And when it leads to a zombie plague and a lot of deaths, they seem to get off scott-free.  It makes for a fun read, but in an age of endless litigation, where companies are quick to cover their ass, it felt a bit too heavy handed to be real.  Still, that did little to detract from my overall enjoyment of the story.

How Good was the Action?  The action here needs to be put in context.  Bacigalupi has intentionally made his zombies as stereotypical as possible – though I have to admit the zombie cow was a new twist.  And going with that, he’s designed his action scenes to provide zany B-grade fun, rather than adrenaline pumping fear.   Sure there are slightly scary moments, when Rabi falls off a fence into a pen of crazed zombie cows or gets attacked out in the corn by a manic zombie.  But you’re not reading this action for the fear, you’re reading it for the fun, and it provides that in spades.

How Engaging was the Story?  As I said above, the zombie mayhem is really an ingenious cover for Bacigalupi to delve into some hard hitting subjects.  And that means creating a cast of characters we can’t help caring about and really putting the screws to them.  As the book progresses it becomes more about the dangers of being an illegal immigrant in America, about Rabi and Miguel’s battle with a corporate giant intent on silencing them.  Its intense stuff, lightened at just the right times with zombie fun.  And it makes for an excellent read.

Overall Assessment:  A fun, utterly unique take on the zombie novel that combines b-grade comic horror with a hard-hitting inquiry into everything from immigration to corporate greed.

Profanity: None.

Sex: None.

Violence: Reasonably gory for a middle-grade novel.  Zombies get their heads bashed in, munch on cow legs, and try to takes bites out of people, and there are more than a few descriptions of mangled zombies still somehow shuffling around.  But it’s all done with a tongue-in-cheek reverence that keeps it from feeling over the top.

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