hi every1 im new!!!!!!! holds up spork my name is katy but u can call me t3h PeNgU1N oF d00m!!!!!!!! lol…as u can see im very random!!!!
There’s an old xkcd comic where writer Randall Munroe theorizes that the supposedly “random” things that Internet culture finds hilarious — e.g.: pirate zombie ninja monkey penguin!!! etc. — can be explained entirely in terms of metrical feet: every damn one of them is a trochee, which if you slept through English class, is a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable (PI-rate, ZOM-bie, etc.). Ignoring for a moment that probably half the nouns in English are trochees, this actually sort-of makes sense. English is naturally iambic (unstressed-stressed), so reversing this has an “unsettling” effect, and — depending on how they’re handled — unsettling things are either funny or frightening (or both). It’s why Poe wrote “The Raven” in trochees, and it’s why all five lines in a limerick open with trochees. And apparently, it’s why everyone on the Internet thinks pirates and zombies are hilarious.
Given this, it was only a matter of time before my generation — the Lazy, Entitled Millennials™, the first to be raised on the Internet — grew up, started writing books, and started inserting pirates and zombies into them in an attempt to be hilarious. And since there’s already a pirate version of the Bible — one that launched an entire religion, no less — it was inevitable that we would get a zombie Bible as well. The potential should be obvious: think of how different the Bible would be if all the characters were zombies!
Unfortunately, the answer turns out to be: hardly different at all.
The new, undead Bible is C.T. Casberg’s self-published Genesis of the Dead, although technically it should be titled Genesis and Half of Exodus of the Dead, since the narrative it follows goes from Creation all the way up to the giving of the Ten Commandments. At that point, it just sort of…ends, strongly hinting at the possibility of a sequel. By then, we’ve been treated to the essential narrative of the first book-and-a-half of the Torah, with one major difference: the blight of sin is reimagined as a zombie plague. And…that’s pretty much it.
While the initial scene of Casberg’s characters eating the Forbidden Fruit and slowly realizing they’ve become undead is amusing, it soon becomes clear that he hasn’t put much thought into where to take the story from there. By the end of the second chapter, I realized that I had already forgotten the characters were zombies. Excepting the occasional aside about a character’s finger falling off and needing to be duct-taped back on (duct tape, another trochee, is a recurring motif in the book), their undead nature made no difference at all in the storyline. Casberg’s characters simply don’t behave like zombies: they’re not immortal, they don’t hunger for human flesh, and they seem perfectly rational and verbose.
All of this might make me seem like a nitpicking zombie-obsessive getting into a fight on a message board about how the monsters in 28 Days Later aren’t, like, real zombies, man, but that’s not it at all (actually, my horror genre of preference is ghosts, not zombies). The problem here is that Casberg is selling the book as “The Bible, but with zombies,” and if the zombies make no difference to the storyline, that’s actually a huge structural problem, somewhat akin to selling me rocky road ice cream that tastes exactly like your vanilla. (If it were a videogame, they’d call it a re-skin.)
At this point you might be wondering what else Casberg fills the gaps in his book with, if not an endless stream of zombie jokes; the answer is “other jokes.” Genesis of the Dead’s sense of humor is approximately 10% Monty Python, 10% old LucasArts adventure games, and 80% straight Internet-flavored “randomness.” Why does Abraham farm giant squirrels (trochee!)? Why does Jacob’s uncle play the banjo (trochee!)? Why is the sixth plague of Egypt hemorrhoids (trochee!)? Duh, because “random” stuff is funny.
I don’t want to sell the book’s humor short. The jokes hit more often than they miss, and in fact I found myself laughing out loud at Genesis of the Dead many times (the book’s biggest strength is its sly pop culture allusions, which are dropped into the dialogue so subtly that a fandom could easily arise around simply hunting down every last one of them). Even at their best though, most are just what that old episode of South Park would call “manatee gags”: random stuff dropped into an incongruous space for no clear reason beyond “Wouldn’t it be funny if…?”
In that sense, Genesis of the Dead is less “the Bible but with zombies” than it is “the Bible but with jokes” — sort of like that similarly-pointless musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. (Why would Pharaoh be an Elvis impersonator? Why would you put “Technicolor” in the title of a play? Because, rAnDoM!) And like Joseph, the jokes too often are mere distractions from what already is — and always has been — a rich and irresistible story.
This is particularly frustrating since the first chapter is so promising. Rather than slavishly recounting the Biblical story of the Fall, Casberg plays around with it, setting it in a populous, science-fiction city and offering a quasi-scientific explanation for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Similarly, his “Adam” character is a janitor named Todd who engages in a long philosophical discourse with Satan before eating the fruit. The chapter is a tease, though — starting with Noah in Chapter 2, Casberg seems content to retell the Biblical stories as written, simply painted over with a thin coat of jokiness. At that point, the book immediately starts to drag.
There are certainly good moments, and Casberg shows a lot of promise as a writer (his gift for description is formidable). Ironically, though, most of the book’s best moments are also its most serious. Genesis‘s forays into theological pontification are well-studied and thought-provoking (if somewhat predictable in their evangelical talking points), and the final chapter concludes with an awe-filled description of God that nearly brought me to my knees. It was these moments that kept me reading throughout the book, and it’s because of them that I’d be willing to pick up a sequel — though I think Casberg’s talent would be put to better use on something less “lol so rAnDoM” and more original.
You can buy Genesis of the Dead here.
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