Reviewed by: Dr. Wesley Britton
The title of Zombie Turkeys signals this urban fantasy is intended to be entertaining, not to be taken seriously, and likely a comic romp. You can guess there’s lots of clever twists in the story, and happily the execution is more than what readers might expect.
The yarn is fast-moving from start to finish, opening with the first attack of carnivorous red-eyed wild turkeys very difficult to kill. They can quickly resurrect after death and grow back cut-off limbs. They’re led by a tom full of confidence as Zach gives us this tom’s perspectives from time to time as he builds his flock into the tens of thousands throughout Illinois and beyond.
On the trail of the killer swarm is Sam Melvin, investigative reporter for the small-town Illinois Midley Beacon newspaper and blog edited by his future wife, Lisa. She’s motivated to put her paper on the map and exploits the invasion by selling turkey traps, turkey t-shirts, inedible turkey sausages, and ad space on the paper’s YouTube channel where she posts Sam’s videos. Along the way, as Sam recounts his adventures, we get some obvious jokes. We hear choirs of “Gobble, gobble” when the flock goes after the “predators”—mostly we humans. Humans are literally hen-pecked to death. When we hear cries of “The zombie turkeys are coming, the zombie turkeys are coming!,” the reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is more than obvious.
As the setting expands, we encounter some very strange groups. They include the heavily-armed and very secretive Organic Turkey Farmers network of survivalists. PETA shows up at law enforcement press conferences protesting the “inhumane,” aggressive means needed to kill the murderous turkeys like flame-throwers and chainsaws. There’s the Zombie Widows Help Association created for the survivors of turkey attacks who offer advice on how families can gather for Thanksgiving during the carnage across Illinois. When the flock begins to invade Chicago, Second Amendment advocates press Mayor Rob Emmanuel for a loosening of gun control measures. Even President Obama has several cameos, including an aborted Thanksgiving dinner in the city. Perhaps strangest of all is the battle at Soldiers Field where the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers, and a stadium of armed fans take on a horde of relentless turkeys.
Obviously, looking for clear explanations for why all this is happening is way beside the point. We learn about a Turkey Institute who discover where the infectious bacteria came from and how simple salt water is the needed cure. We hear about the Journal of Turkey Medicine where scientific reports are published. Are there really that many turkeys in Illinois? Hundreds of thousands? Maybe so, but again, making real world connections is way beside the point. After all, here’s how the author describes himself:
Andy Zach was born Anastasius Zacharias, in Greece. His parents were both zombies. Growing up, he loved animals of all kinds. After moving to the United States as a child, in high school he won a science fair by bringing toads back from suspended animation. Before turning to fiction, Andy published his PhD thesis "Methods of Revivification for Various Species of the Kingdom Animalia" in the prestigious JAPM, Journal of Paranormal Medicine. Andy, in addition to being the foremost expert on paranormal animals, enjoys breeding phoenixes. He lives in Illinois with his five phoenixes.
I’m not certain, but Promotions for the urban fantasy seem to include fake online news reports, like an article on zombie turkey attacks posted at Weekly World News, “The World's Only Reliable News.” Other online notices for Zombie Turkey games and pranks go back to 2010, so I don’t know which came first—the turkey book or a very different creative egg. Not surprisingly, during a perhaps overlong denouement in the novel, we see the seeds for a sequel, Zombie USA. Don’t put those flamethrowers and chain-saws away just yet--
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Jan. 10, 2016 at: