Review: “Makak” by Edward Lee

2 of 5 stars.

Included in Extreme Zombies edited by Paula Guran, this short story draws on the voodoo/Obeah view of zombies as priest-controlled, reanimated minions. However, I found the depiction of these zombies, both confused and confusing. Indeed, they are dead with many of their internal organs removed and no need for food or sleep. They also seem not to feel pain, as one inadvertently burns its fingers with a cigarette without noticing. However, they feel sexual pleasure, or derive pleasure from the memory of past sexual experiences as they go through the motions of sex. They also have memories and independent thoughts, even rebellious thoughts, though they are unable to resist an order from an Obeah priest. The amount of autonomy and ability enjoyed by the zombies seemed contradictory.

The story is set in the jungles of Peru on a drug plantation. A small-time American drug dealer, Hull, has gone to secure a new supply of cocaine for his business. He is unfamiliar with Obeah and zombies though he notices weirdness that he cannot explain. Hull is not the only narrator, however. Later, the story shifts to a zombie to give a first person POV. This is where I struggled to grasp the parameters of this story’s world-rules. Where does life end? Where does the zombie-life and consciousness begin and end? Where does the influence of the Obeah priest begin? After a lifetime of grotesque sexual abuse, and with considerable independence of thought and action, why would a zombie crave sex to remember what it felt like to be alive?

The story is not too short when it comes to the narrative of Hull. Perhaps it falls too short in defining the fantastical elements surrounding him. He is an outsider and does not need to fully understand what is going on. The change in POV to an insider should have been more illuminating.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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