Angel A Rivera’s La rabia útil de los muertos (una novella de zombis), adds an original dimension to the tried and true formula of the un-dead hungering after human brains. In this slim novel, Rivera proposes the timely notion that our own consumption of fast food is in itself monstrous and thus we should not be surprised why our flesh, chock full of preservatives and chemicals, is so appetizing to these post-apocalyptic fiends.
It is hard to innovate within the genre of zombie fiction, but the ways in which Rivera imagines humans stumbling upon mechanisms to both domesticate and co-exist with the mindless un-dead are fundamentally related to his critique of the Standard American Diet. In its embrace of domesticating, or even enslaving, these neutralized but stil supernumerary creatures, La rabia útil de los muertos most closely approximates the symbiosis imagined by Shaun of the Dead.
It’s depiction of the decimation that a virus such as the one unleashed in partner university labs in both Puerto Rico and in Connecticut is remarkably effective. Rivera provides sufficient details about his secondary characters that their deaths are not only frightening to read about, but also stir the emotions. . Not since the Syfy show Helix has the geographical isolation of the island of Puerto Rico been imagined as both an ideal laboratory space and an inescapable death trap; the same dynamic holds true in this narrative.
To analyze the connection between the novel and the fast food industry in more detail than I have done here would be to engage in major spoilers, and I will not stoop to do that. I will only say that it did make me think twice about how to feed my family when I’m pressed for time.
The novel is only available in its original Spanish. I highly recommend it for zombie-lovers who are either fluent in Spanish or who want to practice their language skills. Be prepared to look up Puerto Rican slang. It’s well plotted, the action is nicely paced, and there are a few surprises I won’t even mention that will make this a rewarding read.
Rivera, Angel A. La rabia útil de los muertos (una novella de zombis). San Juan, Puerto Rico: Disonante, 2016. 152 pp.