Dead Lez Walking - G Benson
I’m usually not one for stories with suspense oozing off the pages, or stories with overt danger oozing off the pages, or horror stories with gore oozing off the pages. But I read Dead Lez Walking and I reevaluated my tolerance for substances that ooze.
Dead Lez Walking runs the gamut of the human experience. The story tag-line is one hospital, one zombie virus, one desperate group, one way out, which is an excellent summary because with that tag-line, the story grabs readers by their healthy, non-zombied hands and drags them through intensity, gore, horror, and stress. There were moments where I read through my fingers.
The story moves at breakneck speed, which is hardly surprising when you’re trying to outrun zombies. Did you know that zombies don’t shuffle? They move rather rapidly. I know this now. Oh, and zombies? They’re greenish and…well, look, I’m not writing a science textbook. (Are zombies in science textbooks?) But Benson’s world-building skills are so good that I’m ready to believe everything she’s written about zombies in this story. The detail is extraordinary. Bloody handprints on the glass. A zombie in stripey socks who keeps turning up on each floor. That last one sounds funny. Ha ha no.
The story is set entirely in a hospital, so that’s not the world-building. The world-building? That’s the virus that starts in a dead body in the morgue. A dead body that reanimates (the greenish, not-shuffling version) and from that moment, it’s a survival of the fittest. Taren, Nat, Joy, Xin, Raj, Scott are our intrepid survivalists who hold off the zombies with makeshift weapons, like fire extinguishers, the poles from saline bag stands, an axe (that scene…), and Joy’s karate skills.
Benson has a way to bend words, to slide them into sentences so that you are right there, experiencing what the character feels, sees, hears, does in a way that is visceral, and so therefore fighting off flesh-eating zombies means that you’re also covered in blood.
Because the characters are all involved in the medical field—surgeon, nurses, residents—medical terminology peppers the text. But Benson has used it cleverly, adding it to the authenticity of the world-building without overwhelming the reader. (They’re overwhelmed enough)
Taren becomes a reluctant leader of the small group, while Nat becomes the enforcer, destroying all comers, even with her own injures. She’s the bad-arse chick. Joy, the fastidious and precise vascular surgeon, demonstrates her precision in other areas, such as a flying head kick followed by a roundhouse heel chop, which, she discovers, is highly effective in halting a zombie.
There are moments of levity, moments of softness between characters, moments of stillness which is appreciated, although it’s very easy to sit with bated breath, wondering how long the stillness will last.
The story reminded me of those escape rooms where you’ve only got a certain amount of time to find the exit. Except in Dead Lez Walking, the escape room is a hospital awash with blood, there is an exit but your obstacles are zombies who really are horrifying, and you don’t receive a certificate at the end, then head off for a latte.
This story is perfectly paced, completely bonkers, and entirely stressful. And it’s fabulous. After reading Dead Lez Walking, I had zombie dreams. I’m not going to call them nightmares because that implies unadulterated fear. See above for sudden acquisition for tolerance of gore. But the tension, which Benson builds and builds to exquisite knife-point perfection, will mean that I’ll be locking in all the spare sessions with my therapist for the next two weeks. And you know what? I’m okay with that because I got to read an amazing book that I adored.