A gore-filled comedy/horror hybrid about a zombie with Oscar ambitions, Husk isn’t an obvious follow-up to Shelf Monkey, Corey Redekop’s 2007 debut novel about frustrated employees at a big-box bookstore, but both have the same daring energy, the same reluctance to hold anything back.
Husk is actually narrated by a zombie, an aging C-list actor from Toronto named Sheldon Funk. Sheldon dies on his way home from an audition in New York City only to wake up mid-autopsy, his heart already halfway across the room. Disoriented, but otherwise feeling only slightly detached, Sheldon soon realizes that being undead is his ticket to the kind of high-profile career he never had in life.
Redekop’s novel might be the most thorough imagining of zombie physiology in any medium. The author leaves no scenario unexplored: everything from Sheldon’s diet (including his gastrointestinal woes) to his slow decay, muted emotions, and struggle to speak without working lungs is examined in minute detail, often with hilarious results. Given how graphic and disturbing the violence in Husk can be (it is a zombie novel, after all, complete with nods to everyone from Tony Burgess to H.P. Lovecraft), it is surprising that humour is one of the novel’s highlights. Sheldon’s slapstick death in the tiny bathroom of a moving bus is one of the funniest things I’ve read in years.
Despite all the violence and jokes about viscera, what gradually emerges is a tender portrait of a profoundly lonely man who finds love and acceptance only after his body has betrayed him. Husk is a bit overwritten – Redekop deploys many self-consciously clever turns of phrase, which at times are just too much – but it is nevertheless an enormously funny book that has real emotional heft underneath all the blood.