Lesser Creatures by Peter Giglio

Lesser Creatures
by Peter Giglio
208 Pages
Published by DarkFuse, November 30, 2013E
Genre: Horror, Zombies

Reviewed by Mark Matthews

Fifteen years. That's how long the dead have walked among the living. But these corpses aren't the feral monsters mankind feared. Instead, known as Second-Lifers, they appear relatively harmless and in need of help, presenting a strain on an already struggling economy and creating a generation with the fewest technological advances in centuries.

But change is coming…

The leader of a burgeoning religion delivers a revelation…a second-lifer is offered a new career…and a down-on-his-luck ad man comes face to face with his painful past. Connected by a haunting, obscure tune from the 1970s, and a bizarre magic few understand, they are all thrust into a dark weekend of the soul, with the very fate of the world hanging in the balance.

In the tradition of Philip K. Dick, Lesser Creatures is a dark, terrifying and sometimes satirical glimpse of a possible near-future, a wicked love letter to a wide-eyed, apocalypse-ready generation. And, perhaps, a wakeup call.


Let me paraphrase Teen Angst by Cracker.
“What the world needs now, is another Zombie novel, like I need a hole in my head.”
‘But this novel is different you,’ say.

That’s what they all say.

Well, the novel “Lesser Creatures” from Peter Giglio by Darkfuse Press is different. In fact, to call it a zombie story really misses the point.

Lesser Creatures is the story of ‘second-lifers.’ Regular folks like you and me who have come back to life, undead, not dead, but not fully living. Unable to talk, certainly disabled a bit, but still alive and reliant upon society to find a place for them. They don’t look like us, smell a bit, require caretaking, and seem strange to the rest of the humans. Well, most of the humans. Some advocate for them, develop religions and followings to serve them (with hidden motivations, of course, which is what makes this cool fiction.)

The result is a social commentary and study in Xenophobia with equal parts empathy to all the players involved in this drama. The characters themselves are distinct and real and sit next to you every day. And they carry on complex relationships that make this a great story without the undead part. The action continually flows. You won’t be bored (well, I wasn’t) you won’t skim. You will believe that zombie fiction isn’t dead, because zombie fiction can be so many things.

What also makes this unique is it is a Zombie/Undead point of view story. I have read snippets of Zombie POV pieces and seen a few films, but this author does a most masterful job of putting the reader into the mind of the undead. It would be easy to miss how good this is.

There isn’t the obligatory zombie gore but there are a few moments of dark humor. Showing the ‘second-lifers’ a classic Romero Zombie movie is against the law, but discussing this becomes almost like the ‘dog whistle’ threat of the non Second-Lifer sympathizers.

Romero or no Romero, these second-lifers won’t stay happy forever. Memories of their past life get in the way, as well as those who want the second-lifers to be what they once were. The second lifers are also consumers, and “what does the undead want?” becomes an ad agencies major concern.

At times, I saw the novel in a “1984” way, where the microcosm of one relationship (Winston and Julia) would make a statement on the larger world around it. A tragic love story. But in the end it didn’t bring the social commentary to a conclusion that satisfied me. It wasn’t so much as the novel doesn’t deliver; it was that I was looking for something different based on my preconceptions. The novel ended as a good thriller would, with gunfire and action and relationships blowing apart. Plus some great twists that brought about cool ethical dilemmas and moral quandaries. Any ending that creates a new beginning is one which I applaud.

This book is ambitious and well-written as one would expect from Darkfuse. I have always stated how Zombie stories are never about the zombies but about how the humans react. In this case, they are about both, and the drama as they interact is what makes Lesser Creatures feed on your interest.

Another paraphrase from Teen Angst by Cracker.

“What the world needs now is a new kind of Zombie Tension, cause the old one just bores me to death.”
The world has it in “Lesser Creatures.” My favorite zombie novel since “The Reapers Are the Angels”

Copy received by request from Netgalley

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Reviewed by Mark Matthews, author of On the Lips of Children.

Mark Matthews has worked in the behavioral health field for nearly 20 years, including psychiatric hospitals, runaway shelters, and substance abuse treatment centers. His first novel, Stray, is based on experiences working in a treatment center with an animal shelter right next door within barking distance. He is an avid runner, and his second novel, The Jade Rabbit, is the story of a woman, adopted from China, who is raised in Detroit and runs marathons to deal with lingering trauma. Both novels have received excellent reviews. "On the Lips of Children" is his first novel with Books of the Dead Press, and is based on a predawn run on a dark San Diego trail just as described in the novel.

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