Monday, February 23, 2015

The Inevitability of Zombie Cows

The Ironic Cherry... reads...

My most recent hero is Paolo Bacigalupi.  In January I wrote a review of his newest book, The Doubt Factory, which took on in no uncertain terms the corporate product defense industry, those guys who brought us decades of bought scientists explaining why smoking was not hazardous to our health.  Okay, it wasn't really a review so much as me telling you you have to buy a copy for every young adult you know, and read it yourself before you gift-wrap it.

Well, the good news is, there is a whole backlog of books by this author that I haven't read yet.  And I am on it.

The Doubt Factory is a young adult novel written primarily for high school aged teens.  Zombie Baseball Beatdown is decidedly directed toward middle schoolers.  While there is nary a girl in this story, I am going to say that girls I know wouldn't want to miss it.

Bacigalupi doesn't just get the voice of the characters, adults as well as the kids, he manages to tell a truly comic tale with major serious topics.

The main character is an American of Bengali and German descent, with one best friend a Mexican with undocumented immigrant parents, and another best friend with an alcoholic dad.  The main industry in town is the cattle processing plant, the creepy and oxymoronic "Milrow Meat Solutions."  Foul smells and secrecy, rumors of new types of drugs tested on cattle to fatten them up, and the cover-up that involves deporting attempted whistle-blowers whirl around the lives of the kids who are just trying to play baseball and stay out of the way of the town bullies.

The only place that this plot can logically go is:  zombie cows.

With one hysterical scene after another, Bacigalupi doesn't fail to make the allegory entertaining, but very real.  The USDA and the FDA look the other way, and the sleazy corporate lawyers take care of any annoying problems with the help of the many "farm protection laws" throughout the country.  We know all about the mysterious foodborne illnesses that have become a way of life, and "pink slime" is still around.  So what's not to believe about zombie cows?   

It's a quick and fun read, so after you buy a copy for all the middle schoolers in your life, be sure to give it a read before you wrap it up.

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