Book Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead by Don Borchert

by thiszine

THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER AND THE UNDEAD
by Don Borchert

Tor Books
(August 2010, $13.99, 304 pages)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is about a young boy growing up in a small town along the Mississippi River. It’s also the latest novel to be zombified. I’ve amassed so many mash-ups of classical literature and zombie fiction that if future archaeologists ever found my collection…well, the historians would have a field day with the discovery…probably the psychologists too. Some novel hybrids are just the originals with zombies jammed in, while others offer a spectacular blending of genres. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Undead falls somewhere in the middle.

Don Borchert’s take on this classic started out rather boring. The editor’s note, written from the world of the Zum, was extremely hokey, completely unnecessary, and did more harm than good. If a story is interesting, it should not need an explanation of the plot in advance. Read the editor’s note at your own risk; you have been warned.

In the first half of the book, the story follows the original pretty closely with a few minor changes, tailored to fit in the Zum – the name of the zombies that have overrun the United States. For instance, instead of being required to paint the fence white, Aunt Polly tells Tom to sharpen the tops of the fence posts. There was very little mention of Zum, which is a let-down when “undead” is in the title. More attention is given to descriptions of the survival modifications to the village that Tom lives in than the Zum or the infection.

I kept finding excuses to put the book down, and, truthfully, I only continued reading because this book was a gift. I also have a policy of only reviewing books that I’ve read from beginning to end. I was shocked at the difference in the narrative once “Injun Joe” made his entrance into the story: more Zum scenes, plenty of action, and lots of surprises. This novel is the perfect example of why people should read the entire book before they form an opinion. (Or you could just start on page 95.)

Before reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead, Zombiephiles should know:

1) most Zum are mindless shamblers, but there are a few thinking-Zum
2) source of infection is unknown and can be spread to animals
3) headshots don’t necessarily work; burning bodies is necessary

If you like mash-ups between genres or anything to do with zombies, it’s worth reading at least once. If Don Borchert decides to try his hand at The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I hope he works in more Zum hunting.

Ursula K. Raphael

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