I like some Zombie novels. I don’t love any of them,mostly because I consider the theme overdone.However, CEMETERY HIGHWAY by Hamish Robert Johnson offers a unique approach to the undead story line, leaving me teetering on the fence between like and love.
Admittedly, I was confused, then curious about how the author would handle a book where each chapter is a first person POV from different characters. Seemed like a lot of head hopping to me but in reality, it was nicely done and offered a wonderful slant on the events through different eyes, as well as breathing life into the characters. There’s no better way to learn about a particular character than through their own thoughts and eyes.
The story follows a group of young people as they try to navigate an emerging new world. The Zombies are now the rich and powerful, the humans relegated to a poor, humbling existence. Yet instead of an overload of gore and violence, Mr. Johnson treats us to humor, coming of age emotions and a sub-plot of good overcoming evil.
I was pleasantly surprised and can honestly recommend CEMETERY HIGHWAY to everyone, not just paranormal or YA fans but readers who enjoy an engaging, character driven story. Did I mention unconventional feel-good endings? Yeah, it’s got one of those, too.
Hamish Robert Johnson
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Number of pages: 187
Cover Artist: D. Thomas Magee
Cemetery Highway is a rollicking tale of fame, friendship and falls from grace, set in a world where zombies are the elite and humans are the underclass.
Best friends Dexter, Michelle, Penny and Cakes have started a group called the Anti Zombie Alliance and plan on sticking it to the zombies once and for all. But when zombie big-wig Max convinces the suave Dexter to trade his standards for stardom, things get ugly.
It is said that becoming a zombie is inevitable. Either we get attacked, or we sell out and take the Package, but sooner or later we all become zombies. I, for one, have never seen the advantage of aligning myself with a large group of any kind, certainly not one hell bent on human cranial carnage.
Sure, they have all the power and wealth, but take a look at their lifestyle. Zombies work 100 hours a week, and yes they do make a lot of money, but what do they spend it on? A nice car that they only use to drive to work, and expensive clothes to wear there. They have no time to enjoy themselves, or their all-important wealth. And they don’t even have love, because a zombie can only have whom he loved in life. To find love after the change had always been considered impossible. Oh, and they eat peoples brains. I tell you, it can really test my faith in the world.
Because of the current economy, more and more humans are taking the Package. This means they sell their humanity to the Zombie Corporation in exchange for zombie wealth and servitude. As a human I’ve always found this to be terribly disappointing, but it is not without its advantages. Current Zombie Corporate standards have put a stop to any unauthorized kills, which means that all kills must be ordered by the King. With the reduced number of savage zombie predators out and about, the streets are safer to walk than ever before, and I have long been an advocate for human safety and self-defense. Which brings me to the start of the story. This is the night when everything changed.
I was out celebrating with my three very best friends. We had been close for so long that I began to wonder if our bond had become more of a habit than anything else. But that’s beside the point. We’d recently formed a group called the Anti- Zombie Alliance, and we were holding our first fundraising event at a cruddy bar in downtown Industry. And I mean maximum cruddiness. There were tacky neon beer advertisements, sticky carpet and a musty smell that clings to you like a stray cat. And I’m told the men’s bathroom was just a trough of ice. Self-flushing maybe? Who knows, some questions a lady knows better than to ask.
I was sitting behind a desk with my best friend and Alliance co-founder, Penny Farthing, handing out brochures and stickers to the guests. The stickers had our name and slogan, “Life, it’s always worth the wait.” We really believed in the cause we were fighting for, because the zombies have had it too good for too long. I didn’t realize it as a kid, or maybe I did and just didn’t see the significance or implications, but they really do own and run EVERYTHING. And they don’t care about us humans at all, so we decided to stand up for ourselves. By we, I mean Penny, her ex-boyfriend Dexter, Cakes, and me. My name is Michelle Fernside and coincidentally enough this night was my 18th birthday.
Dexter was performing on stage as the evening’s musical entertainment. He did kind of a one-man show where he used programmed electronic music on his laptop and played electric guitar and sung over it. He was good, too. We always said that he would make it big if he could just get that all-important break.
Anyway, the guy has charisma, and bags of it. Every time he would spin or shake his hips, which was pretty frequently, all the girls in the crowd would swoon. Myself included. And he kept making eyes at me and smiling while singing his beautiful lyrics. I made eyes right back at him, which made me feel excited and nervous. I was trying to be subtle because I didn’t want to upset Penny, but seriously, Dexter has always been my cup of tea. He had a perfectly tapered short Afro that he combed meticulously, and really took pride in his appearance. I always admired that. Even when he had no money at all, he would buy silk ties from the Salvation Army for next to nothing and wear them in such a way that he would look like he had just taken the Package. But on this night he had no tie to speak of. Actually he was covered with no shirt at all, just sweat dripping over the tattoos on his smooth brown chest. I felt guilty just for looking, but it was a good kind of guilt. Exciting, you know? Like I was getting away with something naughty.
Speaking of naughty, I was surprised to notice that Penny was drinking something other than a soda. “Penny Farthing, what are you drinking?”
“Wine,” she said matter-of-factly. She took another sip then smiled at me. “This is a bar, Mishy.” Of course she was right. I had never been a drinker, but why should I look at my friend differently for doing what one does in such an establishment? “Want a sip?” she asked me. “It’s your birthday,” she said teasingly. I smiled and nodded. She poured me a healthy glass of burgundy liquid and I took my first sip. It was not as acrid as I expected. Quite pleasant, actually. Fruity, in fact.
“How many of these have you had?”
“What? Tonight?” Her giddy laugh indicated that she’s had a few. I took a big swig and Penny topped off my glass. She splashed a bit on the white tablecloth, but it was still the cleanest thing in here.
Penny turned to me and smiled. “I think he likes you.”
I was a bit taken aback. “Really?” I said. “Dexter?” I immediately regretted saying his name, because I was well aware of their romantic history, and the fact that she was not yet over him.
“No, Cakes,” she said without missing a beat.
It had been quite obvious to me for a while that Cakes was into me but I just didn’t feel that way about him. The funny thing is, if he had not been so obviously interested I’m sure I would have liked him more. But the fact that he made it so clear left no mystery for me. No place for my mind to wander, and this girl’s mind loves to wander. And also, I had never really been like that with guys before. I mean, I’d kissed a boy here and there, but it was all very innocent. In those situations I always felt like a kid trying on adulthood and walking around the store to see how it felt, before returning to my natural state. The idea of officially being in a relationship with someone, of having an actual boyfriend made me feel very self-conscious. I guess I was nervous about letting go of the final strands of my childhood.
“Oh, really? Cakes? Does he now?” I said, averting my eyes from Dexter. “Because if you’re not into him,” Penny continued, “I could totally see he and I…” Cakes bumbled over and interrupted.
“I don’t know why he left our band for this,” he said. “This has no chance of going anywhere at all. Right?” He folded his arms, screwed up his nose and watched Dexter’s performance with scrutiny. “Not a chance.”
“I don’t know, Cakes. The girls seem to like it,” Penny said.
“Whatever. Who wants to play for a room full of girls anyway?” Cakes snorted. “Not you, apparently,” I quipped.
Cakes’s real name is Patrick Baker. Dexter used to think it was hilarious to call him Patty Cakes Baker, and over time I guess the name Cakes just stuck. It could have been worse though, he could have been called Patty. Anyway, Cakes was quite good looking, actually. Not handsome per se, but definitely good looking enough to be one of the “other guys”
in a boy band. I always joked that he looked like he’d just fallen out of a cheap fashion catalogue, wet brown floppy hair and all. Why some guys have perpetually wet hair, I’ll never know.
“Wait.” Penny turned to me. “Why did you think I meant Dexter?” I froze, clamped my hands together and looked down at my black kitten heels.
“Oh, no reason.”
About the Author:
I grew up in Melbourne Australia and was fortunate enough to have a relatively unexciting childhood. After high school I attended film school at Deakin University, and while making the requisite pretentious art projects I discovered I had a knack for writing dialogue. In short, I wanted to be the next Quentin Tarantino.
After film school I put my passion asside and began an hilarious and relatively short lived culinary career. Quickly rising up the ranks, I found myself cooking in some of Australia’s finest restaurants and finishing a 3 year apprenticeship in 18 months. It was in these hellish kitchens that I rediscovered my love for quirky, dirty, flirty characters, which again stoked my desire for writing and the arts.
Upon hearing The Strokes for the first time, and with absolutely no preparation whatsoever I moved to New York City in 2003. I was once more surrounded by a bevy of interesting folks, inundating me with stories of hardship, romance and hope. How one cannot find inspiration in this city was beyond me. What was also beyond me was the ability to generate an income, so I hopped on the Greyhound with the little money I had left and got as far away as I could.
Austin Texas was my next port of call. Upon arriving I had a mere $40 to my name, but coupled with the attitude of a fearless traveler I was invincible. I quickly finagled a job, a room in a Revenge of the Nerds style college housing situation and the prominent position as lead guitarist in The Handsome Charlies.
I wouldn’t say I was a great guitarist, but I certainly knew how to act like one, and as we were sharing bills with The Black Angels and Ghostland Observatory I could be excused for thinking that I too would make it. But after a particularly ghastly SXSW performance I found myself standing in the parking lot listening to The Strokes perform “Is this it?” across the road. “No it is not”, I answered, and declared that I would return to writing and not continue to get distracted by flashier pursuits.
I commenced writing screenplays, pilots and web series like a madman and have not slowed down since. I now have multiple screenplays in various stages of development, and have completed my first novel. And I am here to stay!