The Zombie Rights Campaign Blog

ZRC Reviews: Helpless

Full disclosure: Helpless is a novel written by Friend of the ZRC Michelle Hartz, who often helpfully supplies us with tips and leads on potential Zombie stories. With that out of the way…

When the Zombie Rights Campaign has business in Southern Illinois or Indiana, we often take a relatively Westerly route, heading down 1-39 to Bloomington-Normal or so; we traveled on this route to the Drunken Zombie Film Festival in Peoria recently. Going that way takes you directly through a decent sized wind farm (which Wikipedia has informed me is the Mendota Hills Wind Farm, in fact).

During the day the farm is a pretty view and a very welcome distraction from the otherwise, and this is being charitable, monotonous, sanity-crushing experience of driving through rural Illinois.

At night, however, it can be pretty spooky, with the tops of the towers often lit up with slowly blinking red lights, large black shapes looming up near the road, moving in relative silence, inaudible over the road sounds.

Why do I bring this up? Well, because now that I’ve read Helpless (available for purchase here on Amazon), I get to worry about a nasty car accident plunging me into a nightmare of carnage and supernatural horror.

Thanks, Michelle.

Before going any further, I’ll give you the approved synopsis in my attempt to avoid excessive spoilers:

After a car accident lands them in the field of a wind farm, 6 strangers split up to look for help. More than willing to assist, what the Helper is offering is not the type of help they are looking for. A chilling and surreal novel by first time author, Michelle Hartz.

Firstly, as to the wisdom of splitting up in any remotely spooky setting, I will quote from ‘How to Survive a Horror Movie’by Seth Grahame-Smith, who later went on to unfortunate Anti-Zombie fame with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Here, however, he is spot on, summarizing the risks of breaking up your group in a horror survival situation. From page 36:

“We can cover more ground if we split up.” You forgot to add ‘with blood’ between ‘ground’ and ‘if’.

That being said, what’s the harm, right? I mean, it’s a wind farm, and as we all know, wind-farms are a green and renewable energy source, critical to someday obtaining independence, first from foreign oil, and then, perhaps, staving off global warming before we all have to grow gills and our lives become a tone-deaf version of Atlantis from Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

Wrong. Windfarms are now a place where you go to die, not a way to keep the lights on.

Thanks again, Michelle.

I won’t go much further into the plot developments, as it’s a short book, an entertaining read, and affordable to boot so your excuses are limited. I do, however, need to discuss an important issue that has been brought to the fore by both this book and our previous review for Slices of Life: workplace conditions for the Differently Animated.

In Slices of Life we saw a lack of empathy for Zombies working in a white-collar environment, and Helpless presents us with the sad example of Differently Animated individuals who, while not Zombies in the conventional sense, are nevertheless most certainly animated in an unusual fashion, toiling in a more blue-collar field. What’s more, their workplace conditions are perhaps the scariest thing in this entire story.

Where, I wonder, is OSHA? Over the course of Helpless the reader sees DA individuals placed in a highly hazardous work environment, full of fast moving cars, dangerous automobile wrecks, highly electrified fencing and so forth, all without proper safety gear and supervision provided, let alone required while on the job.

Compounding the hazards of the workplace is the apparent lack of benefits or even compensation for their labor. I mean, I know it’s a tough economic climate, but surely wages of some sort are required. I don’t think any of the work done in this book qualifies as tip-based, so at a bare minimum, the Differently Animated in this book should be earning $7.25 an hour, yet no mention is made of paying them for their work.

I find that highly suspect.

Is it so much to ask that, after reanimating the recently dead and before sending them out to work, a prospective employer/necromancer/mad scientist/etc first negotiate an Unliving wage, sign an employment contract, perhaps have a rep from HR outline an acceptable health and vacation package?

So in addition to the night terrors that I’ve been led to believe loom along one of our routes to and from, say, The Dark Carnival (located in Michelle Hartz’s own town of Bloomington, Indiana), I have to be concerned that the Differently Animated workers being employed to staff said terrors are being grossly underpaid and subjected to a needlessly dangerous work environment.

I find it distinctly unfair that I am supposed to be terrified of these individuals in the course of their work even as I need to advocate on their behalf for better wages. Maybe it’s time to give that Zombie Unionization idea another crack.

Until that time, the ZRC has reluctantly concluded that it must give Helpless a Zombie Neutral rating, for documenting, but neither condemning nor condoning, the tragic lack of safe and rewarding employment opportunities for the Undead in the 21st Century Economy.

Zombies need good jobs too.  Blast you, Helper!

About The Author

The role of 'Administrator' will be played tonight by John Sears, currently serving as President of The Zombie Rights Campaign.


2 Responses to “ZRC Reviews: Helpless”

  1. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the review!

    Like you said, I refused to give any opinion on the matter, and simply document the conditions that the unknown recently reanimated had to face. While the living were afraid of them, I tried to convey the sadness they felt at their lot in their short, 2nd life. But, I think you could classify their service as slavery, they obviously weren’t paid and did not come by their occupation by choice.

    I agree with the Zombie Neutral rating. And in fact, since my exposure to your fine organization, my opinion of the differently animated has changed. I have another book in the works that I think can be classified as Zombie Friendly, at least that is my goal.

  2. John Sears says:

    We here at the Zombie Rights Campaign are glad to receive your feedback, and happy to hear that our ongoing outreach efforts on behalf of the Differently Animated may soon bear fruit in the form of a truly Zombie Friendly novel.

    Likewise, the important but difficult topic of the enslavement of the Differently Animated deserves exploration in prose, and we felt that your appraisal in Helpless, while naturally harsh and unsparing, was certainly fair game. We definitely look forward to evaluating any of your future Zombie-related fiction.

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