A Review of Corey Redekop’s Husk (ECW Press, 2012)
By Derek Newman-Stille
Corey Redekop’s Husk is a visceral, body novel with philosophical ponderings on existence. Redekop’s protagonist is a queer-oriented zombie actor, trapped in consciousness as his body deteriorates around him. The reader is put into the position of experiencing death and resurrection into a desiccated body and Redekop captures the feel of that experience – the emotional, physical, and psychological upheaval that would accompany the shift into a new form of bodily existence. His zombie protagonist, Sheldon, pines over the simple things that his body used to be able to do like sneezing, breathing, and yawning and he becomes obsessed with these lost experiences and the feeling that they were linked to his human experience.
Sheldon is a zombie, an Other, who pines for and grieves for his humanity. He fights the sociopathic impulse to feed on friends and family and the dissociation from the human experience that comes with his new state of being and the switch to viewing human beings as food. He struggles to make connections with others despite the rise in hunger when he approaches human contact. He has to re-train his mind and body to adapt to this new existence – to the loss of human contact and to the deterioration of his body.
As a horror actor, he is met with the idea that identity can be performed. Even on a Reality TV show, he is asked to perform his queer identity for an audience, play it up so that the audience can see that he fits with their stereotypes. But, his new body and change in existence forces him to come to terms with reality and see the falseness of social performance. Despite having to play human and adapt to human customs (and the little taboo against cannibalism), he sees existence more clearly. He watches as his agent spin doctors his zombieism into a sensationalist sales experience, marketing him for the masses, and sees the hollowness of that performance and that she is perhaps more sociopathic in her desire to make money and gain power than he is in his desire for human flesh.
Despite the deeper philosophical implications of exploring the mind and the body as a site of the mind as well, Corey Redekop infuses his work with humour, recognising the interrelationship of horror and humour, the little bubbles of laughter that arise when one is truly terrified, and the exaggeration of emotional experience that comes when one faces true horror. The horror of the novel amplifies its humour and the humour of the novel boosts the feeling of fear and revulsion.
The underlying horror that Corey Redekop evokes in this novel is not the fear of being consumed by the zombie (as is often the case with many zombie books and films), but rather the existential questions – the fear of being trapped in a state of awareness within a rotting body, being disembodied from consciousness and having no way to interact with the world around you.
To read more about Corey Redekop, you can visit his website at http://www.coreyredekop.ca/ . To get a copy of Husk for yourself, visit ECW press at http://www.ecwpress.com/