A review of Tyler Keevil’s “The Herd” in Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction (Exile Editions, 2013).
By Derek Newman-Stille
Tyler Keevil’s “The Herd” reverses the hunter/hunted dynamic in zombie fiction. Zombies, often characterised by their herd mentality in fiction are treated like a herd of prey and hunted by a man who has acquired a taste for human flesh. Keevil mixes the mythology of the Wendigo with that of the zombie, creating a monster who craves human flesh and even inhuman flesh.
Cast from his tribe when starvation forces him to eat human flesh, the hunter finds a place of belonging in the north, characterised by its long periods of hunger and the cold, unmarked landscape that creates a place of moral ambiguity for him. The spread of zombiism makes this northern landscape an ideal place for inhuman acts of violence.
Many zombie tales feature the zombie as fodder for human aggression – a human body that can be killed without any moral consequence and Keevil plays with this genre trope and presents the human (or perceived human) hunter as a monster, a predator with an insatiable hunger much like that of his prey. This equivocation of human (wendigo) and zombie brings the reader into a place of instability between the category of the monster and the human (a category that is often presented in the zombie genre as something that is firm and only passes one way – from human to zombie through infection).
By making the zombie the object of hunger, the food that fuels the desire for consumption instead of the consuming figure, Keevil situates hunger as a human characteristic.
You can explore more about Tyler Keevil’s work at http://www.tylerkeevil.com/
To check out Dead North, visit http://www.amazon.ca/Dead-North-Canadian-Fiction-Anthology/dp/1550963554