Fifty shades of brains (BF Dealo)

My first actual “here’s a copy of our book, it’s not released yet, and it’d be great if you could write a review”! I’m pretty excited, to be honest. I’ve felt, recently, that I was rather wasting my time trying to go this. A nice little boost.

Quoting from the official website: “BF Dealeo is a pen name used by two Seattle-based writers who met while studying literature at the University of Washington. One is a father, video gamer, and comics geek. The other has sense enough not to give out any personal information. Between them they have written, co-written, and edited thirteen books plus hundreds of articles and book reviews.”

Oh, and there’s the official site. The book is currently being serialised, but you can grab a copy in paperback or on Amazon (links at the end of the review.)

It is not much of a secret that one of the authors is Gene Ambaum (another pseduonym!), one of the creators of the library-based comic strip, Unshelved. He has definitely branched out, far away from the mild clean humour found in a library!

This is, of course, not the first 50 Shades Of Grey parody. It’s probably not the 101st! The genre is ripe for parody at the moment. There are plenty of people churning out 50 Shades parodies (I’ve skimmed 50 Sheds of Grey, a pithy series of jokes on why men need some spaces for their own). However, there are plenty of people churning out 50 Shades knock-offs. Or perhaps they were always writing them, but now they’ve been given some spotlight. (Is it mummy porn? Is it erotica? I think my preference for the specific sub-genre is ‘clit lit’. I have a terrible weakness for bad puns.)

On the other side of the coin, zombies are in at the moment, at least in the medium of television. I’ve not seen The Walking Dead, but apparently it’s rating its socks off. So, we have the collision of two genres that are currently experiencing a brief moment in the spotlight.

From the outset we are warned that 50 Shades of Brains is filthy and depraved. Like, in the Dedication. No excuses for what is about to follow. It is narrated from a first-person perspective, with frequent lewd, sexual insights direct from the protagonist’s head. We are introduced to Aurora Flyce as she heads out to zombie-infested Seattle to score an interview with Caligula Green. It is five years since the outbreak, and much of society has been reduced to sex for resources, in a most base fashion. The descriptions of Aurora and her room-mate Penelope practising their seduction highlight that this is not a society as we might recognise it.

There are also some wonderfully barbed comments on the city of Seattle and the people of Seattle. The hipster ideals of now have been realised, but not quite in the way the people of Seattle would have hoped.

Mr Green is the consummate zombie slayer, a position that gives him immense power and resources. Much to her surprise, he feels that Aurora would make an excellent slayer too. To her even greater surprise, he refuses to have sex with her. The lurid descriptions of her failed attempts are quite amusing, albeit on the level of watching a train wreck–you know that it’s wrong, but find it impossible to turn away. However, everyone has their motivators, and it is probably unsurprising that a master zombie killer, a man who has spent years trying to understand them, predict them, might need their presence (and, ha, departure) to be aroused. Lurid as an adjective does not even begin to cover it.

And that’s where Albaum and his writing partner succeed. They recognise where the boundary of good taste is, so when they trample past it, they do it decisively. Much of the prose is graphic, lurid, and in terrible taste, which is a large amount of the appeal. As a parody, it doesn’t pull its punches. Oh, I should mention that I’ve not read 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve read plenty of the criticisms of why it is terrible, especially in its inaccurate portrayals of dominating relationships, however, and I know the basic story. (It started as Twilight fanfic, and then the names were changed.) My partner has read the first book, and gave up during the second. Apparently it’s not as bad as us made out, but isn’t particularly good either.

The book is narrated in a present tense, a style that is very … oh, what’s the word, unusual. (The authors call it annoying.) Aurora spends a lot of time channelling her (deep breath), inner drill sergeant, inner sex goddess (eighteen times, I did mention the lurid prose, right?), inner smart ass (twice), inner child (twice), inner timekeeper, inner schoolmarm (thrice), inner lifeguard, inner pals, inner angst-ridden teenager, inner psycho chick (seven times, it goes well with her general personality), inner librarian, inner therapist, inner mathematician, inner non-sequitur, inner exhibitionist, inner fairy godmother, inner fourth grader, inner wimp, inner psychoanalyst, inner absurdist, inner schoolgirl, inner bully, inner heel, inner goddess (apparently distinct to sex goddess, but they seem to be after the same thing), inner negotiator, inner idealist, inner rebel without-a-cause, inner inferiority complex, inner animal whisperer, inner body clock, inner badass, inner elitist, inner math teacher, inner soccer mom, inner gangsta, inner class clown, inner kindergartener, inner grammarian, inner survivalist, inner neurotic, inner zombie hunter, inner megalomaniac, inner perfectionist, inner dominatrix, inner stylist, inner girl with a dragon tattoo. No wonder she is conflicted! There isn’t room inside her for coherent thought!

Is the book any good? Sure, it’s good. It’s in bad taste mainly, it’s snarky, it’s satirical; it’s a parody! If you’re unsure, read the seralisation on the website, but the ebook is worth the few dollars.

(Oh my goodness, I just got the joke with BF Dealo! Ha!)