The Z Word

Sometimes, a breakup can feel like the end of the world. Lindsay King-Miller's The Z Word asks, what if it was? It's Pride month in San Lazaro, Ariz., and the heat is on, both inside the house party and out. Wendy is doing what she can to stand back on her own two feet after separating from Leah, a fixture in the queer community. The night after the John Hughes-like party, Wendy finds herself smack dab in the middle of a catastrophe: a zombie outbreak. Flesh-eating monsters, dangerous political agendas, and side eyes from her ex all stand in her way. Will she be able to persevere?

King-Miller (Ask a Queer Chick) writes an exhilarating, grotesque romp of a horror show, suffusing the 1980s frenetic pacing of an awkward rom-com with that decade's penchant for intense and gross-out body horror. Some of the dialogue feels ripped right from a George A. Romero film, as when one character declares, "I'm into peaceful coexistence," and another replies, "Okay... but this bitch wants to coexist his teeth into your spleen."

The novel isn't just endlessly entertaining. King-Miller's depiction of Wendy and Leah's breakup and the tension that comes from it is poignant and sympathetic, giving her apocalyptic story a beating, bloody heart. As in all good horror, King-Miller puts eyes on the social ramifications of the body politic. She looks at the co-opting of the LGBTQ+ movement by businesses as Pride becomes more profitable, which infuses The Z Word with delicious and relevant context. --Dominic Charles Howarth, book manager, Book + Bottle

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