The premise is this: zombies have been walking around for fifteen years. They’re called second-lifers and are protected from harm by a series of civil rights legislation efforts prompted in part by a new-age pastor named Stephen Lingk who sees them as something remarkable with hidden meanings for human life. Little does the world know that Lingk has a special interest in protecting the zombies – his high school sweetheart has become one and he wants to keep her “around. There is lots of talk about magic (Stephen and his love may have had something about the rising of the dead) and ‘the curse’ (if you kill a zombie you are in big trouble – you become one), but these elements are kept off-stage – a smart move by Mr. Giglio. He doesn’t have to explain all of this stuff. Meantime, Pastor Stephen conducts some wacky experiments to try and communicate with the undead girlfriend (and if you have read any horror novels at all, you know these types of shenanigans can’t end well).
Anyhow, the undead don’t really give a hoot because they don’t do anything except drain the resources of the country. They only eat fast food, and whiskey is the only drink that keeps them calm. Unlike all other zombies, Giglio’s creations are not violent. So, what do we do to keep these zombies happy? New ones join the ranks of the undead all of the time. All human efforts to figure this out have been rather unsuccessful. Fast food sales are flat, and there has to be a better way to make money on these things. Someone has a bright idea to recruit and hire a fairly bright (for a zombie, anyway) second-lifer to be part of an advertising team within a multimillion dollar advertising agency. The only problem is that the second-lifer named Monika is the former fiancée of one of the lead team members on the account. Monika and Eric (the advertising exec) had been in an auto accident a few years before. She died, he was severely injured. The long and short of this is that Eric understandably takes a hit to his mental health, the pastor begins have his own psychiatric problems – and the whole zombie thing goes terribly awry.
The advertising agency-zombie storyline is actually quite fun. Mr. Giglio makes it convincing, and the plot has a number of twists. There is one passage where Eric and his mother go to visit her parents (Eric’s grandparents) - who are second lifers – at their assisted living home. Yes, you read that correctly, this is an assisted living facility for zombies. The entire section is both hilarious and creepy at the same time, and well worth the price of admission. Overall, the narrative kept me rolling along because this zombie spin is pretty unique.
While the plot is a winner, the characterizations were often one dimensional. None of the folks had any redeeming values or depth. In fact, Eric is supposed to be in his forties, but he thinks and acts like a guy who is twenty. The pastor is portrayed as a lunatic, and not someone who could have created this huge zombie ministry. The women don’t come off well either, they are either zombie-ish or bitchy.
In the end, Lesser Creatures is a fun, quick read provided you can live with non-characterizations. Then again, this is a zombie novella, so maybe having characters that are not quite alive is okay. 3.5-4.0 stars.