The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead
by Mark Twain & Don Borchert
Cover Artist: Frank Stockton
Review by Harriet Klausner
Tor Books Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765327291
Date: 03 August 2010 List Price $13.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
When Tom Sawyer was just a lad, a plague spread across the land turning the dead into mindless zombies who can only can be laid to their final rest by decapitation or a bullet into their brain. Like anything else, people got used to them; so for instance Tom and his Aunt Polly go about their normal everyday businesses, but remain vigilant and always prepared to kill a Zum (southernism for zombies).
Tom is happy go lucky boy who believes rules were never intended for him. He gets into a lot of mischief and is punished for misbehavior, but always turns it into a profit. For instance in a classic case of cause and effect, he was punished for a misdeed by having to sharpen the top of the wooden picket fence as an anti-zombie terrorist measure; but Tom conned his friends into the doing the labor.
He has had plenty of adventures; some causing his Aunt and the townsfolk grief. The word spreads that he died, but rumors of his death prove exaggerated although he fails to correct the belief; he feels remorse later. In that particular adventure he, Huck and their friend play pirate on a nearby island. They stay for days and the neighbors thought they died. When they dramatically return home, everyone is euphoric welcoming them back from the "dead". They have other escapades that include witnessing a murder, finding lost treasure, and getting lost in a cave with Becky Thatcher and the Zum serial killer Injun' Joe.
This is a humorous historical urban fantasy that uses the prime cast and story line of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer but adds a Zum spin to the classic. All the key characters are fleshed out, but Tom with all his adventures and the Undead Injun' Joe with all his murdering Zombie style own the plot as the reader anticipates the confrontation. Don Borchert retains the originality of the protagonist who is inconsiderate of others except when it comes to daring heroic deeds; this combination makes Tom irresistible.
This guy-lit thriller is beguiling as the villagers keep on living their normal lifestyles but with caution. They stay alert for an occasional Zum infestation that requires extermination. The young see the Zum as bogeymen as they rarely show up, but when they do most are ready to kick zombie butt (actually brain). Although the Zum are only a part of the overall plot, Zombie lovers who enjoyed either Jane Austen's zombie killer tales (by Seth Grahame-Smith and Steve Hockensmith respectively) or W. Bill Czolgosz’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim will appreciate this lighthearted two Zum-up farce.