Mixing a geek-friendly genre like science fiction with a sport of any kind is not something you see every day. Luckily, for those of us who love books, Paolo Bacigalupi is not the kind of writer who comes around every day. He has won tons of awards, including the prestigious Hugo and Nebula Awards, among others, and seems to be totally incapable of writing a novel that isn't COMPLETELY AWESOME. This is definitely the case once again in Zombie Baseball Beatdown.
This is Bacigalupi's fourth full-length novel, and third for intended primarily for young adults. Even if baseball isn't a particular interest of yours, Zombie Baseball Beatdown still has a lot to love for anyone who just digs YA sci-fi.
On the surface, Zombie Baseball Beatdown is enjoyable as a simple action novel that happens to feature three young boys beating the crap out of zombies with baseball bats. Beyond the pure escapism is a really dense novel with a lot of important messages and morals that somehow don't distract from the fun.
The best novels always have something to say beyond just entertaining the reader, and Zombie Baseball Beatdown does that in spades. The source of the zombie outbreak in the novel is contaminated meat, as a factory farm that raises cattle has gone a bit too far with antibiotics, GMOs, chemical additives, and other generally shady stuff used to fattening up their cows quickly to sell them for bigger profits. Mutations occur, and things get crazy. It definitely makes you think about what you're putting in your stomach.
Even beyond the clear message about the dangers of contaminated and unregulated food sources, there's a lot to be said in Zombie Baseball Beatdown about the prejudices that certain sections of white America have toward minority groups. One of the main characters, Miguel, has to deal with the fact that his hard-working family employed by Milrow Meats, the cause of the catastrophe, are deported. The narrator and main hero of the story, Rabi, is from a perfectly legal family, but is treated by far too many people as "not a true American" because of his Indian ancestry. Even if this isn't a topic you've thought too much about before, hopefully Zombie Baseball Beatdown is the kind of book that can make you think about the big pictures of how we treat our food and how we treat other people.
As said in the introduction, Paolo Bacigalupi can essentially do no wrong. Everything he writes has fresh ideas, great prose, believable characters, important messages, and strong dialogue. If your pet peeve is unbelievable interaction between characters, there's nothing to fear here. Bacigalupi is as solid a writer as there is, and Zombie Baseball Beatdown is just another must-read book by a writer that is getting more impressive by the year.
Have you had a chance to read the best zombie baseball book ever?