Tuesday, November 8, 2011

FIXI #8: Zombijaya

I don't know if it's ironic, a curse or just plain coincidence, but it would appear that the last time I had trouble getting online, and going through cabin fever as a result from it, it was also around the same time I got my hands on the first three FIXI books. Well guess what, about two days after I got my hands on the latest book from FIXI called Zombijaya, something happened to my modem and once again, I got disconnected from the rest of the world.

Yea yea I know what you're thinking. "Why not just go outside? Embrace reality for once, Mamü!" Well, taking a page from Inception [2010], the internet is now my reality, and I'm sure it's the same with you lot, so spare me the judgemental looks, will ya? But it would appear that my time out wasn't altogether a bad thing. I got some things done, and that includes the time well spent reading Adib Zaini's Zombijaya.

Not pictured are MJ Woo, who came up with the premise, and the illustrator, Ho Sui-Jon...
Zombijaya tells the tale of an ensemble cast of characters doing everyday things, just trying to live through life the way society had determined it. There's a couple who are about to get married, an educator who's about to embark on her career as a teacher, an aspiring stand-up comedian, and a slacker (or a Mat Rempit to be more precise). Whatever they are, and whatever that they want to be, it all matters not when the society as they know it crumbles at the hands of humanity's latest pandemic; Zombiefication...? Plague of the Zombies...? The Zombie Pandemic?

That reminds me, is there a universally-recognised term for that whole thing with zombies invading the planet? (Edit: It's Zombie Apocalypse, duh! Thank you for reminding me, TJ!)

Well, I don't know about that. But if you're wondering what would be the Malaysian term for it, wonder no more because I think 'Zombijaya' pretty much captured it. I know it sounds kind of positive, and it almost has that Utopian vibe to it, but that's precisely the reason why I think it's really apt. After all, you do realise how we as Malaysians like to give great names to the most mundane things? Or how much we are a slave to appearances?

But of course, that is just the icing on the cake. Or should I say intestines on the brain? *Badum Tish*... Err, because you know... It's a book about zombies? And uhh... Zombies like to eat brains and intestines? Never mind.

Speaking of appearances, I wanted this to be the cover... But great work anyway, Sui-Jon!
There are a couple of ways you can approach the story. You can choose to look at it as a straightforward story about a group of survivors trying to make it through this post-apocalyptic world. If so, you will follow the main protagonist Nipis, an uncouth, chain-smoking Mat Rempit (is there another kind, anyway?) with an aversion to cellphones, who would later become the reluctant hero for the people he inadvertently rescues. It's an entertaining enough story to be taken as it is, but I would recommend you to go up a couple of levels just so you can get the full experience.

For me, it kind of occurred to me that it can also be a a thinly-veiled social commentary about how we are all actually zombies even without all that business with zombie pandemics? If you look at it this way, then another theme pops up, one that deals with the concept of Nihilism. We go about doing what makes sense to us, some even think that whatever we pursue is going to last forever. It doesn't even have to be zombies. Just look at other natural disasters like that big-time earthquake in Japan. You might have heard of it.

When something like that comes along, do you really think it matters how much money you have in the bank? Would you really give a rat's anus about how good you look on camera (yes, I'm looking at you, camwhores), or how awesome your blog is? *cough*

Author Adib Zaini in his interview with BFM 89.9... You can listen to it here.
But I'm probably straying too far in the bleak department. Zombijaya is actually a funny book, all the things I mentioned up there was just to illustrate how story balances humour and that sense of urgency to the plot. If there's anything I wish the author could have added, it would be something specific to the Malaysian culture, and how it would fare in the events of a zombie pandemic.

I'm not really sure how that would work, but on top of my head, perhaps there could have been a herd of Bangladeshi zombies in bright-coloured shirts and pants, holding hands with each other as they pursue our protagonists? Yeap, you Malaysians know what I'm talking about, right? Or maybe a recurring zombie police escort to a zombified politician who's always late for something? But of course, that last one is merely an idea and I don't know how it would have contributed to the overall story.

For me, much of the humour came from pop culture references and how the people turned into zombies in the most inconvenient moments. Like how a pilot became a zombie mid-flight? I had a good laugh with that mental image.

And my personal favourite, the zombie ass-bite...
Aside from all that, I have little else to say, in fear of giving too much details away. But I will say this though, I'm an avid fan of the zombie genre, and I liked how Zombijaya stayed within familiar territory without being a carbon-copy of other works from the same genre. It doesn't take itself much too seriously, the pages are accompanied by illustrations that adds to the feel and atmosphere of the book, and it was just fun to read.

Plus, by the time you get to the end, you will get the feeling that there is more to the story than what ended up in the book, like it was all only the beginning. I don't know if it was intended, but I sense that there could a Zombijaya II with Nipis now possessing some kind of a superhero power?


TJ said...

"That reminds me, is there a universally-recognised term for that whole thing with zombies invading the planet?"

Zombie Apocalypse. You of all people should know!

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

*smack forehead*
Darn, you're right!! How did that ever escape me... Guess I forgot that I actually knew.

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