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A Bunny Thing Happened on the Way to the Border

By Gregory Frye.

itcamefromdelrio

It Came From Del Rio, Stephen Graham Jones, Trapdoor Books 2010

This is not your typical bunny-headed zombie novel, and no, I’m not talking about the chupacabras. When I first heard about this book, I thought it would be a crazy slapstick bloodbath. The awesome cover art seemed to confirm these suspicions. While the book is a fun read, it’s also deadly serious. The fact that one of the protagonists is a zombie with a bunny head takes a backseat to what’s really going on here. Stephen Graham Jones has a brought us a book about revenge. And a book about the sacred bond of father-daughter relationships. All of it set in the cruel desert wasteland between Mexico and Texas.

The book is split into two halves. The first half is the first person account of Dodd Raines, professional border mule and probably the best at transporting miscellaneous contraband from one county to the other. Dodd recounts his last border job, one that left him transporting a mysterious cargo – maybe moon rocks – for a boss that will surely kill him if he’s late.

What starts as one last gig so that Dodd can have enough money to hang up his boots and support his daughter, turns into a frantic race against the clock with the starving coyotes tracking his bloody steps, ready to pick his bones clean. Here, Jones writes Dodd into corner, and we watch him try to wiggle his way out. Dodd’s life tinkers on the edge of life and death. He’s spurred on only by thoughts of his young daughter waiting for him in Mexico. And we learn how this whole zombie bunny thing came about for Dodd.

The second half of the book is fourteen years after Dodd’s fated border crossing, and from the point of view of Laurie, Dodd’s grown-up daughter, working as a Border Patrol cop. She has been lead to believe that Dodd is dead, which he is, but has been lied to about how. When her foster father, the dubious Refugio Romo – who is the real reason for Dodd’s epic struggle for survival in the badlands – winds up dead in hotel room, Laurie is caught in the middle of a weird tangle of murders, the culprit supposedly sporting two very tall, pointy ears.

We watch her entire world unfold, and everything she knows about her past, her parents, and about reality is thrown into a high octane mixer, and diced up with large doses of radioactive blood. In the middle of it all, a father-daughter relationship that transcends death, let alone the threat of jail time or an early grave.

Stephen Graham Jones’ newest novel is fun, yes because there is indeed a bunny-headed chupacabra shepherd zombie, but also because he makes it real. He makes it believable. And the tale about what is won and what is lost will gyrate somewhere deep inside you long after finishing the last sentence. You’ll be waiting for the second installment of the Bunnyhead Chronicles. Another reviewer said it, and I’m more than happy to echo him here: Hell Bunny lives!

gregoryfrye

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Gregory Frye is a struggling novelist who quit his newspaper job and moved to Athens, Greece, in 2008.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, November 30th, 2010.