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3.34  ·  Rating details ·  8,554 ratings  ·  1,248 reviews
Meet Quentin P., the most believably terrifying sexual psychopath and killer ever brought to life in fiction. The author deftly puts you inside the mind of a serial killer--succeeding not in writing about madness, but in writing with the logic of madness.
Paperback, 181 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Plume (first published 1995)
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Giacomo Kyle More or less, but he's crazy so he sometimes refers to himself in third-person.…moreMore or less, but he's crazy so he sometimes refers to himself in third-person.(less)

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Average rating 3.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,554 ratings  ·  1,248 reviews

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Jul 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I HATED this book! It was excellently written and it did what it was supposed to scared the crap out of me. This is a character study of a social deviant. I don't want to spoil this for anyone who reads it, so I won't give away the ending, but definitely not something you read while lying on the beach catching your tan. No escapism here. You come face to face with the evil and cunning of the sociopathic and psychotic mind. Be prepared to bathe in Dettol and then curl up in bed under the ...more
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american
A Meditation on Psycopathy

Oates reminds her readers that there are people who cannot be considered human. They lack something essential, some ‘wetware’ without which they never fit comfortably among others. This implies a scale of humanness. Some are more human than others. This is the implication of Oates’s journey inside the mind of a fictional psychopath.

Psychopathy is not something that any society confronts comfortably. These people are defective, not mad. How can they be identified? By wh
Paul Bryant
Sep 28, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Jeffrey Dahmer fans
Shelves: novels, verysleazyfun
This fairly wretched novel is JCO shooting dead boys in a barrel. I dunno, it seems like taking the easy option to me - you takes your Jeffrey Dahmer (you remember him, he was a lonely boy who wanted a gay sex pet to do his every bidding, and he read a book on brain surgery and he thought that if you drilled the right hole in a man's head it would stop him from realising you were a dangerous psycho and leaving, so he practised on a few guys who unfortunately like died which was not Jeffrey's int ...more
May 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Damn, Joyce, I didn't know you rolled like that. ...more
A ruthless, blindingly-ugly, revealing character study of a sexual psychopath.

Joyce Carol Oates, I now officially forgive you for the tedium of We Were the Mulvaneys. This book was all that Mulvaneys was NOT - brilliantly written, brave, and (maybe most importantly) brief.

It became clear to me after reading this book that Quentin P is based at least loosely on real life serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, which is interesting from a historical perspective. But I enjoyed reading this being clueless abo
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Short, dark, and very scary - like a tipsy 2am Uber ride home that instead drags you into macabre neighborhoods and makes you question exactly what your ultimate payment will be (and maybe whether somebody slipped a touch of rohypnol in your margarita). Things are OFF. Way OFF.

So. You up for being freaked out and mesmerized for 200 pages?? Do yourself a favor and do NOT read the publisher's blurb or other reviews.

I walked into this book entirely blind and assumed because of the title that I'd s
Jim Elkins
How to Avoid Being Bourgeois

This is not terrifying or "monstrous," and it is not a shocking revelation. It does not take us "into the mind of a serial killer." It is not "harrowing," and it's not "disturbing."

It is a strained and earnest attempt to imagine the kind of life that would decisively overturn bourgeois values. But it doesn't do that, because the imagining of the Other is already part of middle-class American life. Even the most surprising lines pale as soon as they're read, because i
Heidi Ward
I generally like Oates's dark fiction (her short stories are particularly good), but I chose not to finish this one. I'd meant to read Zombie for a long time, and was disappointed to find it utterly repulsive when I finally got around to it . . . but not in the way you might imagine.

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I picked up a book told from the POV of a sexually depraved serial killer dabbling in icepick lobotomies. (Browse my library and you'll see it takes a lot more than that
Jonathan Janz
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
It would be wrong to say I enjoyed this one--I didn't. But then again, I wasn't supposed to.

Joyce Carol Oates has created a novel so eerie and unnerving that the words "enjoyment," "escapism," and "entertaining" are totally inapplicable.

But it is a masterfully written tale with the kind of skillfulness you'd expect from Oates, who is a phenomenal writer. I'm not going to write much more about this because I've got other books waiting for me tonight, but what I will say is that you should only
DeAnna Knippling
An unpleasant book, taking you, with absolute lack of Hanniballian romance, into the petty, insignificant mind of a serial killer. The main character only wants to dominate pretty men; he's as cheap and tiresome and disorganized and lame as a middle-aged guy leering at you in a Denny's. To destroy the romance of serial killing: it's like that scene in Sandman where Morpheus takes away the illusions at the "Cereal Convention," only the illusion is actually taken away, not handwaved as one of Morp ...more
Cody | CodysBookshelf
”& ONE TWO THREE hard jolts into the boy’s scrotum & moaning & his own eyes lurching in his head he came, & came, & came. & there was a blackout of how many seconds, or minutes, he did not know. & laying upon the boy shuddering & trying to calm his heart. I love you, don’t make me hurt you. Love love love you!”

Though a dark streak runs through all of Joyce Carol Oates’s work, in Zombie that streak is not a streak at all, but a deep bleeding gash. Oates, with hesitation or remorse, drowns the rea
Gonzalo Urrutia
Aug 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
Man, this book could have been so good. A twisted mind who sees nothing wrong with the horrific acts he's committed and thinking of commit? A Clockwork Orange much? Except it reads so dull, so predictable in its extremely failed attempt at sounding disturbed and evil. I could have loved this book, and I had huge expectations for the author. I worked at a bookstore for five years and I always considered Miss Oates as top-shelf talent. Will not be picking her up anytime soon. ...more
Leah Craig
Well, that was disturbing as hell.
Jun 11, 2010 rated it really liked it

Joyce Carol Oates snared my attention in her old short story, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? In her novel, Zombie, (1995), she writes in a first person narrative of a psychopath who has a crush on various youthful men, and uses devilish means to capture them and use them as sex slaves. In turns, quizzically funny and nasty, the writings are merely scribbles and with various doodles in the borders that take on sinister meanings as you read the story. As a reader I am a little put off
Marie Helene
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Did I did enjoy the book?

Was it unpleasant?

5 stars anyway

Anything else?
Well, I give you Q_ P_’s shopping list:
Scouring powder
Liquid drain cleaner
Steel wool
Ice pick
Silver dentist pick
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-reads
Absolutely chilling and fully realized as a character study, if salacious and a bit gratuitous.
C.J. Sarcasm & Lemons
Read more (

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a bit of an obsession with serial killers. So after a conversation about Jeffrey Dahmer the other day (yes, the glamorous life of a psych grad student), I recalled a former lit professor having mentioned this evilly wonderful novel by Joyce Carol Oates, one of the underappreciated literary greats. The novel’s protagonist happens to be based heavily on Dahmer, who had similar zombie-making inclinations
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, usa
It made me more uncomfortable than anything I've read recently. The first person narration is unnervingly believable; it was not what I might have imagined a serial killer's voice to be, but it is now. A lot of Goodreads reviewers seem to think that great books cannot be this upsetting. While I disagree with that premise and do consider this a very good piece of writing, I can't give it stars. It just isn't shiny.*

*I have since given it stars. Distance helped me heal.
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, horror
Very disturbing, creepy story told from the pov of a psychopath. I've read alot of horror/thrillers and little makes me flinch but a few scenes in this made me cringe! Unusual writing style which added to the story. My first by Joyce Carol Oates and not really what I was expecting and in a good way I disliked it :-) The ending was a bit abrupt. ...more
Leo Robertson
Sep 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Lol the title cleverly references how the author wrote this on autopilot.
This book came to mind today as I was browsing a discussion thread titled, "Do you have to like the narrator to enjoy the book?" Quentin, the decidedly unlikeable narrator of Oates' 1995 novel Zombie, kidnaps young men, holds them captive in his house, and then applies an icepick to their brains in his quest to create the perfect zombie love slave. He isn't particularly adept with the pick. Young men die horribly, and there is a great deal of ugly, violent rape and worse. Quentin also seems to l ...more
Mairéad (is roaming the Undying Lands)
{March 8th, 2015} IM DONE FINALLYYYYY

1.5 stars.

I just can't with this book. It just left me rubbing my eyes wanting to get rid of all the disturbing imagery. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into but not really. Besides the way it was written annoyed me ("and" becoming "&"), the subject matter itself is so surreal. Like you seriously grabbed a serial pedo killer and reached into his/her brain. I don't think I'll ever look at a killer the same way ever again...especially thanks to Quent
Lady Mayfair
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dear Mrs. Oates,

Thank you for achieving with Zombie what Fowles couldn't quite accomplish with The Collector and what Easton Ellis massively failed with American Psycho.

Yours sincerely,
A reader.
Jan 08, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-read
This book made me angry. I understand that Joyce Carol Oates writes books that make you feel like you need a shower, and I was cool with that. I expected it even. What I didn't expect was for this to be written like drivel.

An excerpt.

"Twelve years old & in seventh grade & now I was wearing glasses & long-armed & skinny & hair sprouting under my arms & at my groin & their eyes sliding onto me & even the teachers & in gym class I refused to go through the shower refused to go naked moving through
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Going beyond the psyche of "the monster," Joyce Carol Oates invites herself into the mind of a murderer, thus making him downright human again. A wholly disturbed and unpleasant human, but unmistakably vulnerably sentient nonetheless.

Quentin P. is like any one of us in that sense, at least.

Zombie is a diary of sorts. The owner/writer of this diary is Quentin P. (who frequently refers to himself by initials alone, and to others solely by initials or - in special cases - cutesy nicknames). Those n
This was a quick read, but that would be a strange reason for me not to connect that well with the book, since I've lionized more than a few novellas before, and in fact I've been keen on anthologies lately. The stream-of-consciousness style is not my cup of tea, and since many passages employed it that might be the most likely culprit.

I've enjoyed more than a few works with very graphic gore, redolent with nightmarish visions of torture and corruption, and when done right the experience can tr
Patrick Kelly
Feb 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dark-and-twisted
Not the JCO I remember.
Meet Quentin: a violent serial-rapist/killer and pedophile. Oates places the reader inside the mind of a social deviant, but succeeds only insofar as she shocks. These moments are daring enough to outweigh sudden, dramatic shifts in tone and style, which the narrative occasionally suffers from—switching from pedantic, broken English to deep, allegorical, highly poetic aphorism. The latter would feel more compelling (and authentic) if it didn't arrive at such odds with the
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read_in_english
This is perhaps as disturbing as it gets, while still actually being published by a publisher. Zombie is somewhat reminiscent of The Collector both in regards to the high quality quirky writing and the theme, but without the pretense of civilization and decency. The psycho point of view is just so... Perfect! And having just read one other Oates book before I really had no idea she was an author capable of writing something like this.

Sue Dix
Apr 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am afraid of Joyce Carol Oates. How did she ever think to write such a disturbing story? It's as if we were watching the most frightening Criminal Minds episode exclusively from the point of view of the obviously deranged stalker/serial killer/rapist and could not turn off the television. I am still shivering. And yet, I really liked this book. ...more
Nov 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
Eh. Decent read told from the perspective of a serial killer. Author uses caps a lot to underscore certain points or words, gets annoying after awhile.
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure ...more

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