Zombie novels. These days, I can’t seem to go more than a few days without reading of a new zombie-related story. They seem to be popping up like blow flies on a corpse.
Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. But over the last few years I’ve read quite a few and usually it’s the stories that involve humor, politics, or families that work best for me.
So where does Plague Town by Dana Fredsti fall in the spectrum? Imagine if the youth, sarcasm and pop-culture-infused banter of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was thrust into a zombie apocalypse and you get a pretty good feel for this one. Though Fredsti was fond of a few descriptive phrases that appeared multiple times in the book and the story was a bit predictable, I found it to be a quick, enjoyable read and I’m curious where the story goes from here.
What’s it about? Ashley Parker is a bit of a perpetual college student at Big Red in Redwood Grove, working on a degree and spending time with her boyfriend. A nasty flu has been going around campus lately, but beyond that it’s been pretty normal.
Normal until walking corpses interrupt the couple’s picnic in the woods anyway. When they run from the shuffling dead who want to feast on their flesh, they don’t get far before she’s overwhelmed by a pack of the foul creatures.
When she wakes up, she’s in a hospital room and is told that she is a “Wild Card” – immune to the zombie virus and with better-than-average strength, reflexes, and senses. And she’s not alone.
There are other wild cards and she gets recruited into a strange paramilitary organization that has known that zombies exist for years. Can they take back the campus and then all of Redwood Grove? Or will the zombies break containment and spread the undead plague like wildfire?
The “Buffy” comparison is quite apt, with a collection of misfit characters learning to deal with their new jobs and each other. Not everyone gets along, but if they’re to survive, they’re going to have to make it work somehow. And through it all there’s plenty of irreverent witty banter.
Fredsti’s style is fresh and fun – a bit like Madeline Roux’s book Sadie Walker is Stranded, with plenty of snarky comments and pop culture references. For instance, when Ashley meets the General in charge of the operation… “Striding into the room, he came straight out of one of Syfy Channel’s ‘original’ movies. The ones where a cast of assorted sexy twenty-somethings get stuck on an island, forced to battle a giant snake, tarantula, or alligator created by science gone terribly wrong. Racing against the clock because some military dude wants to blow up the evidence.”
I laughed out loud when I read it because it’s such a sarcastic observation of the Saturday Syfy Channel movies and yet very true at the same time.
But I did find her writing to be a bit repetitive in places, like when she’s describing a foggy scene. She liked to refer to the “blue backlighting” as the only thing missing from “the kind of fog filmmakers conjure up by using machines.” That phrasing appeared in a few places I found. And though it might be an apt description, I would have rather she found other ways to describe the fog’s eerie nature.
Ultimately I found Ashley to be a great protagonist and will be curious to see where Fredsti takes her in the next book published by Titan Books. If you like your zombies slow and your banter witty, I think you’ll enjoy Plague Town!
For more about Dana Fredsti, check out her website.