Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Reviews: "Plague Town" and "Plague Nation" by Dana Fredsti

As if I weren't already in love with the zombie genre, along comes author Dana Fredsti with her Z-apocalypse book Plague Town and its sequel Plague Nation. Everything I have loved about zombies and the horror genre in general is in these two books - the pace goes at lightning speed; the action is exciting and balls-out gory; the story has depth and room to grow; and the main character Ashley Parker is an ass-kicking smart aleck. She's definitely the kind of woman I would want to be in a zombie apocalypse. Fans who read these books really are in for a treat, as I think they were written by a true fan of genre, and for true fans of the genre.

So the main story is something like this: Ashley Parker attends college in the small town of Redwood Grove, which has recently seen its citizens be plagued by a particularly nasty virus called Walker's flu. One night while out with her boyfriend, Ashley is attacked and bitten by zombies. After being hastily whisked away by scary military types, Ashley awakens in a secret lab under the college and finds out that she is one of few people that are immune to the zombie plague and is a "wild card." Wild cards enjoy such perks as rapid healing power, and increased senses and strength. Ashley and several other wild cards are given zombie-killing training and work with a paramilitary group to control the hordes of the walking dead, while professors and doctors work on finding a cure.

Author Dana Fredsti
But that's really just the beginning of the story. Just from the escalation of the titles from "Town" to "Nation," the search for the truth in this zombie apocalypse is not over and I think Fredsti has more surprises - and more zombie fun - in store for readers. And speaking of just who should be reading all this zombie awesomeness, I must say do not be fooled by the book cover like I was! Something about it to me screamed "annoying YA zombie book" when I first took the books out of the envelope but I was so wrong. These books are definitely more adult and actually seemed to be geared exactly for, well... me! What a stroke of luck.

The main character is, as aforementioned, 29-year-old Ashley Parker. She is an independent and strong-willed young woman, with a razor sharp wit and a take-no-shit attitude. I love that Fredsti chose to make Ashley a bit older than the usual college kids that show up in these stories. Ashley is already a divorcee who at almost 30 is going back to school because she doesn't really know what to do with her life. I don't think there is any shortage of people like that nowadays, so Ashley is somebody that many can relate to. It also doesn't really seem like she is going to have much of an arc as a character though because she has obviously discovered and accepted who she is already, and is not somebody that is all that changed by the zombie apocalypse. She just kind of adapted to it. Still, aside from her sometimes annoying cockiness and wanting to always be right, Ashley has a caring side to her which she shows in her relationships with several of the other characters. And of course, her kick-assedness in killing zombies with a katana sword is really cool.

Fredsti's zombies are your typical shambling, rotting flesh-eaters that are killed by damage to the brain, so there's really nothing new there. The interesting part of Fredsti's zombie story comes not from the zombies themselves but from the survivors. Along with the wild cards - who to me are just like Alices from Resident Evil - there is another way to be affected by the zombie bite in this world. Two characters in the novels are sort of halfway between zombie and human, and the scene where this is revealed with the character of Jake is a most disturbing and disgusting one. Very, very creepy, and I'm now really interested to read the next book in the series to see just what Fredsti does with these mutants and what it does to the story.

I say that these books were written by a horror fan, for horror fans, and the evidence of this rampant in both books is the constant pop culture references. And honestly, there were times when I completely loved that aspect of the writing, and there were times when it was a little annoying. I love it when books or movies mention other real media because it brings the story to our world, and not just the self-imposed shell created by the author or filmmaker. This is how real people think, and how they talk to each other - they mention movies and throw out notable quotes to each other.

Did I mention that the author was in Army of Darkness?!
In Plague Town and Plague Nation, though, something like this happens a few times in almost every chapter. Again, I liked it to a point because I (sadly) got most of the references and because they were references that my mind would probably make in the situation as well - but I can see how it might just be too much for some readers. References to Buffy, Evil Dead, Twilight, the SyFy Channel, of course The Walking Dead, and other random movies and TV shows are the kind of things that fans can relate to and enjoy but not to the point where you feel like the author is beating you over the head with it, or possibly just trying to show off her own knowledge. I don't like it when something like that is thrown into a particular scene in a book sometimes because it makes the reader's mind (or at least mine) go to the referenced movie instead of staying in the story of the book, where it should be.

All that being said though, I really can't say that I didn't smile ear to ear when Fredsti threw in a little story about two lovers who met at a horror convention while dressed like characters from Firefly, or mentions the movie Outbreak near the beginning of Plague Town. Making movie-inspired connections like that is just how I think and Fredsti was somehow able to tap into that. Again, I'm pretty sure she wrote this book just for me. Thank you, Dana!

I don't know if Plague Town/Nation will be hardcore enough for some zombie or horror fans, but to me it was almost perfect. There's plenty of gruesomely gore-geous descriptions of zombie attacks; there's tons of humor (when exactly did zombies get to be so funny, anyway); there's a good story and mystery that still has to be resolved; and there's plenty of different kinds of characters that anyone could relate to or at least like (my vote for best character so far is the guy with the ultimate "nerd house" that the team runs into). Zombie fans, rejoice! There is obviously still plenty of talent out there to bring new and spunky life to our favorite brain-eaters, and Dana Fredsti is one of them!

1 comment:

  1. In appreciation of your great work, and awesome site, I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Click the link to see what you need to do in order to accept it. No worries if you don’t accept it!