Plague World: What constitutes a ‘good’ book ending?

tackyIn August, author Dana Fredsti released Plague World, the third and final novel in her Ashley Parker girl-kicks-zombie-butt series. Years ago, the first book, Plague Town, caught me by surprise as I wasn’t expecting something so good — Resident Evil novelizations have taught me that zombie fiction is usually kind of corny, while The Walking Dead comics and countless movies about the undead have convinced me that any visual probably suits the genre best.

Thankfully, I was wrong, and the Ashley Parker series is as good or better than any zombie movie (although it’s still a little corny, in a good, fully-conscious-of-its-corniness way of course).

Still, as much as I love Fredsti’s writing, I was a teensy bit hard on the second book, Plague Nation. I was worried that — with the zombie outbreak spreading so fast and then going airborne — maybe this thing was getting too out of hand for her or any of the characters to manage.

I didn’t know it then, but that was kind of the point.

plague town

Not everyone was happy about the trilogy’s ending. One reader on Goodreads left a one-star review (warning: it’s here, but spoilers!) and asked, “How on earth is that conceivably a good ending? An appropriate one? I … I can’t even … I’m so pissed off I wasted all this time just to end up with THAT! […] I will NEVER recommend this series to anyone (even my enemies) again. It was that wrong. If I could go back in time and unread the Ashley Parker series I would.”

So, yeah, strong reaction.

Let me first say that, without revealing any specific details, I thought Dana Fredsti did a beautiful job on the ending to Plague World. So big hint here: Somebody dies. Was I shocked by what happened? Yes. Was I OK with this death? Not so much, and I can understand why someone else might outraged.

But was it a good ending? Yes, yes, yes — because first, it was indeed “appropriate.” OK, minor spoilers here, but not really: It’s an apocalypse. People tend to die. Secondly, the ending wasn’t good because the characters died or lived. It was good because it was believable. I was expecting Fredsti to try to find a way to “resolve” the huge Zombie problem with a capital Z, but that wasn’t giving her enough credit. Would we be able to fix something like that in real life with a wink and two swings of a paragraph? No, I don’t think so. The consequences of a catastrophe that huge would last a long time.

I understand the reviewer’s disappointment. I even understand her anger. But to say that the ending wasn’t worth the journey because you disagreed with it — well, that’s like saying your whole life is shit just because something bad happens. And, hey, we all totally do that sometimes. I’m as guilty as anyone. But you’re going to drive yourself crazy unless you realize that you got some good stuff out of the experience, too, and maybe you learned something, and that has to be enough. Life isn’t fair, and frankly, the author doesn’t owe you anything — except maybe a conclusion to all hanging plot threads (which Fredsti addressed). Be happy you got a third book at all.

Take The Hunger Games, for example. I love that trilogy. But hell if I don’t think Mockingjay is the biggest insult to Katniss and readers everywhere. Do I hate it so much that I wish Collins had never even bothered, or that I hadn’t read a single word? No. Because the story wasn’t a waste. It provided me with some entertainment for a while, and I got to disappear into a world and become close to imaginary characters that mean so much to readers that they might as well be real. It’s the mark of a good author when you give a shit what happens to a character. If you’re angry or sad or scared or even happy — the author has done her job.

So if Fredsti made that reviewer that upset, she obviously wrote some good characters because the reader was attached to them. But to wish you had never picked up those books and met those characters is like saying you wished you had never met Dumbledore or — hell — anyone in real life. Because we all die sometime. And we’re all worth knowing, for however long or short of a time that we’re here.

Grade: B

Ask an author: 5 horror novels everyone should read

I Am Legend cover

Halloween may be over, but that doesn’t mean the scares have to end. One of my favorite authors, Dana Fredsti (writer of excellent zombie novels Plague Town and Plague Nation), shared with me a few of her favorite scary books — and answered a very important question about the genre itself. Because who would know horror better than a horror author?

How many of these have you read?


What are some of your personal favorite horror books that you wish everyone would read?

Haunting of Hill HouseThis is such a tough question for me because I love so many books for so many reasons, and I could spend hours and much of your blog space writing an endless list. I feel guilty when I leave anything off! But I’ll content myself with a sampling of some of my favorites and go with the ones that spring to mind first:

The Shining by Stephen King — One of the first books that scared me when I read it, and this was during the daytime. We’re talking skin-crawling, don’t-look-under-the-bed type shivers. I can’t say that about many books or movies, so no wonder The Shining popped into mind first!

Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson — One of the best haunted house stories ever written (and the film adaptation — the original; not more recent CGI crapfest — remains the scariest movie ever made without a hint of gore), and it stands the test of time.

DraculaWhere the Chill Waits by T. Chris Martindale — This book prompted me to write my first ever fan letter to the author. An excellent and creepy novel about the wendigo, a flesh-eating Ojibwa demon that either drives its victims insane and infects them with a craving for human flesh or just eats ’em.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson — The story of the sole survivor of a plague that turns its victims into vampires, this novel spawned three film adaptations (Last Man on Earth, Omega Man, and I Am Legend) and inspired George Romero’s classic movie Night of the Living Dead.

Dracula by Bram Stoker — It’s a classic for a reason. I read it once a year starting when I was 10 years old.

There. Start with those, and when you’re done, come back and I’ll have more for ya!

Why should people who enjoy a good scare or horror movie try picking up a horror book instead?

The human imagination can conjure up more horrific and subtle scares and images than any film can do for us. When you read a well-written horror novel or story, your mind does so much more work to scare you than any movie can do, especially in this age of CGI, when it’s so easy to tell something is fake. Reading sparks the imagination in a way that no film can ever hope to emulate.


Thanks, Dana! Be sure to check out her books, Plague Town and Plague Nation (they’re both so good!). She’s currently working on the third in her Ashley Parker series, Plague World.