Kiss and kill: a review of Plague Nation

Plague NationLet me introduce you to Dana Fredsti, the creator of a smart zombie meta-fiction meets steamy gore-stained-clothes-be-damned romance called Plague Nation. It’s the sequel to Plague Town (here’s my review), which was my favorite book from last year. I thought a zombie novelization would be stupid. I was dead wrong.

Now, I love zombie movies. It’s easy to react to the horror of blood and guts when it’s splattering all over the screen. Reading about it is less visceral, in theory anyway. But Fredsti knows how to squeeze words for all their disgusting worth, and she even establishes a community with fellow film aficionados by playing off famous movies through her characters — mostly an elite class of virus-resistant fighters called the DZN, who have received a top-notch zombie education in order to do their job: picking the streets clean of flesh-hungry walkers. So they cite zombie flicks a lot. Gotta have some fun amidst all the depressing carnage, right?

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Your life is so over: a review of Zombie Blondes

But somehow, it feels different. Everything in Maplecrest feels different.

Zombie Blondes by Brian JamesI went into Zombie Blondes (2010) by Brian James hoping for a fun spin on high school drama. All those oh-so-perfect popular kids … what if they’re really zombies? What poetic justice that would be. It sounded like a light read and a good break for the winter. But what I ended up with was a lot more brainless than I expected.

The book is all about Hannah — Hannah, Hannah, Hannah. She’s just about the most selfish and unsympathetic teenage character you can happen upon. She’s moody to her father, rude to her friends (and might-be friends), and self-pitying even when things are going her way. I know the author was probably trying to make these qualities endearing — a grumpy but lovable misfit who just wants to fit in — but on Hannah, they’re ugly colors.

She’s the new girl in school, and the closest person she has to a friend is Lukas. She flips back and forth from liking him (and calling him cute) to badmouthing him in private and calling him crazy and a freak. Her mixed signals are confusing and annoying. Poor Lukas puts up with all her crap, and even when he gets mad at her and keeps his distance, he winds up forgiving her and suffering more of her insults.

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Update time! I’m now community manager for Z.

Hey, everyone!

If you’re big into zombies, love anything card or board game related, or are passionate about comics and cosplay, please take a moment to check out Z. — a digital trading card game on Kickstarter. Think of it as Magic: The Gathering meets The Walking Dead. I’m involved with the project as community manager, so we have 25 days and counting to make this thing happen!

We need to spread the word as much as possible, so if you could pass the link around or post an announcement on your blog, we’d appreciate every bit of help! You can also contact me exclusively at stephanie.carmichael@downwardviral.com for pics and more info.

If you’re interested in contributing to the cause, donating will get you tons of goodies (including a limited box edition). You can learn more about the rewards on our Kickstarter page.

Be sure to tell all the zombie lovers you know! And remember: Keep those shotguns handy.

Want to know more? Glad you asked!

  • Choose your side: zombies or survivors?
  • Original photography and gruesome horror effects used for every card
  • MMO-esque equipment sets, progressive card bonuses, and killstreaks!
  • An episodic story using live-action cutscenes produced by the team behind the Left 4 Dead short film
  • Created with gamers, for gamers! Get in on the dev process and vote on new cards and features, or be a card yourself!
  • LOTS of guest characters, with Tex Murphy already being announced as the first!
  • We’re doing one major update a day, showing off the different aspects of the game and Kickstarter process
  • Tons of swag for backers, including a collectors edition boxed set that is exclusive to this Kickstarter campaign!

The best zombies of the season: a review of Plague Town

“But all you need to remember is that both Ripley and the cat survive.”

You know those books that grip you with a good story and refuse to let you do anything short of devour it? Few manage to truly and honestly marry me to their pages regardless of their literary merit or how well they’re written. Plague Town is one of those books, and not only is the prose good, but it’s seasoned with a dash of steamy romance and an excellent sense of originality and pacing. In other words, it survives the zombie apocalypse in style.

Plague Town, by Dana Fredsti (@zhadi1), is a zom-rom-com-dram (yeah, I totally just coined that). Translation? It’s a zombie romantic comedy/drama, and you’ll want to read it in as few sittings as possible. Seriously, this book pulled me in hard like a ravenous zombie.

Fredsti (as you’ll learn tomorrow, when I post a special interview with the author) is no stranger to zombie fiction or pop culture, and she infuses that knowledge into her story every step of the way. She has an enviable knack for precise and energetic writing, and she builds characters very well. So well, in fact, that Lily (one of the best in the book) became the little sister I never had. That’s how vividly I could imagine her character.

The author also knows sex—and it shows. The romantic involvement in the book does take a backseat to the zombie invasion, but when it’s pushed to the forefront, it’s not cheesy or tacky or embarrassing. It’s honest-to-goodness sex, and Fredsti writes it like a pro.

But back to the pop culture familiarity. Fredsti never skips a beat, constantly making fun references to actual horror lore through the eyes of her quirky main character, Ashley Parker (who is awesome, and not just because she’s a girl). The world knows about zombies the same way we do, and when the outbreak happens, this little detail spares the reader from the downtime of exposition—the kind that drags its feet as slowly as the zombies do.

(Fredsti even throws in a subtle nod to Max Brooks’ World War Z with the occasional mention of “zeds.”)

Because so much already exists as groundwork, the story is more believable and appreciable as an addition to the media’s ongoing fascination with zombies—from The Walking Dead on AMC and in comics to video games (Yakuza: Dead Souls is a recent goodie) and countless movies, etc. etc. Plague Town uses them all as a stepping stone to a greater telling because it acknowledges and at times incorporates their own contributions.

Plague Town unravels military secrets and pours on the blood, just like you’d expect. It also compensates for why some people (I can’t help but think Resident Evil here) can withstand zombie attacks without actually turning. The book answers mystery this with “wild cards”: humans like Ashley with an immunity to the zombie virus, giving them enhanced abilities and a better chance at survival after their resistance is activated by an otherwise deadly zombie bite. Of course, they’re still prone to death by mauling, but otherwise they can take all the nips and bloody goo that might come their way.

All while reading this, I thought how awesome it would be if Fredsti expanded the book into a series. Because I couldn’t get enough of it or her writing, and it’s not often that I’d commit to a sequel immediately after finishing a book. But guess what? Two more books, Plague Nation and Plague World, are forthcoming.

Hell. Yes.

*Plague Town will be available starting April 3. Thanks to Titan Books for the advanced copy! Stay tuned tomorrow for my interview with author Dana Fredsti.