"Plague Town: An Ashley Parker Novel" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Titan Books
Written by Dana Fredsti
2012, 368 pages, Fiction
Released on April 3rd, 2012
I hate the saying "you shouldn't judge a book by its cover". In addition to stating the obvious, if a publisher is going for a particular audience, they make it hard not to judge a book by its cover. Plague Town is a good example of this. The art on the front is a lady all prettied up wearing f-me red lipstick, a tight little leather number, gripping a sword and not a hair out of the place as a shambling figure in the background appears to giving her the once over. Couple that with a description that includes "Fatally attracted to her gorgeous instructor...", Plague Town appears to be some sort of tween romance zombie novel. I mentioned as much when I posted the original news for the book's release, to which author Dana Fredsti commented "I hope you enjoy it. Even with the kissing and gooey stuff. :-)". I'm thinking she said that as she knew that the book is far from a Harlequin romance, because it is. Far from.
The book opens with Ashley Parker, who has gone back to college in her late 20s, struggling not to be late to class because she's still recovering from the sickness that's been going around: Walker's Flu. Yeah, you see where this is going. To make a long story short, Walker's Flu pretty much turns people into zombies, and Redwood Grove — the town where Ashley's university is located — is ground zero for this madness. But there's a catch: some people, known as wild cards, are immune to this zombie virus. And not only are they immune, they get bonus prizes like faster healing and a bump in strength and stamina. It's not long before the walking dead are an epidemic in Redwood Grove and Ashley is reluctantly recruited into a shadow branch of the government with some other wild cards to fight the undead threatening to overrun the town. Thus, the party starts.
Contrary to Plague Town's front cover and back description, it is anything but a tween romance for girls. On Fredsti's website it says "Think Buffy meets The Walking Dead..." and that's relatively accurate. But the bonus is that it has more action than season two of The Walking Dead and less romance than an average Buffy / Angel story arc. It also has its fair share of gore and grue, as well as somewhat of an explanation for the zombie outbreak (information many books and movies gloss over).
In addition, there's a fair amount of humor injected into the book via Ashley and some of her cohorts. She is a no-nonsense type of woman and there is very little filter from brain to mouth. Hell, there's just as little filter from brain to fist, as she reacts with her body almost as fast as she does with her voice. One of my favorite parts of the book is when she and her beau (a much younger man than her cougar self) are first attacked by the undead. While he dicks around and tries to comprehend what's going on, she immediately reacts to this zombie threat and takes care of business. This very well could be the 'wild card' aspect of her, but it's nice to see a character act how you would want them to as opposed to doing something completely opposite.
Fredsti also does a pretty good job with the dialog between the characters. It's fun and witty and brought some laughs more than once. But sometimes it seems she is trying to be too hip for her own good, in particular a part where the wild cards are choosing nicknames for one another that just seems so forced and bogs down what is relatively a quick read. Plus, the characters are a bit stereotypical for this type of book, but I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt as I have a feeling there will be more novels in this universe.
Yes, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover because Plague Town wasn't at all what I was expecting based on its presentation. It's unfortunate that the book is obviously marketed to one particular group as it's not fair to either Fredsti or fans of zombie fiction. Plague Town reads as if it is the premiere novel of what will be the adventures of Ashley Parker and her gang of wild cards. It does a good job at introducing the characters and establishing relationships and I really hope that there are more books forthcoming in this series because I'm already looking forward to the next.