Friday, 14 March 2008

‘Happy Hour of the Damned’ – Mark Henry (Kensington Books)


I love zombies but have found the urban fantasy ‘sub-genre’ to be very hit and miss, in what I’ve read so far, so Mark Henry’s debut novel looked to be just what I was looking for. It’s urban fantasy but it’s got zombies in it! Hang on, how much character development and plot can you possibly get out of a shambling corpse? A fair bit actually, if you bend the ‘rules’ a little…
Amanda Feral is an advertising executive in Seattle, she’s also newly undead thanks to the random attentions of a zombie in a lift. This is where the comparisons with your typical ‘Romero’ zombies stop, in Henry’s Seattle there are two ways to become a zombie and Amanda’s route (being breathed on by a ‘zombie maker’) leaves her in full possession of her faculties but with an occasional yearning for human flesh… ‘Undead Seattle’ is a strange but welcoming place and Amanda manages to find herself friends and a social life, she also manages to find herself in a lot of trouble. Just because Amanda has already died once, it doesn’t mean that she wants to die again…
Once I got past the front cover (quite possibly one of the worst I have ever seen!) I found ‘Happy Hour of the Damned’ to be unlike any other ‘urban fantasy’ I’ve read and enjoyed the experience all the more for it. ‘Happy Hour’ doesn’t take itself too seriously and this is apparent in the little ‘footnote asides’ that pepper the text. These give a great insight into Amanda’s character as well as giving the reader an overview of life in ‘Undead Seattle’. Example…

‘Every now and then – and I’ve never done it – a bunch of zombies heads down to the welfare office and picks up some deadbeats for a feast. They set them loose in a fenced off field and have it. Hilarity ensues.’

Amanda isn’t your everyday heroine, not surprising for a zombie who has to be careful not to get hurt (the wounds won’t heal). She is sarcastic and self serving but is always there to help her friends. Much of the story focuses on Amanda’s interactions with her dysfunctional group of friends and it’s this ‘Friends’ vibe that adds a refreshing spin to the detective element of the plot. Imagine Philip Marlowe on the case but a Philip Marlowe who would much rather be drinking cocktails and going shopping. Add a gay vampire (always looking for love) and a zombie best friend (who really doesn’t want to be involved) and you get a good idea of the obstacles in the way of a mystery being solved!
With so much going on, Mark Henry shows real aplomb in keeping the plot quite tight and not going off on tangents. I thought that perhaps things were tied up a little too neatly but that didn’t stop the story itself being absorbing and fun at the same time. The only other thing that really got me was what looked like the author going for the world record for “number of times the word ‘bitch’ is used in a book”. It’s funny a few times but repeated use on practically every single page grew irksome very quickly. Don’t let that stop you reading ‘Happy Hour of the Damned’ though, it didn’t stop me and I’m glad of that. It’s an irreverent and fun read that has got me waiting impatiently for the sequel ‘Road Trip of the Living Dead’…

Eight and a Half out of Ten

Fantasy Book Critic has also read 'Happy Hour of the Damned'. Have a look over
Here for his review and links to a few others!

3 comments:

Robert said...

Graeme, glad you liked the book :) Definitely one of the more original urban fantasy novels I've read. It will be interesting to see if Mark can keep it up in the next one. Anyways, thanks for the linkage and have a great weekend!

Sara said...

Hmm... haven't seen much of zombies so far. Looks like an interesting read!

Sara J.

daydream said...

I love this book! The concept that is, sice I haven't had the pleasure of reading it yet! I want that book!