Tuesday, 16 December 2008

‘Road Trip of the Living Dead’ – Mark Henry (Kensington Books)


In a complete change of plan to what I had originally intended I decided, the other day, to concentrate on trying to get some shorter books read and reviewed before I head off to see the in-laws for Christmas. ‘The Hero of Ages’ is proving to be tough to get into (as well as falling into the ‘awkward to read on the tube’ trap) and I wanted to keep things moving on here... Looking over the ‘to be read’ pile I noticed an advance copy of Mark Henry’s forthcoming sequel to ‘Happy Hour of the Dammed’ that looked just the right size for me to be tackling right now. If this wasn’t enough to get me to pick it up I’d also enjoyed reading the first book so I thought I’d be in for a bit of a treat. As it turned out, ‘Road Trip of the Living Dead’ wasn’t quite the treat I’d been expecting but it still went down very well indeed...

When zombie socialite Amanda Feral gets the news that her elderly mother is in the last stages of a terminal illness her first reaction to head over to the hospital and see if she can help nature take its course. Her second reaction is to pretend she never got the message and carry on being a well known face on the undead Seattle scene. Fate has a nasty habit of following its own course however and before Amanda knows it she’s off on a (very reluctant) trek across three states to get closure with her mother and also to stay one step ahead of the very angry vampire on the trail of Amanda and her friends. That’s not all she will have to contend with however...

‘Road Trip of the Living Dead’ is everything that ‘Happy Hour of the Dammed’ was with the added bonus of the word ‘bitch’ not being thrown about like it was in the first book (which got boring very quickly). All of my favourite characters were back and being generally... erm... bitchy about everyone else, and everyone else’s clothes, in a manner that never failed to hit my funny bone. The main cause of this is Amanda herself who appears to have a superhuman ability to put people down in the cruellest (yet most sarcastically funny) way possible and does so for the entire book. Her asides to the reader made me laugh as well, particularly the following quote (in terms of zombies use of the homeless/trailer trash as the most viable source of food)...

“Who could resist trash TV? Certainly not zombies – daytime talk shows are like an inside look at our food industries...”

Henry also keeps things fresh by throwing new elements into Amanda’s life so that she doesn’t become a one dimensional ‘put down’ thrower. By giving us an insight into Amanda’s life as a child, Henry elicits a measure of sympathy for the person that she is now and adds pathos to some of the decisions that she has to make.

The plot is basically a non-stop ride where events in each town conspire to throw Amanda and friends through some of the seamier elements of America .This approach turns out to be a good way to pan the camera back and show the reader that there is an undead world outside Seattle but structurally it does get a bit repetitive at times. I guess this is a trap that any book would fall into given the ‘chase’ nature of the story and some of the witticisms (and how events are dealt with) do draw attention away from what I think is a minor shortcoming.

While the ending of ‘Road Trip’ sets things up nicely for future instalments (introducing new characters and sending the group dynamic off in a new direction) I was left a little non-plussed at the finale itself. ‘Road Trip’ has an ongoing ‘murder mystery’ plot line that gradually builds up in intensity but fizzled out for me right at the climax. It was suitably grim but just didn’t seem to match up to some of the other things that had happened over the course of the book...

Despite this though, ‘Road Trip of the Living Dead’ is a worthy successor to ‘Happy Hour of the Dammed’ that I reckon fans (of the series and ‘Urban Fantasy’ in general) will get a lot out of. I’m now looking forward to ‘Battle of the Network Zombies’...

Eight and a Quarter out of Ten

P.S. I’m still not a fan of the cover art though...

P.P.S Look out for 'Road Trip of the Living Dead' in March 2009...

3 comments:

Mark said...

Thanks for the review Graeme! Glad I could give you a chuckle this holiday season.

M

Graeme Flory said...

Not a problem Mark, I'm looking forward to reading 'Battle of the Network Zombies'! :o)

Happy Christmas!

SQT said...

I loooove Mark Henry. I have to force myself to wait a little bit on this one (not too long though) because I am so behind on other reviews. But damn. These books are funny.