Review: Plague Nation by Dana Fredsti

plague-nationIn this day and age, we are inundated with zombie stories. In movies, TV, books, and comics the shambling (sometimes running) dead chase us until we find ourselves looking it over and seeing if it tickles our fancy. In this case, Titan Books graciously sent us Plague Nation by Dana Fredsti.

The synopsis courtesy of Titan Books website:

Sequel to the thrilling zombie novel PLAGUE TOWN. Ashley Parker was a ordinary woman who was also a “wild card,” immune to the emerging zombie plague, drawn unwillingly into a shadowy paramilitary organization. Having stopped the wave of the undead that swarmed their facility, the wild cards are forced to travel to a secret laboratory in San Francisco. En route some are killed, while others are kidnapped by an unknown enemy. But the worst is yet to come, as the plague begins to manifest in key locations worldwide. And the truth begins to emerge about the paramilitary society, the Dolofónoi tou Zontanoús Nekroús.

Let me be very honest in saying that I’m not the biggest fan of this brand of undead. I love my monsters charismatic or threatening in large groups of one. Having said that, I have to give Ms. Fredsti a lot of credit.  As with most  stories concerning zombies, she’s had to make the living far more interesting than the dead, or the thing that reanimates them.  In this case, I’m going to say that she’s successfully managed that.  Even in the moments where you can see where some of the characters are young and even rather annoying, she still manages to evoke some sort of sense of dread that something may or will happen to them.   The main character, Ashley Parker, seems a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dean Winchester, with a dash of Sam from Supernatural.  She’s not afraid to show the boys she can keep a step ahead of them, take charge with a give ’em hell attitude when it counts, but there’s still emotion there.  It makes her still human, which means she’s not just desensitized to the killing, she still makes mistakes and she sees the recently changed with a sense of sadness, because she sees what they once were.    I like that sort of conflicted moment where everyone can see a dessicated corpse and know they need to go down, but consider a small child or your own loved one and ask if you could be the one to do the deed.  It’s been done before, sure, but Ms. Fredsti shows her real strength making you give a damn about it anyway, especially because they know they’re going to have to do it regardless of what they were in life.

Another thing Ms. Fredsti is good at is producing the feeling of overwhelming odds and cringe-worthy horror. Some of overwhelming moments aren’t just with the zombie element, but what the humans will do just to make their escape good. It’s the sort of thing that makes you hope you have friends that won’t trip you on purpose so the undead have a snack while they continue running.  The cringe elements aren’t just bodies getting ripped apart, but how her version of a zombie virus works.  As mentioned in the synopsis, there are those that become immune to the plague calling themselves Wild Cards, but there are also  the Half-Deaders.  The are people who need a specific anti-viral to keep their bodies from rotting and craving the flesh of live humans.  The human flesh  can counteract the rotting process as well, but the anti-viral helps for the person to maintain a better grip on reality.  While the person in that condition slips into hunger, they also tend to retain a bigger portion of the mental faculties and their motor skills.   It’s almost like some sort of Supernatural twist to the zombie, where Crowley made the creature into his own little crazy pet.

I give this one 3 out of 5 on my scale. There’s a great deal of stuff in here for more the young adult (in my opinion) that’s looking to get a Buffy/Walking Dead fix at the same time.  It also has a lot going for the average zombie fan to really latch onto.  I’m impressed that even though I don’t much care  for this part of the undead genre, she made me care enough to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next.

Plague Nation is in available in stores and online at Titan Books.